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Ethiopians protest over Israeli Minister’s comments

Immigrant absorption minister responds to Ethiopian protests against racism by saying they should be grateful to state.

JERUSALEM — Activists from the Ethiopian immigrant community and others reacted with fury Wednesday over comments by Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver that these olim should be “thankful” for what they have received from the State of Israel.

Speaking at an emergency session of the Knesset Committee for Aliya, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, which was called in light of reports of blatant racism among individuals who refuse to sell their homes to Ethiopian Israelis, Landver said the country had done “everything possible to absorb” Ethiopian immigrants.

“We all condemn racism, but in 2010 the ministry gave millions of dollars to the Ethiopian community. We promoted Ethiopian issues in general, and in particular their employment,” she said, pointing out that the Ethiopian immigrant community is many years behind the rest of Israeli society in terms of its development and general integration.

“The gap is wide but the State of Israel has done everything possible to absorb them as best as it can,” she said.

But MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima), the Knesset’s sole Ethiopian member, said Landver’s response to “this kind of racism” was wrong.

“The minister’s job is to say what she plans to do to tackle this problem,” Molla said.

“If the minister thinks that every immigrant should be eternally grateful for what the state has given him, I believe the only option is for her to step down.”

He added that he planned to condemn Landver’s comments in a speech to the Knesset plenum.

On Tuesday, hundreds of members of the Ethiopian- Israeli community gathered in Kiryat Malachi to protest against residents who allegedly signed an agreement not to rent or sell their apartments to Ethiopians.

The story was revealed last week in a news report on Channel 2.

At the protest, activists expressed their anger that no politicians except Molla had spoken out against such extreme discriminatory attitudes.

Many told The Jerusalem Post that this kind of racism exists in numerous other towns outside of Kiryat Malachi and in many areas of public life.

Ethiopian-born Elias Inbram, one of the organizers of the protest, said on Wednesday that the emergency hearing in the Knesset was more like a “reality TV show.”

“They said it was an emergency, but this problem has existed for 30 years,” said Inbram, who walked out of the hearing in protest over what he said was its failure to truly address the issue of institutionalized racism. “It was just a meeting to try and make us feel better, but we are calling on the government and legislators to take serious steps in tackling racism.”

He added that the only solution was to establish a new law calling for a NIS 1 million fine, and even jail time, for any individual who expresses discriminatory views.

Lawyer Itzik Dessie, executive director of the Ethiopian legal rights organization Tebeka, said his group had already started lobbying parliamentarians to support such a law.

Dessie, who also attended the Knesset session, said the authorities needed to address three issues: the enforcement of existing laws that deal with discrimination, the creation of a new law that addresses housing problems, and the amendment of a law that deals with libel and slander against entire communities.

“We do not care which MK takes up this issue, but there needs to be a law that deals with racism directly,” he said, adding that Landver should have addressed the need for legislation and not spoken about “what wonderful work she is doing.”

“It is not appropriate for public figures to say that we should thank them for the work they are doing,” dessie said. “They get a salary for it and it is their job to make things better.”

Immediately following the stormy committee session, several MKs issued statements criticizing Landver’s comments.

“Enough with the patronizing and condescending words of this government toward its citizens,” stated opposition leader and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni.

“It is the right of every citizen in Israel, regardless of his community, skin color or gender, to live with dignity and equal rights, and this should not be based on what is good for the country.”

Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich also called Landver’s comments patronizing and condescending.

“Ethiopian immigrants are proud citizens of this country who deserve rights, and what the state gives them is their right,” she said. “It is not charity and they do not need to say thank you to anyone.”

Also responding to racist attacks against the Ethiopian community, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he had instructed his adviser on Ethiopian issues, Alali Admasu, to work toward eradicating the phenomenon of racism against Ethiopian immigrants.

“We are full of admiration for Ethiopian immigrants,” the prime minister said in a statement. “In the face of obstacles and difficulties, they came here and are becoming integrated into Israeli society, something we are encouraging in every possible way. Racist phenomena are infuriating and have no place in Israeli society. The ingathering of exiles from Ethiopia and everywhere else in the world is an inseparable part of the character of the State of Israel.”

By Ruth Eglash

Jerusalem Post

Thursday, January 12, 2012

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  • Barkhad

    is the admin of this site a Ethiopian? how does this is a news for somalilanders ? this and the ethiopian cement factory is not a even a local news in Ethiopia please check your identity before you create a website on our name !

  • Jamal Adan

    Bequit idiot this website is also popular in ethiopia, and news is reported from horn of africa

  • Jabuuti_Hanolaato

    Does anyone see the irony of this story? The very people who were allegedly persecuted over the centuries have now perfected the art of discrimination.

  • Nasir

    Barkhad,
    The site is for all East African Citizens friend, it is not all about your so call "Somaliland".

  • ComeAgain

    To be honest I would rather know about Ethiopia and other countries that are moving on then Somalia.

    We should know about what is going on around the world period,personally though Somalia is just plain boring how many rape, killing, failed meetings and clan bs can we continue to read about?

    Lets hear what the ethiopians, djabouti, sudanis, egyptians are dealing with.

  • Gonder

    What r u talking about this dedeb Gondere ppl they r not israelians at all ,they kill ethiopia kehadiwoch ,they are trying to look patriot but they sale Ethiopia for Italy
    ,French,British,and russia ….leba hula yebelachew

  • Gambella Man

    Mr. Barkhad, even being Ethiopian I agree a bit…i found it wierd when i saw this article on somalilandpress.com but i guess its nice to open doors and see the issues your neighbours are facing in the diaspora. This is also good for east Africans. There are many migrants from Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia Somaliland, Sudan, South Sudan ,Eritrea who want to immigrate…the classic way from Sudan through Egypt and into Israel. There are thousands of migrants arriving there each year.

    This article can show them what they might face being the Black men and Women we are in a land which sadly is full of east european ignorant racists.

    And yes believe me somalilandpress.com is pretty popular here in Ethiopia and its sometimes has been used as a source on ETV news programs.

    Besides a change of pace is nice instead of reporting all day that some Burundian fired a missile into bakarra market or a football fan was executed by al shabab.

    Good day to you my neighbours.

  • Kayse

    This website is very popular in Ethiopia infact according to web information companies (online), the visitors of this website is 52% from Ethiopia where its rating is top 250, so they looking at market and audience.

    Just because it says Somalilandpress doesn't mean it should only focus on Somaliland, look at Ethiopian Airlines, its global airliner despite carrying Ethiopian name.

    Some people are just plain stupid. Name isnt always targeted market. I dont see Washington Post only covering Washington.

    —————-

    There are 300,315 sites with a better three-month global Alexa traffic rank than Somalilandpress.com. While it is ranked #248 in Ethiopia, where approximately 55% of its visitors are located, it is also popular in Djibouti, where it is ranked #179. Compared with all internet users, the site's users tend to be aged 25–35 and 55–65, and they tend to be childless, moderately educated men earning less than $30,000. Approximately 52% of visits to Somalilandpress.com are bounces (one pageview only), and about 23% of visits to the site are referred by search engines.

    Djibouti Flag Djibouti

    179

    Ethiopia Flag Ethiopia

    248

    United Kingdom Flag United Kingdom

    147,714

    United States Flag United States

    441,000

  • bulqas

    i think these people are going through the same racial problems that we used to go through when we came in the western world.

  • abdu

    isreal is becoming the neo-nazist state. it is like the 1940;s Germany under Hitler. it is hostile towards the to other people particularly for Africans. the horn of Africa is the most strategic area for Israel to exist as a state. by the way ethiopian diasporas in isreal are not Jewish. they are becoming what they are not. they have nothing in common with the Jewish. not even one thing. they are Ethiopians. they are economic diaspora like those who live in other part of the world. the "state of isreal" proofed this fact. they are not considerning them as jewish but "Ethiopian immigrants” who are lucky being "absorbs" in that state. p/s struggle for your freedom as a daispora and back to your country, Ethiopia!

    THANKS somalilandpress.com for the story. you are the best in the region for coverings, specialy about Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti! thank you again!

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