Shimon Peres Jan. 12, 2012 Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
President Shimon Peres visits Jerusalem school, Jan. 12, 2012. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
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"We, the State of Israel, should say thank you to immigrants from Ethiopia and not vice versa," President Shimon Peres said on Thursday during a visit to a school in Jerusalem. "We do not want racism here, or anywhere else."

Peres' statement came a day after Immigration Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, in response to recent protests against discrimination against Ethiopian immigrants, said that Ethiopian immigrants should be grateful for what they have received from Israel.

About 2,000 people gathered on Tuesday to demonstrate against racism in Kiryat Malakhi, after members of the Ethiopian immigrant community there said that local homeowners' committees refuse to rent them apartments. They were joined by hundreds of people who came from around the country to support them.

"The racists should be ashamed of their actions and their words," Peres said on Thursday. "When we established the state, our dream was that Ethiopian Jews would immigrate to Israel, along with Libyan Jews, Russian Jews and Jews from all over the world."

Police have opened an investigation into suspected incitement to racism on the part of local homeowners' committees.

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