Ethiopian Israeli Soldiers on Facebook, Before TA Demo: 'The System Has Abandoned Us'

Post shows soldiers urging others to join Monday demo - against closure of case involving police violence against Ethiopian soldier - although Israeli army prohibits participation in protests.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Israeli Ethiopian IDF soldiers take to Facebook to protest mistreatment, urge fellow community members to join protest. Credit: Facebook
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

A number of Israeli Defense Forces soldiers of Ethiopian origin, their faces covered, appeared in a picture posted on Facebook on Monday, holding a sign calling on female and male Ethiopian soldiers to "start abandoning the system since the system has abandoned us," and adding: "We must be at the demonstration."

The image was posted in advance of the protest that started mid-afternoon in Tel Aviv. The demonstrators are protesting the decision of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to close the case against an Israel Police officer who hit Demas Fekadeh, a soldier of Ethiopian origin, in April in Holon; the policeman, who was dismissed from his job, was not put on trial.

The demonstration began in the Sarona area of central Tel Aviv at 3 P.M., from which participants were set to march to Rabin Square.

Another photo on Facebook shows Ethiopian soldiers displaying the crossed-arm gesture that has become the symbol of the protest movement, with the caption: “Fuck the police – a protest on the base.”

An internal document distributed in the IDF after the demonstrations erupted, in April, stated that “these soldiers have not remained apathetic – for some of them, the protest has aroused feelings of pain that have been repressed; for others, it's a matter of joining in and unity, or of isolation and having reservations.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has instructed IDF commanders to hold an hour-long discussion with their soldiers on preventing racism and condemning the use of violence.

Standing orders in the army forbid soldiers from participating in protests and demonstrations: The General Staff regulations on the issue state that soldiers may not participate in “any demonstration or in any march or parade, conducted by an authority that is not the military.”

In practice, these orders have not been enforced, and many Israeli Ethiopian soldiers have come to recent demonstrations in civilian clothes. At one such event, an Ethiopian soldier was arrested.

In the past the IDF has stated it would act to revise the regulations so that soldiers can participate in demonstrations as long as they do not identify themselves as soldiers. So far no changes have been made.

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