Knesset Rejects Inquiry Into Claims of Racism Against Ethiopian-Israelis

With many coalition MKs supporting the proposals, government had to impose coalition discipline to get its way.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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A wounded Ethiopian Israeli protester taken away by police officers in Tel Aviv protest, June 22, 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Knesset on Wednesday voted down two proposals to institute a parliamentary inquiry into the Ethiopian-Israeli community’s claims of discrimination, racism and violence against its members.

WIth many coalition members supporting the proposals, the government had to impose coalition discipline to defeat the bills. The first, submitted by Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) was defeated 48-46, while a similar bill submitted by Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List) was rejected by a vote of 48-44.

Immigration and Absorption Minister Zeev Elkin attacked the initiative, calling it “cynical political exploitation” that did not stem from a desire to resolve the problems. He said the Knesset and his ministry were already exploring ways to address the complaints of the Ethiopian community. “There is a very serious state comptroller’s report that pointed out many correct things, and we’re working with that report to carry out an entire process,” Elkin said.

MK Avraham Nagosa, a member of the Ethiopian community and chairman of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee, was known to support the idea of an inquiry committee in principle but was forced to vote against the bills due to the government’s stance.

Addressing the plenum before the vote, Livni said, “Whoever votes against this bill becomes a partner in the discrimination. It’s time that members of the Ethiopian community stop being transparent citizens. This committee isn’t against the government, but to benefit the [Ethiopian] community.”

“The voice of Ethiopian immigrants must be heard in the Knesset, not just in the streets,” Khenin said. “The objective is to invite the public, to hear experts, to invite ministers, officials, and police commanders to provide answers and get a comprehensive picture.”