Israeli Immigration Clerk Commits Suicide After Shamed on Facebook for Alleged Racism

Shortly before his suicide Ariel Runis wrote on Facebook that he cannot deal with the accusations, according to which he mistreated a black woman who arrived at the Interior Ministry to get a passport.

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Ariel Runis, Interior Ministry official who committed suicide in 2015 after being accused of racism in a viral Facebook post.
Ariel Runis, Interior Ministry official who committed suicide in 2015 after being accused of racism in a viral Facebook post. Credit: Facebook
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

A manager at the Population, Immigration and Border Authority committed suicide on Saturday, shortly after writing a Facebook post in which he addressed allegations that he had behaved in a racist manner toward a black female client.

The woman, a mother of three, had described in an earlier Facebook post an encounter with the manager, Ariel Runis, and another official after she went to the authority’s Tel Aviv office to obtain a passport. Her widely shared post quickly garnered thousands of ‘likes.’

“Within two days [her] post was shared more than 6,000 times – each one like a sharpened arrow piercing my skin,” Runis wrote on Facebook on Saturday. “Me? A racist? All my work has been erased with one stroke I am not angry at that woman, who, from the look of her photos, has already overcome that ‘difficult blow’ she felt. As for me, I cannot overcome it. Farewell!”

Shortly after writing the post, Runis contacted a close friend and told him he intended to kill himself. He left his door open and apparently shot himself with a gun in his possession. His friend found the body and called the police and emergency medical services, who pronounced Runis dead at the scene.

Last week, the woman published a post detailing what had happened to her when she visited the authority with her three young children, in order to obtain a passport for her son. According to her post, which was titled “Apparently, it’s no good being a black mother at the Population Authority,” she was told about an express line for mothers with small children. Although two other mothers were seen quickly by staff, she was told by a female clerk to go back to the regular line.

According to the woman’s description of her visit, she subsequently returned to the end of the line – only to see that other women with children were receiving preferential treatment. “It turned out that the manager was present, and assisting other people in need of further assistance – a deaf woman and others,” she wrote. “I told him exactly what had happened, and that I felt I was discriminated against due to the color of my skin. I told him that my baby needed a change of diaper, that the little one was asking to go to the bathroom, and that all I was asking was to be afforded equal treatment to that being given to the other mothers who came to the office – nothing more. However, I expected nothing less, either.

“He told me that if I was complaining about discrimination, I should ‘Get the heck out of his face.’ All this happened in front of dozens of people. I tried. I really tried, but I shed a tear, and then another one, and maybe a few concealed ones. My son, who is five, comforted me and asked that we leave.”

The Facebook update concluded with a call for others to share the post. Within a short time, more than 6,000 people had done just that. The brunt of their criticism was directed at Runis.

In the post written prior to taking his life, Runis said he’d received dozens of requests for a comment from journalists, who were trying to paint him as a racist, and that he was finding it difficult to handle the accusations being directed against him.

“Up until two days ago, my life looked like it was taken from a lovely movie script,” he wrote. “Two days ago, a woman came to the office to request services of some sort. At the time I was aiding other people. She asked to be served immediately, and straight away started shouting that not getting what she was asking for was simply racist This lady is accusing me of racism! I told her enough was enough. I refused to let her go down that path. Not in my office. There is a line for mothers with little children, and she had to wait in that line like everyone else. Not everything you don’t get ... can be ascribed to racism. Nothing helped, and this lady continued to yell that this was racist treatment.”

The Interior Ministry, whose remit includes the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, declined to comment.

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