Most Racism Complaints From Ethiopians, Arabs, Israeli Justice Ministry Report Says

Most common incidents involve illegal discrimination in providing a service, hiring and employment in general followed by racist expressions, racist speech or stereotypical advertising made in the public sphere

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
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A demonstration following the death of Ethiopian Israeli Solomon Teka in June 2021.
A demonstration following the death of Ethiopian Israeli Solomon Teka in June 2021.Credit: Rami Shllush
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

Most racism and discrimination complaints filed in the past year by Israel's Justice Ministry involved in combatting racism and discrimination related to alleged mistreatment of Israelis of Ethiopian descent, Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, according to an annual report from the unit that was issued Sunday. The most common complaint was discrimination in obtaining a service.

According to the report, 24 percent of the complaints involved racism directed at people of Ethiopian descent, 24 percent against Arabs, and 10 percent against Haredim. Four percent involved incidents directed at Mizrahi Jews – of Middle Eastern origin. In 2021, 458 cases were opened on complaints of racism and discrimination, compared to 497 cases in 2019 and 506 cases in 2020. It should be noted, that the data refers to complaints received by the unit, which is not necessary a complete reflection of the reality in the country.

An analysis of the complaints by subject shows that 23 percent were for alleged illegal discrimination in providing a service. Eleven percent were for discrimination in hiring and employment in general. Ten percent were for racist expressions made in the public sphere, 9 percent for racist or stereotypical advertising in the public sphere, 7 percent for racist speech in public service, 7 percent for police treatment of complainants, 4 percent regarding educational issues and 3 percent involving racially motivated crime.

The report also provides examples with details of some of the cases, including a complaint filed by Yuval Makuria, a young man of Ethiopian descent who alleged that he is regularly discriminated against due to his background at a Victory supermarket store. Makuria shot a video of his POV experience at the Beit Shemesh minimart and uploaded it to Facebook. The anti-racism unit at the Justice Ministry took up his case and sued Victory on his behalf pursuant to the Prohibition on Discrimination Law. Last May, a judge ruled that Victory must pay Makuria 75,000 shekels ($23,000) in damages, and 25,000 shekels in legal fees.

Another case involves two Druze couples – all incidentally veterans of the Police and Prisons Service – who were subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment in the guise of security checks by an El-Al security officer. In 2018, they arrived at the Johannesburg airport, awaiting check-in prior to boarding an El-Al flight to Israel. At a certain point, the airline security officer ordered them out of the line. He demanded various documents, including certificates of military service. When they queried why they of all the Israeli passengers online were singled out for this demand, the security officer said “Because I said so.” However, he was quickly overruled by a colleague who arrived on the scene. It was determined that his conduct ran contrary to company procedures.

The report also cites an incident of suspected racially motivated conduct by police officers during a bus inspection. The complaint asserted that while enforcing COVID-19 restrictions in January 2021, police gave tickets for not wearing seatbelts to all the Arab passengers but none of the Jewish ones. The tickets were canceled upon review. Steps were ordered to be taken as a lesson from this case of police misconduct.

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