Police Brutality Is Just the Zeitgeist - the Real Threat Is Israeli Xenophobia

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Protesters against police brutality toward Ethiopians in Jerusalem, April 30, 2015.Credit: Lior Mizrahi

It was hard to fall asleep on Sunday night. The police helicopters circled incessantly above Rabin Square. The echoes of the explosions of stun grenades penetrated the windows of the quiet homes of old, white north Tel Aviv, and on television they skipped the relaxing programs scheduled for that evening in order to show thousands of blacks – unkempt, some shirtless, real wild men – clashing with our policemen.

In other places, Ethiopia for example, they would already have sent in two fighter planes and put an end to it. What do you mean by blocking the main artery of the Jewish state? Seizing control of intersections and causing huge traffic jams? If they want to be like the Arabs who blocked Wadi Ara during the second intifada, then they should be treated the same way, a few dead and then there will be quiet. But that’s exactly the problem. Those Ethiopians aren’t Arabs, but not really Jews either. In other words, same religion, different race. They serve in the army, the police force, the Border Police, but they’re black. They may also be contaminated by disease. Three years ago, at the huge Ethiopian demonstration against racism in Kiryat Malachi, the city residents explained that they “wouldn’t surrender” to the Ethiopians. “Enough with the pretended innocence, let’s see all the bleeding hearts live next door to Ethiopians who ferment their dough with beer yeast and really stink up the whole building (and an eight-story building yet) – try it and then talk.

“Before the holidays they also cook in the lobby of the building, and then you really can’t open a window. The value of the apartments declines, not because of hatred of color or race, but because of what living with the community means. Personally I believe that with the young people it will be different, for example I’d be happy to live next door to an Ethiopian policeman or army officer, the problem is that sometimes one family brings the entire community with it and then it’s really hard.” This was written by an Internet surfer, a city resident, in response to an article posted on Mako.

“Besides, it’s a known fact that the value of the apartments declines by 30 percent when new immigrants from Ethiopia come in. We’re not talking about the young people but about the older ones, who preserve norms of food and behavior from Ethiopian villages, and it’s hard to live next to them,” added another woman who identified herself as “a neighbor of Ethiopians.”

According to that “neighbor,” the Ethiopians could probably provide a solution to the high cost of housing. It’s enough for the government to decide that in every residential building two apartments will be allocated to Ethiopians (you can also add one Arab family) and instantly the luxury Yoo Towers in Tel Aviv will turn into housing that everyone can afford.

Too conveniently the problem of the Ethiopians in Israel has become a “police” problem. If only the police would lower the level of violence towards members of the community, if they would make policemen who beat Ethiopians stand trial and appoint an Ethiopian deputy commissioner, the Ethiopians would be warmly welcomed at discotheques and swimming pools, the number of Ethiopian prisoners would shrink miraculously (in the Ofer Prison juvenile detention wing, about 40 percent of the prisoners are of Ethiopian origin) and the schools would be happy to accept the students.

Nonsense. The behavior of the policemen reflects the zeitgeist. The real and dangerous threat is the disgust and fear that certain population groups arouse in other groups. The “self-evident” rift between Jews and Arabs is only one fault line that defines the Jewish state. The branches of this fault line separate black Jews from white Jews, and darker-skinned Jews, often Mizrahim, from those who are not as dark. The law is ostensibly equal for all, but the consciousness is an apartheid consciousness. Compared to the Ethiopians, even Ashkenazim and Mizrahim look like real brothers.

It’s nice to hear that the Ethiopians want to integrate into Israeli society, but into which society exactly do they want to integrate? The one that holds its nose in disgust? The one that is horrified by black skin? Integrated colors, my black friends, can be found only in paving stones.

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