Skip to main content

Ethiopian-Israeli protesters clash with police in Jerusalem

Video showing apparently unprovoked police attack on Ethiopian soldier sparks protests in Jerusalem
Israeli police on horseback disperse the protesters (MEE/Oren Ziv)

More than 2,000 Ethiopian Israelis protested against alleged police violence and racism on Thursday in Jerusalem, blocking roads and clashing with Israeli police.

The protest was held after a video was posted last week showing a police officer attacking an Ethiopian soldier for no apparent reason. The video went viral on social media, and on Thursday Ethiopian Israelis, mostly youth, took to the streets.

“I am protesting today because of the discrimination that is growing up inside Israeli society against the Ethiopian community, and also because of the way they attacked the Ethiopian solder,” protester Dego Takali told Middle East Eye.

“If this solder was white, the whole country would stand on one leg and would make a big issue about it, the government and the army will stand against it, but since he is Jewish Ethiopian then no one even made a statement against that,” Takali said.

 
The protest, which started in the afternoon in front of police headquarters in West Jerusalem, turned into clashes as youth began blocking the light rail tracks.
 
Later, the protesters began marching to Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in West Jerusalem, but they were blocked by police with a water cannon. Police on horseback were also deployed to disperse the crowd. 
 
According to Israeli police, the protesters were hurling stones, and two policemen were injured and evacuated to a local hospital. The police said they "will not allow the protesters to disturb the public order, and that they will act against them".
 
According to medical sources, in addition to the two police officers, at least seven protesters were injured. 

In a statement, Netanyahu called for calm and pledged to take action against those shown in the footage. 

"I strongly condemn the beating of the Ethiopian IDF [Israeli army] soldier and those responsible will be held accountable. However, no one is allowed to take the law into their own hands," he said. 

Jerusalem police chief Chico Edri said the police were aware of the "stormy emotions" gripping the Ethiopian community but called for everyone to act "with restraint".

Earlier this week, Israel's national police chief Yohanan Danino pledged a crackdown following the emergence of the footage, saying that police "would not tolerate such unacceptable behaviour". 

He also pledged to set up a teams to investigate the community's grievances. 

President Reuven Rivlin also called for an investigation.

"We cannot sit back in the face of anger and shouting - incidents such as these must serve as a warning sign, and an opportunity to conduct some genuine and thorough introspection," he said in a statement.

More than 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, having immigrated their in two waves in 1984 and 1991. But they have struggled to integrate into Israeli society, despite serving in the army and receiving massive government aid.