By: RON JAGER—
Never in human history has there been a similar act of benevolence by a developed nation. Since the 1980s, despite the immense dangers, the religious obstacles, and the logistical complexities, Israel has brought tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews from one of the most underdeveloped countries on the globe to the shores of the Promised Land. Seemingly distant strangers in every way, even in the color of their skin, they were brought to Israel over the past 30 years to be integrated into society, not forced into indentured servitude such as in other periods of human history when blacks were shipped to faraway lands to become slaves.
However, over the past two weeks, much of the world’s attention on Israel has focused on the demonstrations held by a relatively small group of Ethiopian Jews living in Israel. The reporting by the international media, abetted by local left-wing activists, has resulted in the following narrative being portrayed as a factual backdrop to these events: Longstanding Israeli policy, they say, is notoriously racist—worse than South African apartheid. Palestinians face ruthless persecution in a nation affording rights to privileged Jews alone. Ethiopian Jews fare no better—unwanted because they’re black. Citizenship doesn’t matter. Persecuting them is standard Israeli practice.
This unholy alliance of Ethiopian community leaders and left-wing radicals threatens to undermine the progress that the Ethiopian community has made over the past 30 years integrating into Israeli society. During that time, Israeli governments, the Jewish Agency, the Federation system, and many tens of NGOs have funded hundreds of programs for every age group within the Ethiopian Jewish community with only one goal: making their integration into Israeli society possible. Despite the gaps in education, technology, culture, and vocational skills only a generation ago, their integration into Israeli society is a real success story.
The messages conveyed by many of these self-appointed Ethiopian community leaders are nothing more than a conglomeration of anti-white racism and anti-Zionist ideology of left-wing organizations that promote the delegitimization of the State of Israel. The defamation of the state and of Israeli society cannot be based on random examples of discrimination and prejudice against Ethiopian Israelis. There is no institutionalized discrimination and racism in Israel, and claiming so is not only a moral disgrace but intellectually dishonest.
It was just over 50 years ago, to the embarrassment of American society, that blacks could not sit freely on a public bus, by law. Blacks were prevented from entering restaurants and cafés, and segregated to live on “the other side of the tracks.” Public schools and universities were segregated until integration was forced upon thousands of American communities. That was racism and discrimination—and none of it even remotely exists in Israel.
Yet these self-appointed Ethiopian community leaders have wholly embraced the ideology of victimhood. When Ethiopian men murder their Ethiopian wives with alarming frequency, who is to blame? It must be their white social workers, who evidently were unable to be empathetic. Too many Ethiopian children fail to perform well on standardized national tests? This couldn’t be because their parents or communities are unable to assist them. It must be because white racists have designed the tests to be culturally biased. Of course these claims blaming Israeli society are simply fabricated to serve the overall accusations to defame the State of Israel.
According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, here are a few examples of the complex reality of the Ethiopian community in Israel. The percentage of pupils of Ethiopian origin who dropped out was slightly lower than that of the general population of pupils in Hebrew education: Approximately 1.6% of 35,000 pupils of Ethiopian origin who began to study in grades 1–12 in schools under Ministry of Education supervision in the 2011–12 school year dropped out during that year or in transition to 2012–13, compared with 1.88% among the general population.
The percentage of women among students of Ethiopian origin who are studying for a first degree was higher than the percentage of women among the general population of students for a first degree: 66.8% versus 56.5%. The average monthly expenditure in households of Ethiopian origin was NIS 9,539, compared with NIS 14,272 among the general population.
As for the IDF, 90% of Ethiopian Israeli combat soldiers complete their service, as opposed to 70% of other combat soldiers, and 30% of Ethiopian Israeli soldiers serve in combat positions and are likely to complete their full military service.
So, despite the orchestrated attempts over the past weeks to portray Israel as a racist nation, Israel remains true to her noble efforts that have brought the whole Ethiopian Jewish community to Israel and to the immense efforts to assist this very special community. Israel brought these good people here, out of a genuine desire to enable our Jewish brothers and sisters of Ethiopia to return to their homeland and rejoin the Jewish nation in Zion.
This reunion has not always been completely smooth and harmonious. We must fight against the phenomena of discrimination and prejudice, yet reject the false and vicious slandering of the State of Israel by Ethiopian “community leaders,” aided and abetted—and of course funded—by left-wing radical organizations and ideologues that have no desire to encourage the momentous efforts by Israeli society to fully integrate the Ethiopian community.