Year 24
Month 06
Day 07
dividerNews ArchivedividerInstitutionalized Racism Is the Price Paid by Israel’s Third Class Citizens
Institutionalized Racism Is the Price Paid by Israel’s Third Class Citizens

By Mohammad Makram Balawi


Palestinians these days are fond of circulating on social media a scene from an old Israeli comedy which shows a group of Hamas fighters who could sneak through a tunnel into enemy territory and kidnap an Israeli officer in order to exchange him for Palestinian prisoners. Although things go smoothly, the whole operation is a flop. Why? Because it was dark and they could not see that the officer was dark-skinned. When the group leader realises that the prisoner is of Ethiopian origin, he knows that all their efforts are for nothing.

Then the group enters into a long discussion on how to convince the Israelis to exchange him for fewer Palestinian prisoners, but end up convinced that the Israelis will give them nothing in return for him, and even he will not believe that the Israeli army and government care for him. They only have one problem; what to do with this good-for-nothing prisoner, without hurting his feelings. They finally decide to release him.

The officer does not believe that even Hamas does not want him and tries to convince his captors that even though he is a dark-skinned Israeli, he is valuable because he is not a mere soldier, he is an officer, and an important one. They are not convinced. One of the group tells him that he should thank God he is not a Druze. He asks them for a lift but they refuse to drop him to the separation line, and ask him to run, for Israeli soldiers are good at running.

Such comedy is not uncommon in this decades-long conflict. People on both sides like to produce and watch it, maybe because people tend to be more honest with themselves when they are laughing. Although such video clips are meant for self-criticism, they are in many cases used as propaganda to ridicule the enemy and boost one’s own self-confidence.

Last week, an Israeli police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Solomon Teka, a young Ethiopian Jew, triggering widespread protests which blocked public transport in major cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, reminding people of the Arab Spring. Foreign media showed some Ethiopians declaring their support for Palestine and changing their religion to Islam, in a rebellion against the state of Israel, which they describe as rotten to the core. They are, in almost every respect, treated as third class citizens by the state.

In a move to utilise the Ethiopian-Israeli protests, a Palestinian comedian from Gaza called Ali Nasman wrote a comic song, making fun of Israel’s racism towards its dark-skinned citizens. For the video of him singing it, he blackened his face and was joined by of a group of dark-skinned young Palestinians to mock the way that Ethiopian Jews are treated in Israel. He is seen with a little boy taking a bus, and a white policeman forces them off, calling them “black scum”. Nasman then reminds us how Israel neglected an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier captured by Hamas.

To fan the flames, the Hamas military wing revealed that Israel has never demanded to discuss the case of the missing soldier, Avraham Mengistu, when the issue of enemy prisoners is mentioned. It has been like this ever since his disappearance; he has been omitted from the negotiations file completely.” Mengistu’s family accuses the Israeli government of double standards based on racial discrimination.

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