TV report shows ‘quiet racism’ directed at Ethiopian-Israelis
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TV report shows ‘quiet racism’ directed at Ethiopian-Israelis

In Channel 2 investigation, dark-skinned citizens denied entry into clubs, refused work; 'It hurts because we have no other country'

Ethiopian Israelis protest in Tel Aviv against violence and racism directed at Israelis of Ethiopian descent, May 18, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Ethiopian Israelis protest in Tel Aviv against violence and racism directed at Israelis of Ethiopian descent, May 18, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

As Ethiopian-Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv Monday evening to protest racism against them, a TV report sought to give a sense of the discrimination directed at members of the community.

The first-person, candid camera-style dispatch contrasted the experiences of a light-skinned Israeli and an Ethiopian-Israeli in a number of parameters: applying for work, entering a nightclub and renting an apartment, in order to test the level of bias directed toward a regular Hebrew-speaking individual based on the color of his skin.

Ethiopian Israelis and their supporters have staged demonstrations across the country in recent weeks, triggered by video footage released last month showing a policeman and a police volunteer assaulting Ethiopian-Israeli soldier Damas Pakada in Holon. Members of the community allege decades of institutional racism.

In the first segment aired Monday, a white-skinned man is seen responding to an employment ad at a boutique Tel Aviv clothing store and applying for work. He is approached by a clerk who takes down his details and vows to remain in contact.

Later, an Ethiopian-Israeli man enters the same store and repeats the request for employment, but is instead told that there are no job openings and that he should try his luck again tomorrow.

In another scene, a white Channel 2 reporter applies for work at a well-known hotel. He is immediately offered a serving job on the bar.

Later, an Ethiopian-Israeli approaches the hotel’s employment bureau and is told that serving jobs are unavailable. Instead he is offered blue-collar positions such as room-cleaning and sorting clothes in a warehouse.

One Ethiopian-Israeli, Dese Kasa, recounted the quiet, hidden racism that he experiences as an adult on a daily basis.

“When I was a kid, I was called a kushi; today, I’m no longer called a kushi but nobody is willing to employ me,” Kasa said, using a Hebrew slur for black people. “You see it in their eyes. I prefer that they call me a kushi rather than to receive their stares. Look at the kind of shop we’re in, do you think we have anything to do here?”

In response, the clothing store and the hotel issued statements that they employ workers from a variety of backgrounds and in no way condone racism.

Equipped with a hidden camera, another Ethiopian-Israeli man, Jeremy Artiah, formerly a police officer and soldier in an elite IDF unit, attempted to gain entry to a number of Tel Aviv nightclubs and bars.

He was denied entry on seven out of eight occasions, even as others beside him were let in.

“I’m still a second-class citizen, I can’t even get into a club. It’s a really difficult feeling. I don’t want to dream, but it hurts me to see these young kids who have no future, no hope,” Artiah said.

In another scene, a white person looking to rent an apartment can be seen given a tour by a landlord who highlights his rental unit’s advantages.

Afterwords, when showing his flat to an Ethiopian-Israeli man, the same landlord only emphasizes its problems and drawbacks.

“I can’t change my skin color. The fact that I’m dark-skinned isn’t a punishment, it’s pride — no one will take that from me. Maybe in the past I wanted to be white, but I was just a kid. I will do everything in my power to fight this [racism],” Artiah said. “It just hurts so much because we have no other country.”

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