After learning that Israel admitted it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections without their knowledge or consent, I must confess to feeling ashamed of myself as a Jew. While the nation state is not, I believe, synonymous with Judaism or Jewish people in general, its behavior does in many ways reflect on us. From the Independent:
The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynaecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically.
One of the Ethiopian women who was interviewed is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia.
The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive.
Nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have moved to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s, but their Jewishness has been questioned by some rabbis. Last year, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the health portfolio, warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state”.
Israel’s continued pathway to outright fascism is horrifying to watch. Its behavior towards the Palestinian people can be described only as modern-day colonialism, and the revelation that it is neutering its black citizens puts Israel up there with South Africa’s apartheid government. According to IRIN, Ethiopians are routinely discriminated against in Israel. The 125,000 strong population is subjected to racist abuse from white Israelis, and many are prevented from working or going to certain schools because of their skin color. IRIN reports:
Growing up in Israel, Shay Sium became accustomed to being called a “nigger”.
Sium, 32, has lived in Israel most of his life, but says he and other Ethiopian Jews are treated differently from other Israelis: factories do not want to employ them; landlords refuse them; and certain schools turn away their children.
“The word discrimination doesn’t describe what we experience. There is another word for it: racism. It is a shame that we still have to use this word today,” he told IRIN.
I know that the actions of a state does not necessarily reflect the beliefs of its people, but the current climate in Israel is producing a frightening amount of xenophobia, and it is translating into some very disturbing trends. The foray into eugenics marks a new low for the Jewish state where a once abused people have now transformed into an abuser.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.