Is the question of racism in the Zionist state so black and white? The case of the Ethiopian Jews
Research Institute for Innovation in Education Hebrew University of Jerusalem Jerusalem, Israel
There are 120,000 Ethiopian immigrants and their children in Israel today, who were brought to their new host society in a series of airlift from the 1980's on. These Jews originate in poor, rural areas of Ethiopia, and were once known by the stigmatic connotation "Falashas" (lit: "outsiders"). In Israel, they were welcomed upon arrival and were incorporated as a Jewish ethnic group ("eda") in society. However, Ethiopian Jews are generally found in the lower socio-economic strata of society, with disproportionate rates of unemployed persons, suicide, wife-murder, AIDS and other negative social phenomena. Nevertheless, the community sports Members of Parliament, doctors and lawyers, and businessmen, who negotiate transnational ties with Ethiopia.
This paper will discuss the case of the Ethiopian Jews in Israel within the context of local manifestations of racism. It will also analyse governmental policies of affirmative action in the fields of health, education, religion and employment. Questions will be asked as to whether there is discrimination in the Zionist state against Jewish minorities, whether racism is confined to questions of colour alone, and whether affirmative action is itself rooted in a form of inverse racism. These questions are usually raised with reference to Israeli Arabs or Palestinians, and to a lesser extent have been raised in the past in a sociological context with respect to the Ashkenazi (European)-Sefardi (Oriental) Jewish divide.
Finally, a more general sociological discussion will examine the connection of migration and racism, and the forms of racism experienced in Israel, which may be common to other European societies.