• irvsafdieh

Ethnic Tensions, Occupation 101, Shattered Ceiling


Violent Protests Erupt in Israel Over Police Shooting of Unarmed Ethiopian Teen

Alex Ward, Vox, July 2nd 2019

Recap:

Israel is consumed by violent protests over the killing of an unarmed Ethiopian Israeli teen. An off-duty police officer killed 19-year-old Solomon Tekah on Sunday. Itay Ashatu, Tekah’s relative, said "it’s hard to be black in Israel and walk around feeling secure [1]."

The Context:

  • The officer, who has been placed under house arrest, claimed he opened fire to protect this family [2] although eyewitnesses say there was no reason to open fire. Authorities have vowed a swift and transparent investigation into the killing [3].

  • Demonstrators shut down 12 major junctions across the country, including Tel Aviv, and at least 22 people were arrested [4]. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his condolences but also rebuked the protesters saying, “we are a country of the law; we will not tolerate roadblocks.”

  • Similar riots occurred in 2015 after a video emerged of two Israeli police officers beating up an Ethiopian Israeli soldier. Those protests grew extremely contentious, with police firing tear gas while demonstrators fought back with bottles and bricks.

  • More than 135,000 Jews of Ethiopian descent live in Israel. Those who immigrated arrived in two main waves, in 1984 and 1991, but many have struggled to integrate into Israeli society [5]. Community leaders say they are constantly discriminated against when it comes to housing, education, and employment.

Conversation Points:

  • Is this an open-shut case of racism or does recklessness play a part?

  • Does Tekah’s death underscore the Ethiopian feeling that they are second-class citizens in the country?

  • Should Israel accept Jews of all ethnicities without a concrete plan for integration?

J Street Launches Birthright Alternative, Featuring ‘Occupation 101’

Judy Maltz, Haaretz, July 1st 2019

Recap:

Forty participants will take part in J Street’s 10-day inaugural Birthright trip titled “Let Our People Know.”

The Context:

  • J Street, a movement that describes itself as “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace,” contends that Birthright — a 20-year-old program that has brought more than 600,000 young Jewish adults from around the world on free 10-day trips to Israel — does not provide participants with a balanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. J Street’s itinerary devotes two days to an “Occupation 101” tour that visits Palestinian villages.

  • J Street U has more than 50 chapters on college campuses across the United States. Last fall, a petition organized by J Street U, signed by 1,500 Jewish students, demanded that Birthright’s itinerary include Palestinian speakers. It decided to launch its own trip after it failed to receive an adequate response.

  • Birthright supporters dismissed the criticism saying the trip’s function is to educate on the Jewish connection to Israel and not educate about Palestinians. In a statement, Birthright said that demand for its trips is higher than ever [6].

  • Last year, members of IfNotNow, a Jewish organization that claims American Jews are complicit in Palestinian suffering, would attend Birthright trips only to publicly walk off because they hadn’t heard any Palestinian perspectives. The group has led more than 2,000 activists in its daylong training programs and can draw on thousands more supporters for mobilization efforts [7].

  • 25% of Jews aged 18 to 29 believe that the United States gives Israel too much support compared to just 6% of Jews over 50 [8].

Conversation Points:

  • What does “Occupation 101” say about J Street’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue?

  • Should Birthright be political or apolitical?

  • What level of support can Israel expect from Jewish college students 20 years from now?

Bank Leumi Appoints Samer Haj Yehia Chairman of Board

Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, July 2nd 2019

Recap:

Bank Leumi, Israel’s largest bank, appointed Samer Haj-Yehia as its chairman. Haj-Yehia was the first Arab to sit on the board of one of Israel's major banks [9] and is now the first Arab to head an Israeli financial institution of Leumi’s magnitude. Leumi’s market capitalization is $10.7 billion.

The Context:

  • Haj-Yehia has a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has held a number of senior positions in the United States and served six years as vice president of Fidelity Investments [10].

  • As a community volunteer, Haj-Yehia works for the advancement of employment opportunities in the Arab community [11]. Knesset member Ahmad Tibi said Haj-Yehia’s appointment was based solely on merit. “Samer is very talented. He broke the glass ceiling. He is the right person in the right place [12].”

Conversation Points:

  • What is the significance of Haj-Yehia’s appointment to the Arab-Israeli community?

Notes:

  1. Protesters Clash with Police During Demonstrations Over Fatal Shooting of Ethiopian Israeli Teen, Bar Peleg, Josh Breiner and Noa Shpigel, Haaretz, July 2nd 2019

  2. Protesters Clash with Police During Demonstrations Over Fatal Shooting of Ethiopian Israeli Teen, Bar Peleg, Josh Breiner and Noa Shpigel, Haaretz, July 2nd 2019

  3. Ethiopian-Israeli teen shot by cop laid to rest amid cries for justice, Times of Israel, July 2nd 2019

  4. Israelis of Ethiopian descent protest over police shooting, Reuters, July 2nd 2019

  5. Ethiopian-Israeli teen shot by cop laid to rest amid cries for justice, Times of Israel, July 2nd 2019

  6. Birthright Trips, a Rite of Passage for Many Jews, Are Now a Target of Protests, New York Times, June 11th 2019

  7. IfNotNow Made an Impact with Its Birthright Protests. Now It’s Stopping Them, Aiden Pink, Forward, June 13th 2019

  8. Birthright Trips, a Rite of Passage for Many Jews, Are Now a Target of Protests, New York Times, June 11th 2019

  9. Leumi appoints Samer Haj-Yehia chairman, Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, Globes, July 2nd 2019

  10. In First, Arab Israeli Appointed Chairman of Board at Israel's Biggest Bank, Michael Rochvarger and Tali Heruti-Sover, Haaretz, July 2nd 2019

  11. Ibid.

  12. Ibid.


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