The shooting of Yehuda Biadga reignited tensions between Israel’s Ethiopian community and police, who have long been accused of using a heavy hand against the country’s minorities. ‘Police brutality is a result of racism against black people in this country,’ Ziva Mekonen-Degu says.
For the third time in as many years, thousands of Ethiopian citizens of Israel demonstrated against police violence this week. On Jan. 18, officers gunned down Yehuda Biadga, a 24-year old Israeli of Ethiopian background, who was wandering the streets of his neighborhood in the city of Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv.
According to family members, the young man, who suffered from severe PTSD after his release from the Israeli army, was distraught and carrying a knife when he left his home in the evening hours of that fatal day. The family immediately called the police, informing them that Biadga suffered from a mental illness and had not taken his medication, but that he did not pose any danger.
Police took just over 50 minutes to arrive and commence searching for the young man. It was during the belated search that police said one of the officers saw Biadga approaching with a knife and ordered him to stop, but he ignored the officer’s warnings. The officer, who reportedly said he had reason to fear for his life, fired two shots at Biadga’s upper body, killing him. Police officials rejected accusations that the officer opened fire because Biadga was black, claiming instead that the policeman’s life was at risk.
The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department — an external agency meant to investigate and prosecute officers — has launched an investigation. Police placed the officer on leave, per his request.
The shooting reignited tensions between Israel’s Ethiopian community and the police, who have long been accused of using a heavy hand against the country’s visible minorities, particularly citizens of Ethiopian descent. Over 15,000 Ethiopian Israelis and their supporters marched in the streets of Tel Aviv on Wednesday, blocking the Ayalon Highway, one of the country’s main arteries, and calling for an end to “racist police violence,” which they say is a daily experience for them.
Despite the large turnout, members of the Ethiopian community are in despair over police brutality. Biadga’s killing is just the latest, most extreme incident, says Efrat Yerday, a prominent Ethiopian-Israeli activist, but it is...Read More