MK Molla to A-G: Investigate Kiryat Malachi racism
MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) on Wednesday called for Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein to open a criminal investigation following a Tuesday night segment on Channel 2 about a Kiryat Malachi neighborhood council whose residents signed a pledge vowing not to rent or sell houses to Israelis of Ethiopian descent.
“I am appalled by the evilness and hatred shown towards Ethiopian Israelis,” Molla said, adding that the southern Israel town “is a model of absorption of Ethiopian immigrants. But this segment reveals that some of its residents are simply evil and racist.”
Molla, who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia at the age of 19, told The Jerusalem Post he sees the incident as “as very severe,” and added that he is very familiar with such stories, and knows dozens of Ethiopian-Israelis who have endured discrimination in housing.
In the Channel 2 segment, one resident of the Bar-Yehuda neighborhood in the poor development town can be heard saying “the only good Ethiopian is a dead Ethiopian.” Another resident said Ethiopians “have a stench like an atomic bomb.”
An additional resident of the 120-family neighborhood said that Ethiopians will bring down the real estate values, before adding that he wouldn’t rent to an Ethiopian even if he was the IDF chief of staff. The same resident said Ethiopians who move into the neighborhood will start holding elaborate African rituals in public spaces, including slaughtering cattle and setting up tents “like they do there [Africa]”.
It also included a segment where two students from Sapir College took a hidden camera into a meeting with a real estate agent who, when they asked if the building had any “cockroaches” (Ethiopians), were reassured that they had nothing to fear.
The segment also hit close to home for Gideon Ambay, who works on housing-rights issues for Ethiopian-Israelis in Ramle for the NGO Shatil.
Ambay said that the phenomenon is one of the reasons for the development of Ethiopian “ghettos” in Israel, but added that he doesn’t think it’s something that is unique to the Ethiopian community.
“Today there are neighborhoods in Israel that are entirely Ethiopians, it does help lead to this. But I think that all of us have a tendency to form our own ghettos. It’s very hard for people to accept people who don’t look like them, or don’t come from their culture.”
Ambay added that he believes the incident in Kiryat Malachi shouldn’t be blown out of proportion as revealing some sort of endemic Israeli racism towards Ethiopians, saying instead that it represents shifting currents in Israeli society as a whole.
“People have begun to look away from mutual understanding and helping one another and have become more capitalist and individualist, and are leaning more towards their ethnic surroundings that are more familiar,” he said.
The issue was seen as far more grave on the beteisrael.co.il website, an online forum for Israel’s Ethiopian community.
In an editorial column on Wednesday entitled “Kiryat Malachi = Mississippi,” the website’s editors compare the situation for Ethiopians in Israel to that of African-Americans in the Jim Crow South. The column includes Lawrence Beitler’s 1930 photo of a lynching in Marion, Indiana, along with a reference to Abel Meeropol’s anti-lynching poem “Strange Fruit.”
“Blacks in the US and other countries achieved their rights through blood, sweat, and tears,” the column stated. “We’re not there… We must begin with the sweat and tears that we have already shed and enter the next phase: blood.”
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Kiryat Malachi Mayor Moti Malka said he was appalled by the segment and called on the local police to investigate the matter. He also said that he called a meeting with the heads of the Bar-Yehuda neighborhood committee in order to clear up the issue.
According to Malka, Kiryat Malachi has taken in the highest proportion of Ethiopians of any city in Israel and that there is no separation between Ethiopians and anyone else in the city’s schools or neighborhoods.
He also said that the city’s success in integrating Ethiopians should serve as a model for other cities and that all night long he was fielding phone calls from residents who were horrified by what they saw in the Channel 2 segment.