Yehuda Biadga, a mentally distressed Ethiopian-Israeli, was killed Friday in his hometown of Bat Yam, after police said he charged at an officer with a knife. Police have denied Yehuda Biadga’s heritage was connected to the policeman’s decision to open fire, saying he felt a credible fear for his life.
By JPost Editorial (The Jerusalem Post) |
Thousands of Israelis, mostly Ethiopians, protested on Wednesday, nearly two weeks after 24-year-old Yehuda Biadga was shot by police in Bat Yam. Biadga’s is the latest controversial death at the hands of police in Israel, and comes amid anger and fear among Ethiopian Jews that the police use disproportionate force against their community.
The thousands who came to the protest in Tel Aviv have been waiting for answers and seeking support from the wider Israeli society. They expect politicians, in the midst of the election cycle, to address their concerns. They also feel that without a large protest, these kinds of incidents come and go without being addressed – by either the police or the government.
Biadga was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, his family says, when he ran into the street with the knife. A police officer shot him, claiming that he feared for his life. The incident comes four years after a series of protests in 2015 that were sparked after police beat an Ethiopian soldier who was walking with his bicycle. Those protests came after years of accusations of police brutality that black Israelis say disproportionately targets them.
At the time, Ethiopians made up a disproportionate number of youth offenders who were charged with crimes, as well as of IDF soldiers incarcerated for minor infractions during their service. In 2016, the Prime Minister’s Office established a division for implementing a comprehensive plan for integrating Ethiopian Israelis into Israeli society.
The police also invested resources in trying to come to grips with perceptions of racism and misunderstandings with the community. Messages of multiculturalism were part of a 2017 police video campaign highlighting an Ethiopian police officer to showcase the new police effort.
Demonstrators on Wednesday did not think enough work has been done. “Erdan go home,” they shouted, a reference to the Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Signs called for an end to violence and racism. Yesh Atid’s Pnina Tamnu-Shata, the first female Ethiopian MK, called the protest “a just struggle for equality against racism and discrimination.”
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