Preview: “To Serve and Protect? Legitimacy, Trust and the Policing of Minorities” with Guy Ben-Porat

By Minhee Lee and Yimin Wang, NYU Florence students

Thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis and sympathizers marched in a demonstration that took a violent turn on Sunday. Credit Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An Act of Violence

On April 26, a police officer was caught on a security camera beating a young Ethiopian-Israeli soldier in uniform in the suburbs of Tel Aviv. In response, 1,000 Ethiopian-Israelis took part in an anti-police protest on May 4, 2015 on Rabin Square. What started off as a peaceful protest, with demonstrators blocking the main thoroughfares of Tel Aviv, later turned violent as protesters began to throw objects and confront the police. Chants of “A violent cop should be in jail!” and “Enough of racism, enough of violence!” grew louder and louder. The officers responded with smoke, stun grenades, and water cannons. According to the police, about 46 people were slightly injured, half of them police officers, and at least 26 protesters had been arrested by midnight.

The History

This protest was not only in response to the isolated event of the police officer caught on tape, but also to demonstrate the outcry of injustice and unfair treatment that Ethiopian immigrants have faced since the 1980s during their first wave of immigration to Israel. Since then, Ethiopian-Israelis have made up about 135,500 of the Israeli population. However over half of them are impoverished and only half graduate from high school. They are treated as second class citizens, and experience discrimination and racism.

The Israeli government is frequently accused of racism for deporting African migrants, who are subject to “over-policing,” including racial profiling. They are stopped and arrested more often than their white Israeli counterparts and are treated more aggressively. In response to the violence against the Ethiopian-Israeli soldier, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, met with the soldier and stated:“police will do whatever needs to be done to fix its conduct… we need to also fix Israeli society.”

Tonight’s Event

Guy Ben-Porat, the speaker for tonight’s event, has been researching relations between the police and different sectors of Israeli society for three years. Ben-Porat states, “Despite the fact that Ethiopians feel that they are discriminated against and mistreated, they still have strong trust and faith in Israeli institutions. We explain this paradox by the fact that they really want to belong. They really want to be part of the Jewish collective.” At tonight’s event, he will be speaking about the paradox of trust and distrust between police and minority populations, and the parallels that can be drawn to the racial-aggressions in the U.S. Join us tonight, February 22, 2017, at 6:00 P.M. in Villa Sassetti.

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