You probably won’t like this one bit. Indeed, I gasped.
First, a bit of Israeli history. Not long after modern Israel was first formed in 1948, the Law of Return was established. That doctrine held that, no matter where in the world Jews are born or located, they have the right to “return” to Israel, the birthplace of their ancestors, and take their place among Israeli citizens. In 1970 the law was broadened to include the spouses of Jews, as well as people with Jewish ancestry. That means that Jews from many nations now live near the Mediterranean, in one of the most politically volatile regions on earth, as part of what is often described as “the only democracy in the Middle East”.
Almost all Israelis are Caucasian, white, simply because few emigrated into Asia or Africa and bred with local peoples there.
There are, however, a number of Jews from East Africa, just across the Red Sea from Yemen. Known as “Beta Israel” (house of Israel), the communities lived in small villages and kept up – with varying degrees of fidelity due to ignorance or pressure from surrounding Muslims and Christians – the practice of Judaism. These days, not quite 2% of the Israeli population was either born in Ethiopia or is the child of an Ethiopian-born Jew.
Controversial 2002 examination of DNA – the technology for which was unavailable at the time of the Ethiopians’ acceptance to Israel – indicated that their population was unrelated to Levantine ancestors, and similar to other, non-Jewish Ethiopians. Those results made some Israelis nervous. More recent DNA research found in 2012 that the study population did possess some ancient Jewish ancestry – which would account for their having no concept of Hannukah (which remembers events that occurred only after their ancestors had settled in Ethiopia 2000 years ago).
To some Israelis, however, it seems that the Ethiopian Jews are a little less Jewish than they ought to be.
Last year, several people noted that the Ethiopian Jewish birthrate had plummeted to fifty percent of its former range. While some of the drop might be explained by the social pressures of life in Israel – where, with the exception of the ultra-Orthodox, families tend to be small – 50% seemed too dramatic to be explained away by mere peer pressure. Several reporters and videographers got started, interviewing women in Ethiopia, at their initial Judaic camp; then in the central camp at Addis Ababa, whence they would journey to Israel; and finally, in Israel itself.
What they found is that, without notification – or indeed permission – women of childbearing age, initially threatened with “difficulties” in being processed for Israel if they had many children, were injected four times each year with Depo-Provera, a powerful contraceptive.
Two days ago, for the first time, the pressured Israeli government admitted that those assaults were made by medical workers who knew perfectly well what they were doing, yet misled the women they injected.
The Israeli Health Ministry has order gynecologists to stop the practice, but it has not yet declared sanctions against the physicians committing malpractice with such racist implications – implications that bring to mind WWII-era practices.
According to the Independent, “Last year, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the health portfolio [emphasis mine], warned that illegal immigrants from Africa ‘threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state’.
Well, only if they’re illegal, surely.
These were not illegal immigrants. They had been vetted and approved for Return well before making the journey to Tel Aviv. To knowingly assault them, disregarding their protests, in an attempt to restrict their fertility – when other groups are not similarly restricted – is an act of immense hubris and scathing offensiveness.
That is a heavy pain footprint.