Israelis have widely identified on social media the Border Police officer who murdered Ethiopian youth, Soloman Tekah, in an unprovoked attack three days ago. Israeli police have attempted to protect the killer by obtaining a 30-day gag order (see court document) prohibiting reporting of his name. But such an attempt is in vain since his identity has been widely reported. He is Baruch Ben Ezri.
He and his family have been stashed away in a five-star hotel under the highest level of protection, for fear he will be attacked by protesters angry at the killing. This indicates that the Border Police consider Ethiopians on a par with Palestinian militants seeking to kill Israeli security forces. Instead of being viewed as fellow citizens legitimately seeking a redress of their grievances against mass police violence, they are viewed as potential terrorists.
Ethiopian-Israelis have rioted throughout the country in the biggest protests of civil unrest in years. Major roads throughout the country have been blocked. Cars and other vehicles have been torched. Police have battled with protesters to keep thoroughfares open to traffic, using stun grenades, rubber bullets and officers on horseback. The tactics employed are themselves an indication of the hostility felt by the Jewish majority toward the Ethiopian minority.
The Border Patrol is the goon squad of Israeli security forces. They are the most brutal, the most racist, the most violent of all branches of Israeli military or police. The list of their assaults, murders, and massacres against Palestinians, Ethiopian Israelis and African refugees, is far too long and plentiful.
The response by the political establishment to the murder has been typically perfunctory. Netanyahu offered two entire sentences expressing a modicum of sorrow, while demanding that Ethiopian Jews follow the law. The political class closes ranks behind the security forces and minimizes the longstanding grievances of the Ethiopian community, which faces daily and systemic racism.
Tekah had been enjoying a night out with friends at a local Haifa-area youth center, whose programming is designed to offer educational enrichment and keep youth out of trouble. There was an altercation involving Ben Ezri who was off-duty and in the area with his wife and child. The Ethiopian youth who witnessed the incident said it was Ben Ezri who began harassing them. When they tried to flee, he shot at them. A bullet hit Tekah in the back and killed him.
Ben Ezri had been involved in a similar fatal shooting in 2006. He is claiming that he fired at the ground and the bullet ricocheted and hit Tekah. In that incident, a Border Police unit he commanded was hunting Palestinian workers squatting in abandoned buildings in Jaffa. After they caught three victims, the police took the two who had no proper permits allowing them to be in Israel into a separate room at the construction site. They stood them against a wall and began beating them mercilessly. One of the police pointed his gun in the back of one of the detainees and fired, killing him. In that instance, Ben Ezri and the shooter also claimed the bullet was fired accidentally. Two of Ben Ezri’s subordinates were prosecuted and convicted. As the commander, Ben Ezri faced no disciplinary action, though he was at the scene.
In the current case, Ben Ezri was not arrested and no charges have been filed. He was released to house arrest where he is being protected by his own fellow officers.
Israel has always been a racist society from its founding. But the original downtrodden class were the Palestinians who remained after the Nakba. They were second class citizens offered none of the educational, health or employment opportunities offered to Jews. They face 50 laws discriminating against them and in favor of Jews.
The hate and violence suffered by Ethiopians derives from this social context. When they emigrated to Israel in the 1990s, Israel was delighted and welcomed the Ethiopians. But the country did nothing to integrate them into society. It offered little by way of language or job training or providing educational opportunities. Ethiopians remain among the poorest sector of Israeli society. They’ve joined the Palestinians as the “underclass.”