Ethiopians Protest Government Backtrack on Immigration

YERUSHALAYIM -

An estimated 1,500 people marched in Yerushalayim on Sunday to protest the Israeli government’s decision to renege on its promise to bring thousands of Ethiopians from transit camps to Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The marchers, of Ethiopian origin, accused the government of “racism” and “discrimination between Jews and Jews,” according to local media reports, rejecting official explanations that it was a budgetary matter.

“Mr. Prime Minister, if your son wants to come to the state of Israel would you say you have no budget?” asked one protester on Army Radio.

The government has said that due to a funding shortfall, there is currently not enough money to allow the immigration of more than 500 people this year.

Around 9,000 people have been waiting in Addis Ababa and Gondar transit camps for the official word that they can come to Israel. Last November, the cabinet unanimously approved an Interior Ministry proposal to resume aliyah from Ethiopia, which was suspended in 2013, following a ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport at which officials declared the “end” of Ethiopian aliyah.

At the time, that decision was explained, not as a budgetary one, but of a different kind altogether. Jewish National Fund chairman Eliezer Sandberg, for example, said that the remaining population in Ethiopia were gentile relations of Ethiopians in Israel.

“I believe we all have relatives of relatives of relatives who don’t [meet] the criteria [for aliyah]. I think it’s a mistake to blend together the joy of the return and the closing of the operation from Ethiopia with the personal issues of some people,” Sandberg said.

According to the cabinet decision, any Ethiopian who moved to Gondar or Addis Ababa after January 2013, would be willing to convert to Judaism and has relatives here who can apply for his acceptance, would be eligible to immigrate.