TIME Israel

Why the Latest Protest Against Police Brutality Is Happening in Israel

Demonstrators confront Israeli policemen, during a demonstration of Ethiopian Jews at RABIN Square in Tel Aviv on May 3, 2015.
Omer Messinger—AP Protesters confront Israeli policemen during a demonstration of Ethiopian Jews in Tel Aviv on May 3, 2015

Scores are hurt in weekend protests in Tel Aviv as Ethiopian Israelis rally against what they say is long-running racism

Masses of protesters gathering in the streets, some throwing rocks and bottles at the police. In full riot gear, the police respond in force, shooting tear-gas canisters, percussion bombs and water guns. By the end of the evening, 46 injured people are sent to area hospitals.

Scenes of violent protest are something that people in Israel are used to seeing periodically, though it is usually in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This time, though, the rage involves youth Israelis of Ethiopian descent who are angry at their own government.

Complaints of discrimination in all sectors of society — including housing, education and the workplace — are common from Ethiopian Israelis. But the issue of police brutality toward the group came to the forefront in the past week when a video surfaced last Thursday showing police beating a young Ethiopian-Israeli soldier in uniform. A protest against police brutality spilled over into violence in Jerusalem last Thursday night. Those protests continued over the weekend, and on Sunday evening, Rabin Square in the heart of Tel Aviv began to look like an intifada-era conflict zone.

What are Ethiopian-Israelis angry about? Since they began immigrating to Israel in the 1980s, Ethiopians have struggled to integrate into Israeli society. There are more than 135,00 Israelis of Ethiopian origin, according to the most recent figures from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Some came to escape famine and persecution, and all grew up on the idea of Israel as their ultimate homeland. By now, a new generation is Israeli-born, but they still face discrimination that, in the words of one activist, “is more latent than official.” In addition, some of Israel’s Orthodox rabbinical establishment question their Jewishness, which makes it difficult for them to get married in a country where civil marriage doesn’t exist.

But what touched off the current rage, so strikingly similar to the street protests over police brutality that have taken place over the past few months in the U.S., was a CCTV video. It captured an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier being thrown to the ground and beaten by two white policemen. In the video we see the policemen accost the soldier and push him, who then pushes back, and then the two men throw him to the ground and kick him.

“After being beaten up, after being violated again and again and being discriminated against, many Ethiopians wind up in jails,” says activist Fentahun Assefa-Dawit. He notes that 40% of minors in the Israeli correction system are of Ethiopian descent. “What’s different this time is the footage. And all the youngsters who might have been through this something like this, now they have proof that it occurs.”

Assefa-Dawit is the executive director of Tebeka–Advocacy for Equality and Justice for Ethiopian Israelis, an organization that receives more than 1,000 complaints of discrimination and abuse a year. It takes up the strongest cases of Ethiopians who have suffered discrimination, some of which have gone to Israel’s Supreme Court. But for young people outraged by what they’ve experienced, change is coming far too slowly.

“When an Ethiopian applies for a job, as qualified as he might be, as impressive as his CV might be, he is not going to be invited for the interview because he has an Ethiopian name,” Assefa-Dawit told journalists on Monday in a conference call before heading to a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is conferring with Ethiopian community leaders in an effort to calm the outrage. “When a local rabbinate office refuses to register a couple who wants to get married because they’re Ethiopian, when you see a school that says we cannot take more children because they have a quota of how many Ethiopians they will enroll, you can imagine what the feeling of young people will be,” he says.

Shimon Solomon, who came to Israel from Ethiopia in 1980 at the age of 12, was a member of the Israeli parliament in the last government with the Yesh Atid party. He says that although he has repeatedly brought the issue of police brutality towards Ethiopians to the authorities for several years, nothing has been done.

“What we saw in the video is nothing compared to what goes on, in fact it was less shocking that what happens to people in our community at the hands of police,” Solomon tells TIME. “When we speak to people in their neighborhoods, we hear that it’s happening all the time, that the police allow themselves to act brutally and take people aside and beat them for no reason. We turned to the police and ask them to fix this situation, but it just continued like nothing happened.”

Solomon says that the protest on Sunday started with peaceful intentions, but a small group of “anarchists — some Ethiopian and some not” wanted to push things in a more radical direction. “We wanted an aggressive demonstration, not a violent one,” says Solomon. “The point of a protest is to bring attention to a situation, not to make the situation worse.” Solomon says he was disappointed that as the anger across the Ethiopian community grew, there was silence from Israel’s leaders. “It’s too bad that he didn’t come out immediately to decry the violence and hatred.”

Netanyahu met on Monday with Ethiopian leaders in an attempt to douse the flames amid reports that there would be further protests this week. The Prime Minister is moving closer to forming a government but has still not presented one since his re-election on March 17. On Monday he decried racism and violence, and arranged a meeting with Damas Pakedeh, the soldier who was filmed being beaten by two policemen.

“I was shocked by the pictures that I saw,” Netanyahu said in comments released by his office. “We cannot accept this and the police are dealing with it. We need to change things.”


This Split-Screen Video Compares the Lives of a Black Man and a White Man

Their days are a world apart


In a new video, “Racism Is Real,” Brave New Films uses a split screen to compare a day in the life of a black man to a day in the life of a white man in America. The two actors go about the same activities: applying for jobs, buying cars, driving, attempting to buy a house. Each storyline has a different result. The black man doesn’t get an interview while the white man does; he is charged more for his car and gets pulled over while the white man does not; and he is not shown a house that a realtor happily shows the white man.

To support the divergent scenarios, the video uses statistics from studies by the University of Chicago, the New York Times, the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations. Where viewers may be accustomed to hearing about issues of race in a piecemeal fashion — how race affects employment, housing opportunities or interactions with law enforcement — the video attempts to create a cohesive view of all the ways a person’s race might change the course of a single day.

According to its website, Brave New Films hopes to use media as a tool to inspire action on social issues: From exposing the private prison crisis to helping middle class and poor workers to understanding where your tax dollars are going, our groundbreaking social media campaigns have revolutionized activism.”

TIME Crime

See Freddie Gray Protests Spread Across the Nation

Demonstrations inspired by those in Baltimore spread to more than 7 major U.S. cities on Wednesday, including New York, Boston, and Chicago. While the protests were mostly peaceful, there were at least 25 arrests nationwide

TIME Behind the Photos

Go Behind TIME’s Baltimore Cover With Aspiring Photographer Devin Allen

Devin Allen, who shot this week's TIME cover, is a Baltimore resident

A few days ago, Devin Allen, a 26-year-old West Baltimore resident, only aspired to be a professional photographer. For the past two years, he had been photographing models and had tried his hand at street photography, drawing his inspiration from photographers such as Gordon Parks and artists like Andy Warhol.

But, when protests took over his city in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death, the young amateur photographer took to Instagram and found himself propelled on the global stage.

His photographs of the demonstrations — peaceful at first, then more violent — grabbed the headlines: they were featured on the BBC and CNN, and shared by thousands of Twitter and Instagram users, including Rihanna.

America 1968 Baltimore Riots 2015 Time Magazine Cover
Photograph by Devin Allen

Now, one of his most iconic images, shot at the heart of the protests on April 25, is featured on this week’s cover of TIME.

The photograph shows a man running away from a pack of charging policemen. “When I shot that, I thought it was a good picture, so I uploaded [from my camera] to my phone,” he told TIME LightBox earlier this week. “By the time I’d done that, the police was all around me. I was in the middle of it.”

The shot perfectly captures the intensity and chaotic nature of the protests, making it the natural choice for TIME’s cover.

“For me, who’s from Baltimore city, to be on the cover of TIME Magazine, I don’t even know what to say. I’m speechless,” says Allen. “It’s amazing. It’s life changing for me. It’s inspiring me to go further. It gives me hope and it gives a lot of people around me hope. After my daughter, who’s my pride and joy, this is the best thing that’s happened to me.”

Read our full interview with Devin Allen: Meet the Amateur Photographer Covering Baltimore’s Protests

Paul Moakley, TIME’s deputy director of photography and visual enterprise, edited this photo essay. Additional editing by Marisa Schwartz-Taylor.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME photography

Baltimore Protests, Then and Now

Some photographs from Baltimore this week have antecedents in 1968

The 1968 Baltimore riots, sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. days, began with frustrated teenagers throwing rocks and smashing windows on April 6, 1968. By the next morning, three people were dead, 70 injured, more than 100 arrested and 5,500 National Guardsmen — along with more than 1,500 other law enforcement officials — occupied the city, according to an account in Baltimore Magazine.

Despite the distance of time and the differences between then and now, it’s hard not to see parallels between some of the striking imagery from 1968 and photographs from the ongoing protest-turned-riot that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray.

Read Next: The Pain of Watching Baltimore Burn—Again

TIME baltimore

The Pain of Watching Baltimore Burn — Again

BALTIMORE, USA - APRIL 27: Fire Fighter attempt to put out a building that was set on fire during riots in Baltimore, on April 27, 2015. Protests following the death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered while in police custody have turned violent.
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Fire fighters attempt to put out a building that was set on fire during riots in Baltimore, on April 27, 2015.

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

The current violence is—and very much isn't—a repeat of the 1968 riots

I’ve seen this ugly movie before and I didn’t like it much that first time, either. I can’t pretend I was touched directly by the violence when Baltimore was last convulsed by riots, but I was close enough—a boy living in the green suburban ring surrounding Baltimore City during the days of violence that followed Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968. I experienced the curfews and the lockdowns and the shuttered schools, the troop trucks on the streets and the olive drab National Guard planes flying low over our house, heading south to the airport where the soldiers would be disgorged and fan out into the city.

I experienced too Barry Oskar (not his real name; I use a pseudonym to spare his surviving family any unnecessary pain), the grandfather of a pair of children who lived on my block. Oskar owned a liquor store in the heart of the violence and announced one evening to family and neighbors that he had shot and killed the first black man to die in the rioting. I didn’t know if it was true or it was a boast — such was Oskar’s naked hatred of African Americans that he would count that a boast. But it had the ring of something he would do, and it wasn’t as if the half dozen killings that occurred in those violent days were going to be aggressively investigated anyway.

The rioting that broke out this week followed the funeral of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old African American who died at the hands of a dysfunctional white police force that, since 2011 alone, has had to pay out $5.7 million to settle brutality claims. Superficially it felt like a 1968 redux, but the city of now is not the city of then. When I was born, Baltimore was a fault-line place, a town perched on the tipping point between north and south, between the Brown v. Board school desegregation ruling, which had happened not long before, and the voting rights and civil rights acts that were still years away.

The population was openly, racially stratified and businesses that reckoned they could get away with it operated with Jim Crow impunity. When our babysitter, a young African-American woman — as nearly all babysitters were in that time and that place — took my brothers and me to the Uptown Theater to see a revival screening of Pinocchio, the manager scowled at her as soon as we entered, summoned her over and whispered a few cross words.

She came back to us bearing what she gamely framed as the very exciting news that we were all going to get to sit in the balcony. That was fine with me — the balcony was indeed exciting — and it was not until we all got home, my grandmother got word of what had happened and called the theater to rip the bark off the manager that I suspected something more was going on. That something, she made clear to us, had been very wrong.

I didn’t know anything about the primal roots of racism at the time. I hadn’t done any of the reading I’ve done in the decades since about how the brain sorts all people into same and other, tribe and non-tribe, a highly adaptive behavior when we lived in the state of nature but decidedly non-adaptive now. I didn’t know either how powerfully color — of a flag or a uniform or a person — affects that sorting behavior, how easily nonsense like What color is the dress? can morph into What color is the person? And when the answer is black, and the person is young and male, terrible things can happen at the hands of the people who are supposed to be keeping the peace.

I’m glad I didn’t know those things back then, the last time Baltimore burned. Behavioral science can too often be used to make excuses. Laws are fine, but alas, the hearts and minds of men are too often fixed. Best to grow up without that dodge, to learn early on that hearts and minds are as mutable as custom, and that it is every culture’s — and every person’s — responsibility to turn from the dark to the light.

That’s as true of Baltimoreans as of anyone else, but too many people are unsurprised by the current violence. They’ve heard of the city’s stubbornly high murder rate — fifth in the country, behind only Detroit, Newark, New Orleans and St. Louis. Oh, and they’ve seen The Wire — so that pretty much seals things.

But Baltimore’s history and nature run far deeper — the tale of a harbor town, a steel town, a beer-brewing town, an immigrant town. Yes, parts of the city have hollowed out as parts of so many other cities did. And unlike many of those other cities, Baltimore has not enjoyed the same rebound, the same return to the urban core.

But in Baltimore as in the nation as a whole there have been tectonic shifts barely imaginable in 1968. When the lines of authority in a time of civil unrest run from a President named Barack Obama to Attorney General Loretta Lynch to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake—African Americans all—no one can pretend the world is the same place it was when Lyndon Johnson, Ramsey Clark and Tommy D’Alesandro filled those roles. Rawlings-Blake especially can speak truth to law-breaking power in ways that the white patriarchy never could.

“I’m at a loss for words,” she said angrily as the fires in her hometown flared. “It is idiotic to think that by destroying your city that you’re going to make life better for anybody.”

That idiocy will end. Riots always do when enough rage has been spent. And the question then will be what both the black and white populations of Baltimore, newly chastened, newly shaken, will do. If Rawlings-Blake can shame the looters, someone must also shame the police and their enablers. Otherwise the cycle will never be broken.

Barry Oskar did not live to see Baltimore’s latest burst of violence — indeed, he did not live terribly many years after the murder he liked to brag about. One day he was in his store, behind his counter and an intruder entered with intent to rob. Oskar reached for his well-loved gun but the robber shot fast and first, and the mortal ledger was once again balanced — murder for murder, death for death, the entry made in the blood ink of the race wars. No more, Baltimore. Please stop. You’ve suffered enough.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

See the Clashes in Baltimore After Freddie Gray’s Funeral

At least seven police officers were injured in Baltimore on Monday during clashes with protesters following the funeral of Freddie Gray. Maryland's governor declared a state of emergency after cars were set ablaze and stores were looted

TIME Education

Rally Responding to American Flag Trampling Shuts Down Georgia University

Students walked on a flag last week to protest racism

A Georgia university shut down on Friday in preparation for a huge demonstration after a video of protesters trampling an American flag went viral.

Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress told the Valdosta Daily Times that thousands of people who “just want to come down here and support the American flag” were expected to descend on Valdosta State University Friday afternoon.

The rally is a response to a video of students walking on a flag last Friday to protest racism, reported NBC affiliate WALB.com.

“After further discussions with local law enforcement and in the interest of the safety of our…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Crime

Witness Protests in Baltimore Over the Death of Freddie Gray

Protests erupted in Baltimore on Tuesday and continued Wednesday, as demonstrators demand answers on what happened to Freddie Gray, who died of a spine injury after he was arrested by police

TIME Civil Rights

Ole Miss Student Who Hung Noose on Statue Indicted on Civil Rights Charges

University of Mississippi Campus
Wesley Hitt—Getty Images James H. Meredith statue on the campus of the University of Mississippi on April 12, 2008 in Oxford, Miss.

The statue was of James Meredith, the first black student to attend Ole Miss

The man who tied a noose around the neck of a statue of James Meredith at Ole Miss last year will face federal civil rights charges, the Justice Department announced Friday, as the prank was intended to “intimidate” black students and faculty at the school.

Graeme Phillip Harris will face federal charges for hanging a noose and an outdated Georgia flag around the statue of James Meredith, who in 1962 became the first black student to attend Ole Miss. According to the Justice Department, Harris “conspired with others under the cover of darkness” to execute the prank, which the indictment said was intended to “threaten and intimidate” black students at the University.

“This shameful and ignorant act is an insult to all Americans and a violation of our most strongly-held values,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “No one should ever be made to feel threatened or intimidated because of what they look like or who they are. By taking appropriate action to hold wrongdoers accountable, the Department of Justice is sending a clear message that flagrant infringements of our historic civil rights will not go unnoticed or unpunished.”

Harris and his co-conspirators were members of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and their actions (along with other hazing incidents) prompted the national organization to suspend the Ole Miss Chapter, according to an email to members from Grand President Philip Cox.


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