Police assault video sparks Ethiopian protest in Israel
Israel's Channel 2 said police had to close the street to deal with a suspicious parcel, barring any vehicles or pedestrians from entering it.

An assault on an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier by two Israeli policemen has drawn the ire of thousands of Israelis of Ethiopian origin.

Footage of the assault, which took place on April 26, was recorded by a security camera mounted atop a house in the central Israeli city of Holon.

The footage, which was widely shared on social media, shows Ethiopian-Israeli soldier Damas Pakada arriving on a bicycle to a street that had been sealed off by Israeli police.

Israel's Channel 2 said police had to close the street to deal with a suspicious parcel, barring any vehicles or pedestrians from entering it.

The footage shows a policeman asking Pakada, who was dressed in army uniform, to step away.

An altercation then ensues after Pakada insists on remaining on the street, which ends with Pakada on the ground with two policemen beating him with their fists.

After getting up, Pakada picks up a rock and threatens to throw it at the policemen, who in turn call for backup.

Pakada is then seen surrounded by three police personnel, after which a police commander arrives and asks his subordinates to step away so he can speak with the soldier.

The following day, Israeli police announced in a statement that the two policemen implicated in the incident had been suspended until further notice.

"Despite not fully examining the details of the footage, it depicts unacceptable behavior and a departure from the rules of behavior that were set forth," read a statement published on the Israeli police website.

The two officers have since been suspended and evidence has been taken to the police department's investigative unit.

A decision, meanwhile, will be made regarding the fate of the two policemen based on the outcome of the investigation, according to the police.

Pakada, for his part, told Channel 2 that he believed the incident was "racially-motivated."

"If there had been no footage of the incident, I am sure I would have been under arrest and no one would have believed me," he said.

Late last month, Israel's Jerusalem Post newspaper reported that there had been "a series of reports in the Israeli press about alleged acts of police brutality against Ethiopian Israelis, with many in the community saying they are unfairly targeted and treated more harshly than other citizens."

Meanwhile Israeli President Reuven Rivlin admitted Monday that the Israeli authorities had "erred" in dealing with Jews of Ethiopian origin, following a night of clashes between the latter and Israeli police.

"Protesters in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv revealed an open and bloody wound in the heart of Israeli society," Rivlin was quoted by Haaretz as saying at a meeting with local leaders of Israel's ultra-orthodox community.

"This is a wound of a community sounding the alarm at what they feel is discrimination, racism and disregard of their needs. We must take a good hard look at this wound," he added.

"We've erred," he said. "We have failed to see and listen enough. Among those protesting in the streets, there can be found the best of our boys and girls, excellent students and former soldiers."

He added: "We must give them answers."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, said in a Sunday statement that he would "convene a discussion tomorrow with the participation of Ethiopian community representatives, and I will also meet with IDF [Israeli army] soldier Damas Pakada, who was filmed being beaten by two policemen."

Against this backdrop, clashes broke out on Sunday between Ethiopians and Israeli police in downtown Tel Aviv, leaving 68 people – mostly police personnel – hurt and 43 others detained, according to an Israeli police spokesperson.

Jews of Ethiopian descent accuse the Israeli authorities of discriminating against members of their community.

Three years ago, Ethiopian Jews staged demonstrations in central Israel to protest the refusal of a number of Israeli schools to allow the enrollment of children of Ethiopian descent.

Unofficial estimates put the number of Jews of Ethiopian descent in Israel at about 125,500, some 5,400 of whom serve in the Israeli army.

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Last Modified: 2015-05-04 19:22:11
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