Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett on Sunday evening took part in the demonstration by Ethiopian immigrants at the Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, where he said all Israelis needed to do some “soul searching” in the wake of recent goings on.
Bennett met with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and then joined the protesters, who told him appalling stories about discrimination and the difficult feelings they are feeling as a result.
“I have come to listen to you. This is a difficult day,” Bennett told the protesters. “All of Israeli society needs to do some soul searching if so many citizens have such harsh feelings. We need to uphold the law, but we must also address the problems that have flooded us in such a painful manner.
At least 41 people were injured in Sunday evening’s protest, where over 2,000 Ethiopian Jews, mostly young, were chanting slogans against police after they blocked major thoroughfares in central Israel.
Police attempted to disperse the demonstrators with stun grenades, water cannon and pepper gas, but were unsuccessful. Some protesters attempted to overturn police cars, and reportedly threw rocks and firecrackers.
The Ethiopian Jews are protesting police brutality that they say is directed especially against dark-skinned Jews, and discrimination against the Ethiopian community on various levels. The trigger for the protests was a video that showed police attacking an Ethiopian soldier for no apparent reason.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene a discussion of the Ethiopian Jews' complaints Monday, and meet the soldier who was beaten by police. Participants in the discussion will include representatives of the Ethiopian community, representatives of government ministries, the Police Commissioner and other top policemen.
MK Dr. Avraham Nagosa (Likud) demanded Sunday that the government establish a commission of inquiry to examine the treatment of Ethiopians in Israel.
"Anger is a justified and legitimate protest, I would like to do anything without violence and legally with restraint on both sides," he stated to Arutz Sheva. "Violence is not our way."
"We will not give up until the phenomenon of police violence against the Ethiopian community, and every citizen in Israel, is eradicated," Nagosa stated. "Israel cannot be a country where every IDF soldier receives a brutal beating."
"We will continue to fight to ensure that racism disappears," he added. "I call on the police to 'clean house' and abide by the law."