Statements made by police and Ethiopian Jews are starting to present a more complicated picture of the protests that began last Thursday and turned violent on Sunday in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, indicating that radical leftist groups unconnected to the Ethiopian community are manipulating and fanning the unrest.
One of the thousands of Ethiopian Jews who took part in the protest on Sunday night told Channel 2 of external organizations who were causing the violence and misrepresenting the Ethiopian community as it protested the beating of Damas Pakada, an Ethiopian Jewish soldier who was brutally assaulted by a police officer in Holon last Sunday.
The protest – which also highlighted discrimination and police brutality towards the community in general – turned violent as 55 officers and 12 protesters were wounded, and 43 protesters were arrested.
"From the beginning of the protest it was quiet, the police showed restraint, we showed restraint. Ayalon (Highway) was blocked for three hours and nothing (i.e. no violence) happened there," said the protester.
"We came here, all sorts of organizations joined us," he said, at which point the interviewer asked him which organizations he meant. The man responded, "I don't want to list their names…I really expect them tomorrow morning to present their pangs of conscience over what they're doing, over what they did to an entire community."
"Everything that you see around here wasn't supposed to be," he said, indicating the violent unrest. "We said from the start, enough of the violence. Because that (non-violent protest – ed.) was really the goal. It started with unrest, and those who stirred it up – you won't see anyone from the (Ethiopian) community (among them)."
He continued: "it was those organizations that came and took as their goal to stir things up so that we would look like this," indicating a goal of creating a false impression that the Ethiopian community is violent.
The move is also likely meant to negatively portray Israel in terms of racism against Ethiopian Jews, which would fit in line with the agenda of leftists groups that often accuse Israel of racism towards Arab residents as well.
The protester's statements in Hebrew can be seen by clicking the image below.
New Israel Fund's fingerprints?
In another key piece of testimony, Deputy Tel Aviv District Commander Brig. Gen. Yoram Ohayon on Sunday night told Yedioth Aharonoth that external organizations are stirring up the violence, and even listed some of them by name.
"It's important to note there are other sources here who are not members of the (Ethiopian) community," he said, listing, "different sorts of anarchists, 'Lo Nechmadim,' 'Hamaabara,' who are taking part in the protest. They aren't just taking part in the protest, they're breaching the agreements with us."
The two groups he mentioned, Hamaabara and Lo Nechmadim are listed among the groups that comprise the Forum for Public Housing, which is coordinated by the organization Shatil, the social change and political lobbying organization of the radical leftist New Israel Fund (NIF), as listed by the NIF website.
NIF has long been criticized as being radically anti-Zionist, trying to portray Israel negatively in the world and undermining Israel's Jewish character while receiving international funding.
NGO Monitor has shown the NIF to be funding groups closely associated with the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel. In addition, the NIF-funded web channel Social Television was revealed in August 2013 to be encouraging violent Arab riots, indicating stirring up violence isn't new for the group.
Ohayon said of the protests on Sunday that the NIF-connected groups egged on the Ethiopian protesters to breach agreements to disperse made with the police.
He said the protesters would "decide to go, they'd go ten meters, and then sources not from the (Ethiopian) community come…and cause them to take it back."
Ohayon's words were further supported by the head of the police operations branch, Maj. Gen. Aharon Aksul, who said on Monday that non-Ethiopian groups are fanning the violence.
"Unfortunately there's a handful in every protest that fans violence, additional groups that are not related to the Ethiopian community joined them and took it in their direction," he said. "Most members of the (Ethiopian) community are not violent and we must not let a handful of hooligans lead this protest."
As the protests are set to continue on Monday in Jerusalem in front of the governmental compound, it remains to be seen if the external organizations will be officially addressed in governmental and police efforts to defuse the situation.
Gil Ronen and Ari Soffer contributed to this report.