(This article is published in Mondoweiss.)
Two American Jews were reportedly called a racial slur, detained, and subsequently deported by the Israeli government because they are black.
Idit Malka has five siblings, all of whom live in Israel. She traveled with her son Kahxin to the self-professed Jewish state on 12 June in order to celebrate the wedding of her sister, who lives in Yeroham, a town in the Negev.
Malka was not even able to make it out of Ben-Gurion Airport. She and her 10-year-old child were detained in a holding cell for close to 48 hours. With the single phone call allowed to her, Malka contacted her Israeli brother, who appealed to a judge, yet their petition was denied. Malka and her son were denied entry and placed on a return flight to the US.
“Once we were detained, we were never given any reason other than one female agent screaming at me ‘Eretz Yisrael isn’t a country for cushim [a racist Hebrew slur for black people],'” Malka recalled.
“I feel the denial of entry was made before I even had a chance to speak with anyone,” she added.
The Jerusalem Post reports that, according to Israel’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA), “Malka and her son were turned away because of suspicions she belongs to the Black Hebrew community and was planning to remain in Israel instead of returning to the US on August 20, as her ticket stated.” She denied the accusation in an interview with the publication.
Malka’s family immigrated to Israel when she was young. In 1987, they distanced themselves from the Black Hebrew community, members of which are not recognized as Jewish by the Israeli government.
“I have been living as a Jew my entire adult life,” Malka explained. She underwent a Reform conversion to Judaism in 1995 and a Conservative conversion in 2004.
In 2006, Malka even lived in Israel. The Jerusalem Post writes “Malka claims she was put through a bureaucratic tangle that lasted four years. With no end in sight, she and her children decided to return to the US in 2010.”
“I have a 10-year-old who wanted to visit his cousins and family, and he’s had his summer vacation ruined in the most horrific way,” Malka lamented.
Zionist White Supremacy
The Jerusalem Post explains black Jews face double standards in Israel to which Ashkenazim (Jews of European descent) are not subjected:
Nicole Maor, a representative of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), which assisted Malka during her four-year-effort to become an Israeli citizen, said Monday that African- American converts to Judaism often encounter problems upon entry into Israel. She said this was because the legitimacy of their conversions are questioned by the Interior Ministry.
In addition, African-Americans who plan to stay in Israel for extended periods or make aliya are scrutinized more closely due to suspicions that they will join the Black Hebrew community.
Ethiopian Jews—who face virulent racial bigotry in a society in which politicians, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, regularly call African immigrants “infiltrators” and “cancer”—have drawn parallels between their struggle against systemic racism and the struggle of black Americans against systemic racism. In protests in April and May, Israeli Ethiopian Jews took to the streets of Jerusalem to protest racist police brutality, chanting “Baltimore is here!,” referencing civil rights protests in the US that had took place just days before.
An op-ed published in leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz on 12 June avers that the “bigoted, racist lawyer of Harper Lee’s new novel would feel completely at home in modern Israel.” Author Naomi Levitzky recollects that, reading a review of the novel Go Set a Watchman, which takes place in the racial apartheid of the Jim Crow-era US South,
I couldn’t help but think of us in Israel. How exactly was I reminded of the racist, ignorant southern town in Alabama?
Here, last July they burned alive a Palestinian boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir.
An Israel Defense Forces soldier of Ethiopian descent was manhandled by a police officer and the case against the officer was closed.
Schools and summer camps refused to accept children because of their skin color.
A representative of the government talked aggressively and patronized the family of Avera Mengistu, a seemingly disturbed man who crossed the border into Gaza last September and has disappeared – and no one seems to care.
And as a woman is raped in Tel Aviv, passersby witness it but keep walking; no one helped her.
As I have noted in previous Mondoweiss articles, since the founding of the putative Jewish state, Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern descent) and other non-Ashkenazi Jews have endured constant discrimination and have lived as virtual second-class citizens:
Scholar Hanan Chehata describes Israel as the “promised land for Jews… as long as they’re not black.”
Jews of African descent are not the only ones to suffer from the Ashkenazi supremacy of Zionism. Since its earliest days, Mizrahi Jews (those of Middle Eastern descent) have faced systematic discrimination in Israeli society. In the 1950s, Israel forced Mizrahi Jews to live in poverty in tents in shantytown-like transit camps while Ashkenazim were given hotels.
In the decades since, Mizrahim have continued to endure systemic racism. This intense oppression led to the creation of the Israeli Black Panthers, in parallel to the revolutionary socialist Black Panther Party in the US. Former Israeli Black Panthers still protest Israeli racism against Mizrahi Jews today.