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Do black lives matter less in Lancashire than in Apartheid Israel?

Family of the missing Israeli Avraham Mengistu after a press conference calling for international help [Palestine Trends/Twitter]
Family of the missing Israeli Avraham Mengistu after a press conference calling for international help [Palestine Trends/Twitter]

A few days ago, a British university cancelled an event planned as part of "Israeli Apartheid Week" on the grounds that it was anti-Semitic. Naturally, the cancellation by the University of Central Lancashire was greeted with dismay by pro-Palestinian campaigners who saw the ban as an attempt to stifle any discussion over why Israel is labelled as an apartheid state by its critics.

Pro-Israel advocacy groups are certainly very active when it comes to blitzing universities with complaints, and generally successful too. However, they are strangely silent when the accusation of apartheid comes from within the Zionist State itself.

As such, one story you will probably not read about in the mainstream media is that of missing Israeli Avraham Mengistu, who is believed to have been taken captive in Gaza nearly two years ago. Mengistu went missing on 9 July 2015, and while other Israeli prisoners attract massive publicity and propaganda campaigns for their safe return, the Israeli government has been remarkably silent about this man.

Mengistu's brother is in no doubt why. Avraham is black, of Ethiopian descent. "I am sure that if it was a relative of a Knesset member or of the prime minister – and I do not wish such a situation on anyone – no one would have remained silent," said Ilan Mengistu after breaking his own silence with a briefing for the media in Israel.

Politician Oren Hazan from Likud was even more direct when he said that the Zionist government's lack of action was racist. "If his name was not Abera and he was not black we would have seen this country on fire," he said.

Hazan also accused government officials of lying when they claim to have been acting behind closed doors to get Mengistu returned. "When I was a member of the Foreign Affairs and Diplomacy Committee, they never mentioned their efforts on this matter, not even once," he insisted.

Meanwhile, Zouheir Bahloul, a politician from the Zionist Union, was equally blunt. "We all grew up with the Jewish moral idea that the state is not leaving behind someone who was abducted. But it seems that that state forgets its morals when it is a citizen of Ethiopian descent."

That is a telling comment, because in 2013 it came out that the Israeli government had admitted giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent. What's more, the almost 100,000 Ethiopian Jews who have migrated to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s have had their Jewishness questioned by some rabbis. In 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even warned that illegal immigrants from Africa "threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state."

If this is how white Zionists like Netanyahu regard black Jewish lives, we should not be too surprised to see how easily his regime shows it contempt for Christian and Muslim Palestinians. Israel, lest we forget, has more than 50 laws on the statute books which sanction discrimination against its Palestinian citizens. Perhaps this is something that the University of Central Lancashire might want its students to discuss; or do black lives matter even less in a county in Northern England than they do in Apartheid Israel?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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