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Israel: New Ethiopian party joins election race

Posters of candidates for Israel's upcoming general election in April, on 23 January 2018 [Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images]
Posters of candidates for Israel's upcoming general election in April, on 23 January 2018 [Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images]

A new Ethiopian-Israeli party has announced it will run in the upcoming general election, calling for an end to racism and promoting equal rights for Israel's immigrants.

The party – Kol Yisrael Achim Leshivion Hevrati or All Israel are Brothers for Social Equality – announced today that it would stand in the upcoming general election on 9 April. It plans to represent Israel's Jewish-Ethiopian community, which numbers around 144,000 people, and lobby for key issues impacting the community such as the promotion of equal rights for new immigrants to Israel.

The party will be headed by former Member of Knesset (MK) Alali Adamso, a veteran of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, according to the Jerusalem Post. Adamso previously belonged to the Likud party, but missed out on gaining a Knesset seat in the 2009 and 2013 elections due to being placed too low on the party's ballot list.

Whether Adamso's new party will win enough votes to pass the four-seat minimum threshold usually needed to gain a seat in the 120-seat parliament remains to be seen. The All Israel party could, however, better its prospects by joining forces with other smaller parties to run as an alliance, as Arab-Israeli parties have done with the Joint List.

READ: Israel-Arab MK Tibi calls for minority government to oust Netanyahu

Israel's Ethiopian community has faced a number of challenges in recent decades and debates over their place in Israel have proved controversial. In October, Israel approved a bill to allow 1,000 Ethiopian Jews to migrate to Israel, proposing that those who already have family there should be allowed to relocate, bringing with them their partners and any unmarried children.

However a further 7,000 were left behind in Ethiopia and not granted permission to migrate to Israel. These Ethiopians – known as the Falash Mura – claim to be Jewish and are thought to be descendants of the ancient Israelites who were forced to convert to Christianity. However, Israel's Interior Ministry does not consider them to be Jewish, meaning they cannot immigrate under the "Law of Return" – which gives all Jews the automatic right to move to Israel – and therefore must get special permission from the government.

This policy has caused accusations of racism on the part of the state, with commentators pointing to the fact that many immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union are not considered Jewish under Jewish law but are nonetheless allowed to immigrate.

Furthermore, those Ethiopian Jews who already live in Israel often face discrimination in numerous sectors, including employment opportunities and among the ranks of the Israeli army. This situation has been aggravated by the influx of refugees from Eritrea and Sudan to Israel in recent years, against which the Israeli government has fought vehemently. This has caused all minorities of African origin to be targeted without differentiation, with the Likud faction running in Tel Aviv's October municipal elections displaying posters reading "it's us or them" alongside images of African refugees.

READ: Israel's Gantz launches election campaign

AfricaEthiopiaIsraelIsraeli ElectionsMiddle EastNewsPalestine
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