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Israel: fury at 'conspiracy' after discovering rescued Ethiopians are not Jews 

Ethiopian Jews gather for a solemn collective prayer at a small synagogue on 23 February 2019 [Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency]
Ethiopian Jews gather for a solemn collective prayer at a small synagogue on 23 February 2019 [Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency]

Israel has found itself on the wrong end of an embarrassing "conspiracy" following a clandestine campaign to rescue Jews from war-torn Ethiopia. For over a year, Ethiopian government forces and their allies have been fighting against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party of the country's northern region.

In addition to the 100,000 people said to have been killed, there have been multiple reports of massacres, sexual violence and other atrocities committed by all sides to the conflict. There are also allegations that a blockade of Tigray has led to famine conditions, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

Amidst the violence and chaos, Israel launched a plan to rescue only Jews from the civil war. The occupation state has a history of intervening to airlift foreign citizens from their countries who can prove that they are Jews or have Jewish roots. However, its latest clandestine operation to rescue 61 "Ethiopian Jews" has left the country red-faced.

Once in Israel, the Ethiopians were subjected to an identification process by the Interior Ministry and the Immigration and Population Authority, to confirm that they have Jewish roots. Apart from four, none of the Ethiopians rescued are actually Jews, at all. This revelation triggered what has been described as a furious response by Israeli officials.

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Details of the investigation carried out by the Israelis to confirm the Ethiopians' "Jewishness" were reported by Haaretz. The investigators concluded that there are "major doubts" about whether the immigrants actually have Jewish roots, even though they submitted affidavits saying that they did. Moreover, it said, most "didn't come from the conflict zone as claimed, and their lives weren't at risk at all."

The investigation discovered that most of the 61 had arrived at the request of a single Israeli who just wanted to bring his Christian ex-wife and employees to Israel. Officials are said to have become "furious" upon discovering that the vast majority were not Jews and that they had been misled.

"The feeling we have is that some kind of planned conspiracy was concocted here that exploited the system," concluded the report by the investigation team. "More remains concealed than revealed about the intentions of the community's representatives in Israel." A senior government official has criticised the mission, saying that it was "a big mess".

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Questions are being asked of senior members of the Ethiopian-Israeli community concerning what they know about the family tree of those airlifted to Israel and the claim that the immigrants have Jewish roots. Despite the row, however, the newly-arrived Ethiopians will be allowed to remain in the occupation state.

Although there is talk of the need for more emergency operations to rescue Ethiopian citizens who can prove that they have Jewish roots, there is now some reluctance following the recent embarrassment. Israel's National Security Council is now said to be adamantly opposed to such an operation,

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