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March 29, 2017 8:01 am

Ethiopian-Israeli Activist: Anyone Who Says Jewish State Is an Apartheid Country Doesn’t Know What Apartheid Means

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

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Interview

Fentahun Assefa-Dawit, the executive director of the Tebeka legal aid group. Photo: Barney Breen-Portnoy.

“If someone says Israel is an apartheid country, they don’t know what apartheid means,” an Ethiopian-Israeli activist told The Algemeiner on Monday.

“For example, an apartheid state does not appoint two Ethiopian-Israeli women to become judges,” Fentahun Assefa-Dawit — the executive director of the Tebeka legal aid group — noted, referring to Adenko Sebhat-Haimovich and Esther Tapeta Gardi.

In an interview on the sidelines of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, DC, Assefa-Dawit — whose NGO’s mission is to promote justice and equality for Ethiopian-Israelis – stated, “Like AIPAC strengthens Israel from the outside, we’re doing it from the inside.”

Tebeka, according to Assefa-Dawit, has been working with the government to eliminate racism within Israeli society.

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“Absolutely, progress is being made,” he said. “Like any other country, there is discrimination and racism in Israel and there are many challenges that different groups face. But unlike many other countries, Israel tries to sit down and solve these problems. From the top down, starting with the prime minister, everybody is cooperating to resolve these issues. Unlike other countries, we see that Israel is trying its best to make the situation better and things are moving in the right direction.”

Approximately 140,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, comprising around 1.7% of the country’s population.

“Israel is our home and it’s like in a family — we can fight and then come together and fix the problem,” Assefa-Dawit said. “Those outside the country who use our issues to bash Israel don’t know what they are talking about. They’ve probably never been to Israel or spoken to an Ethiopian-Israeli.”

In an interview with The Algemeiner last year, Ethiopian-Israeli beauty queen Yityish “Titi” Aynaw said the world must learn about how “unique and diverse” the Jewish state is.

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