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Leah Hylo


Our blood is good for wars, and the color of our skin for Hasbara

Leah Hylo


Two blows in one week. There are many more, but these have shocked us again. Two weeks ago the conviction in the case of Raphael Adane was overturned and two days later the case of Solomon Teka was closed without charges. The way in which our lives do not matter has deeply affected us, and reality has been mirrored to us in a way that cannot be ignored. Are we really part of this nation? It hurts to even ask that question because buried in it is our history and the history of our mothers’ mothers. 


The war has blurred the pain of the crime against little Raphael Adane, a four year old Ethiopian kid who was killed by a white woman in a hit and run accident. Just a few months before October 7th, we took to the streets to demand justice for Raphael. An old-new wound was reopened. Solomon Teka,* Yehuda Biadge,** Yosef Salamsa,*** Avera Mengistu,**** and more and more children of parents who are just like our parents.


We have suffered under the so-called Israeli justice system, which is, once again, denying our humanity, even when it comes to a four-year-old. And Israeli society, as always, has stayed on the sidelines. In their silence, they have strengthened the message – if you are Black, and even if you’re a (contested) Jew, your life is not important. Soon after, the judiciary reform protests began – there, we understood precisely who the judicial system serves. 


Then the war arrived, and Israel’s response to the October 7th attack has exposed to the world the peak of the country’s ugliness. Those who first stood on the front lines of the Israeli Hasbara were Black people, especially Ethiopians who eloquently explained why Israel isn’t a racist country. How is it that now, when the eyes of the whole world are on us, and we have the opportunity to have our voice heard – we are playing the role of the token Black that they want us to play?. Well, this is the result of a long-standing strategy that pressured us (and other minority groups) to choose assimilationist politics and an affinity with the Zionist state as a condition to belong. 


During this war, I’ve seen people in closed community groups write things like “we’ve lost many (Ethiopian) soldiers in this war, we hope the country will appreciate it” – even though we know, deep in our hearts, that it won’t. And it never will, as long as the country is built in the way it currently is. There is a reason why a disproportionate amount of Ethiopian soldiers have been killed in this war – because there are those who go to combat units, and there are those who go into intelligence or cyber units which benefit their future. Our blood is good for wars, and the color of our skin is for Hasbara. The social stratification that characterizes Israeli society does not spare the army that claims to be a melting pot.


It’s been almost a decade that we have been protesting the government’s ignorance towards the captivity of Avera Mengistu by Hamas. Only when he was joined by Jews of the “right” skin color were there finally talks of returning the hostages. It cannot be ignored that the state uses us when it serves them. There is a clear hierarchy: if you are a white Jew, you’re at the top of the pyramid. If you’re not a white Jew – your life doesn’t matter.


The latest turn of events and the public discourse inside Israeli society around a hostage deal proves that in the face of political interests and a desire for revenge, even if you are a Jew of the “right” color your life does not matter. How have we gotten to a point where the majority of the public believes that a ceasefire and bringing the hostages home will endanger national safety? How have we gotten to a point where the hostage families can be assaulted or ignored – and most people are just OK with it? We have lost all humanity and as such, unfortunately, the judges’ decisions in the cases of Raphael and Solomon are not surprising – it simply exposes a deep moral rot that is part of even deeper root causes.


How have we gotten here, you ask? The answer is simple – Palestinians. As the continuing injustices against the Palestinian people that we all as a nation take part in and become indifferent to, the justification of this oppression and its indescribable cruelty, the erasure of the Palestinian narrative and humanity, and the continuing desire for revenge that fuels this war, nothing matters anymore. No one’s life matters. The bombing, the starvation, the destruction, and devastation – none of these can be contained by imaginary borders or enacted only on specific populations. It’s all one big illusion. That same burning, blinding hatred of Palestinians burrows into every part of society, causing it to break down.


There is a deep connection between how Palestinians are treated and how Black and Ethiopian Israelis are treated. The same practices of oppression and violence that are permitted against Palestinians are also used against us – whether in the use of violent protest dispersal methods, illegal arrests, or violence from security forces. The intensity is different, but it’s the same hierarchical system that the zionist ideology enables.


It must be stated clearly: if there is no justice for one, there won’t be justice for anyone. We, as Black people in this country, will always be among the first groups to experience the effects of injustice and a lack of legal protection. It’s time we accept that – not to grieve our sorrowful fate but to self-determine it and create real change. It is time to acknowledge that the system will not change, so we must imagine and build toward a new system that will truly serve us, a system in which our lives will matter, as do the lives of every other living being in the region. It may sound unrealistic within our present reality, but what is irrational is our reality. That is why we must change the future.



*Solomon Teka – was shot and killed by a police officer in 2019 at 18 years old. The cop who shot him was recently acquitted of all charges.

**Yehuda Biadge – was shot and killed by a police officer in 2019, at 24 years old. The cop who shot him was never charged, and the case against him was closed.

***Yosef Salamsa –was found Dead in 2014 under unknown circumstances. According to the family, the police were involved in the incident that occurred a few months after police officers attacked him and harassed his family. The investigation against the officers involved found procedural misconduct, and the case was subsequently closed. 

****Avera Mengistu – has a history of mental illness and crossed the Israel-Gaza border in 2014 when he was 27. Soldiers saw him cross but did not stop him, and Hamas has held him captive since then. It took nearly a year for the Israeli government to admit what had happened, initially placing a gag order on his case and telling his family to keep quiet.


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