Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Forced Birth Control, Israel, & Ethiopian Women

This is a story that reminds me of something straight out of Nazi Germany. About 90,000 Ethiopian Jews have returned to Israel under the " Law of Return" since the early 1980's. This law was created in order to allow all Jews world wide to return to Israel for a "safe haven". Unfortunately it's drafter's did not have Jewish Ethiopian's in mind, and this "safe haven" is anything but safe for them. Their Jewishness has been questioned by some rabbis and is doubted by many ordinary Israelis. Ethiopians are reported to face widespread discrimination in jobs, housing and education and it has recently emerged that their blood donations were routinely discarded for fear that they might be contaminated with diseases.
In Nazareth, Israel, health officials are subjecting many female Ethiopian immigrants to birth control. They are being told that they have no other options, and are being coerced into being given the drug. These women are being given a controversial long term birth control drug called Depo Provera. The drug is administered every 3 months in what an Israeli women's group alleges is a racist policy designed to reduce to number of black babies. Depo Provera is considered by many doctors to be a drug of last resort because of the complications associated with treating its side effects. It was once used in South Africa by the Apartheid government, most often coercively to control the Black population. The major side effect of the drug is that it causes a sharp decrease in bone density in dark-skinned women causing osteoporosis in later years.
Traditionally, its main uses have been for women who are regarded as incapable of controlling their own reproduction or monitor other forms of birth control, and for women who suffer severe problems during menstruation.
Figures show that 58 percent of all Depo Provera users in Israel are Ethiopian, despite the fact that the community counts for less than two percent of the total population.
After doing extensive research, Hedva Eyal, a member of Woman to Woman, a feminist organization based in Haifa, in northern Israel, reported these findings.
"The unspoken policy is that only children who are white and Ashkenazi are wanted in Israel."
Ashkenazi is the term used for European Jews who founded Israel and continue to dominate its institutions.
"The answers we received from officials demonstrated overt racism," Ms Eyal said. "They suggested that Ethiopian women should be treated not as individuals but as a collective group whose reproduction needs controlling."
When Woman to Woman conducted an experiment by sending five non-Ethiopian women to doctors to ask for Depo Provera, all were told that it was prescribed only in highly unusual cases.
I guess that having the misfortune of being both Ethiopian, and female in Israel is a highly unusual case.
Ruth Sinai, an Israeli social affairs reporter for Haaretz newspaper, wrote recently that the discrimination faced by the country's 120,000 Ethiopians reflected in particular "doubts on the part of the country's religious establishment about their Jewishness".
This story has several ironies. The first is the fact that this is taking place in Jesus' home town, Nazareth. Although he was born in Bethlehem, he is referred to as a Nazarene in the bible. What is taking place in Nazareth is sac religious in a sense, simply because of this fact as well as the fact that God wants us to be fruitful and multiply.
Genesis 1:28
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Notice, no where in this scripture does it say that one human being should have dominion or control over another.
Even the Torah supports this verse in Genesis. The first mitzvah or (commandment) in the Torah is "to be fruitful and multiply."
So both of these sacred books are being violated because of racism and prejudice.
The second irony is the fact the Israelis doubt the Ethiopians faith. Being Jewish means that you practice a religion. It is not a race or ethnic group. So, any attempt at discriminate on that basis is willful ignorance. Especially if you are a practicing Jew yourself. Their faith and validity as practicing Jews is only in question because they are African.
The third, and perhaps the obvious irony is the bloody legacy of Adolf Hitler in Natzi Germany. Most of these European Jews are only a few generations removed from ancestors who were subjected to the very same genocidal contempt that they are inflicting on these Jewish Ethiopian women. But they have lost site of the tradition passed down from one generation to the next. They have forgotten the horror narratives passed on from the concentration camp at Auschwitz, and decades later have become no better that the monsters that they despise. Mirror images of disciples of a man who once sought to wipe out who they were and who they could be.


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