(MintPress) – For the first time, the Israeli government is taking steps in the direction of acknowledgement of an alleged program that sterilized an entire generation of Ethiopian immigrants.
A report aired on Israeli Educational Television revealed a government-sponsored program in which Ethiopian women immigrating to the country eight years ago were given a choice: If they wanted to enter and live in the country, they would be subjected to a sterilization program.
While not specifically acknowledging or apologizing, the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has ordered a halt to the administering of Depo-Provera, the drug used to allegedly sterilize Ethiopian women.
Falash Mura is one woman profiled on the investigation show, “Vacuum.” She traveled to Israel from Ethiopia eight years ago as an immigrant and says she was given no choice but to receive shots of Depo-Provera. Had she refused, she would not have been given entry.
Mura isn’t the only woman stepping forward. Women who traveled to Israel during that time period claim the same thing, saying they were told by the Joint Distribution Committee and the Health Ministry that, aside from a prerequisite to entry, sterilization was in their best interest.
Government officials allegedly told the woman that having more children in Israel would make their life more difficult, citing high costs and the difficulty it would create in attempts to find a home.
Some women claimed officials disguised the injections as necessary vaccines, saying they too were necessary for entry.
The “Vacuum” investigation included hidden camera footage of an Ethiopian woman at an Israeli health clinic being told that the shot she was about to receive was “primarily” given to Ethiopian women “because they forget, they don’t understand, and it’s hard to explain to them, so it’s best that they receive a shot once every three months … basically they don’t understand anything.”
Their stories are not new for Israel. An article published in Haaretz, an Israeli publication, in December 2012 alleges the government continues to force Depo-Provera injections on Ethiopian women. Efrat Yardai, a spokesperson for the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews, addressed the government program, claiming it was implemented as a way to drive down the numbers of Ethiopians in Israel.
“The injections given to Ethiopian women are part and parcel of the overall Israeli attitude toward this wave of immigrants,” she wrote. “During the 1980s and 1990s, thousands of Ethiopian Jews spent months or years in transit camps in Ethiopia and Sudan. Hundreds died en route to Israel simply because a country that is supposed to be a safe haven for Jews decided the time wasn’t right, they couldn’t be all absorbed together or they weren’t Jewish enough — who had heard of black Jews?”
Eritreans or Ethiopians attempt to seek asylum in Israel because of widespread famine and religious persecution in their home country. Their journey to Israel is largely based on a religious background, with the nation historically serving as a safe haven for Jewish people, most of whom are of European descent.