Thursday, August 2, 2007

Mayor Bars Ethiopian Jewish Children From Schools

Wonder why it's always the Ethiopian Jews that gets singled out? First, their blood wasn't good enough to be donated. So Ethiopian Jews were banned from giving blood. Now, their children are barred from certain schools. If this wasn't the "perfect" state of Israel one might call it racism.


Six-year-old Adiso Dasa, who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia three years ago, did not start school on Thursday. Rather than beginning first grade, he stayed home because of an order given by Or Yehuda Mayor Yitzhak Bokovza barring 50 children of Ethiopian immigrant families from registering in local schools.

The families all immigrated within the past three years, and until a few months ago they lived in absorption centers around the country, where they were given a governmental grant to purchase an apartment. Many of the families chose to move to Or Yehuda, where they believed they could integrate into Israeli society, find jobs and make a decent living. But sometimes dreams are dashed.

In Or Yehuda, it appears, the immigrants received a cold welcome. Mayor Bokovza is angry at state authorities, which, he said, do not allow "controlled absorption of immigrants" and allow large numbers of immigrants to end up in the same city, creating "ghettos." Some 1.5 percent of Or Yehuda residents are Ethiopian, according to Bokovza. "If this situation continues, in two years they will be 4 percent," he said.

Because of his actions, the State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss called on Bokovza to allow the students into the city’s education system immediately. Bokovza will come Sunday to a meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee, where he said he would hand down an
"indictment" against the State of Israel for its conduct regarding immigrant absorption.

Adiso has lived for three years with his family in an absorption center in the Jerusalem area Two months ago his family moved to Or Yehuda. Over the summer, his parents went to the municipality’s education department to register him for class. "They told us the mayor has not yet decided what to do. They didn’t tell us where to go. Now my brother is sitting at home,doing nothing. He is very disappointed by the entire situation," said Rahel, Adiso’s older sister, on Friday.

Ethiopian Immigrants Association chair Adiso Masala had some words for Bokovza: "If citizens of Israel want to move from one community to another, they can do so freely; we’re a democracy. I discovered that this man has no desire to absorb immigrant families. I now call on the government ministries to forbid mayors from denying immigrants the right to be absorbed in their cities, because that would be a dangerous precedent," he said.

Masala also blasted Education Minister Limor Livnat: "I heard her say Thursday that the school year opened with no hitches. Dozens of Ethiopian students who aren’t in school is not a hitch?" he asked.

One person has stepped in to propose a solution Ramat Hasharon Mayor Yitzhak Rochberger, who has already informed the Education Ministry that he has agreed to take dozens of Ethiopian pupils from Or Yehuda into his city’s education system and will even offer busing services to the children. "It is not right that someone who doesn’t send his kids to school risks being shown an arrest warrant, but a mayor is exempt from this. Because of his refusal 50 kids are on the street. I think Bokovza should be presented with 50 arrest warrants, one for each child who was left outside the school gates," Rochberger said.

Bokovza is convinced that he is only saying out loud what many other local authority heads only think, but prefer not to say so as not to be accused of "racist behavior." "When someone is ready to fight, he gets called racist. I am fighting the State of Israel, not Ethiopians. I’m actually protecting them. The State of Israel is sending them randomly to all sorts of places, and causing them to concentrate in certain places. The process could continue, and it should be stopped. Like in a healing process, sometimes you have to cut into the flesh. The sight of dozens of kids who aren’t in school is also distressing for me to witness. Today I will go to the State Control Committee and accuse the government ministries of abandoning certain populations and segregating strong populations from weaker ones," he said.

Also for your reading pleasure:


Yale Researcher Concludes

LINTHICUM, MD, June 24 – Israel’s 1996 decision to discard blood donated by Ethiopian immigrants was unjustified based on the infinitesimally small danger of HIV infection, concludes a Yale professor, who notes that there is a comparable HIV infection rate among Americans, who are not subject to a similar Israeli ban.

Dr. Edward H. Kaplan, a management scientist with the Yale University School of Management, presents a paper with his findings at an international convention of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Scientists (INFORMS) and the Operational Research Society of Israel (ORSIS) at Tel Aviv University on Monday, June 29 from 1 to 2 PM. He will present his findings again the same week at the 12th World AIDS conference in Geneva. He is the author of articles on this topic that have appeared in the British medical journal The Lancet and OR/MS Today, a publication of INFORMS.

Risk is one infection in 10 years

Dr. Kaplan uses mathematical modeling employed by operations researchers and management scientists to show that the actual risk of HIV infection in blood accepted from Ethiopian immigrants to Israel is only a single instance in 10 years.

Those who supported the ban — which has since been modified — note that the AIDS infection rate among Ethiopian immigrants is 50 times that of the rest of the Israeli population. Americans are roughly 25 times more likely to be infected with HIV than Israelis.

False Negatives

These statistics, he says, don’t tell an accurate story. In his research, Dr. Kaplan examines the question of whether Israel's Ethiopian blood ban was justified from a cost/benefit perspective.

Since all blood donations in Israel are screened for the presence of HIV antibody, blood is only accepted from donors who test HIV negative. Thus, the number of infectious donations prevented by the ban equals the number of donations from infected Ethiopian donors that tested antibody negative. At issue are false negatives, which occur in newly infected individuals.

While false negative tests can and do occur, the fraction of all antibody negative donations that are actually infectious is small. In the case of donations from Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, the rate of new infections has been estimated as at most 2.9 infections per 1,000 uninfected persons per year. Roughly one infectious donation would occur in every 5,000 antibody negative donations accepted.

According to the Navon Commission, which was formed to deal with issues raised by the blood ban, Ethiopian donors averaged only 485 donations annually. An estimated 1.3% of such donors test positive for HIV antibody, enabling roughly 480 antibody negative donations from Ethiopian immigrants per year. Of 480 antibody negative donations annually, one in every 5,000 would be infectious, implying that only 0.1 infectious donations were prevented each year, or equivalently one infectious donation every 10 years, not a major public health achievement, says Dr. Kaplan.

A similar analysis for non-Ethiopian Israelis reveals that of 221,960 antibody negative donations per year, 1.1 in one million would be expected to be infectious, for an infectious donation rate of 0.24 infectious donations per year, or roughly one every four years.

Those favoring exclusion argued that since Ethiopian donors exhibit a much greater HIV risk on a per donor basis, the exclusion decision was correct. Dr. Kaplan argues that given the small percentage of Ethiopian donations — only 480 compared to 221,960 — accepting a donation from an Ethiopian is beside the point. What is required is a willingness to accept blood from a supply of antibody negative donations, of which only 0.2% come from Ethiopian immigrants.

Therefore, the benefits of the ban, Dr. Kaplan says, can be viewed as preventing at most 0.1 infectious donations a year. The costs, he argues, were much higher, considering the damage done to relations with the Israeli Ethiopian community and a drop in blood supply coupled with protests that led to 70 injuries after the ban became known.

Of greater importance, Dr. Kaplan laments, is a lost opportunity to check the infection of AIDS: If Israeli officials working in Ethiopia with Jews preparing to immigrate had educated them about the spread of HIV, he believes, much heartbreak could have been averted.

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