When Israel imposes contraception on its Ethiopian women
The Israeli Ministry of Health admitted to having injected one contraceptive agent in immigrant Falasha Jews. Without their knowledge.
By Armin Arefi
The mystery is finally lifted on the astonishing 50% decline in the fertility rate of Ethiopian Jews in Israel since 2000. After five years of successive denials, the Israeli government admitted that it had established a system of contraception of immigrant women of Ethiopian origin before their arrival in Israel. The affair made a big splash last December, after the Israeli TV broadcast of a report in the educational show, Vacuum. Thirty-five Ethiopian immigrant women say they were forced to accept an injection of Depo-Provera, a long-term contraceptive agent, eight years ago, at the risk of not being allowed to enter Israeli territory.“They told us it was a vaccine,” says a woman interviewed by journalist Gal Gabbay, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Sunday. “They told us that people who have many children suffer.” “We told them we did not want the injection,” says Emawayish, another Ethiopian.
“We were terrified” (Ethiopian immigrant)
“They told us that if we did not want it, we would not go to Israel, nor would we be allowed to access the Joint Jewish Committee’s office, the largest Jewish humanitarian organization. And we would not benefit from any help or medical care. We were scared”, she insists. “We had no choice.” According to the report, the “operation” took place in workshops located in transit camps. The practice was then repeated every three months after the arrival of women in the Jewish state.
Charges that in December were formally denied by the Joint. According to the organization, cited by Haaretz, the family planning workshops were part of the services provided to immigrants to teach them to space the birth of children. “We do not advise them to have small families,” said the Joint at the time. “It’s a personal question, but we inform them of this possibility.”
The same is true of the Israeli Ministry of Health, which swears in December, “does not recommend or try to encourage the use of Depo-Provera”. However, the department adds that, if these injections were actually administered, it was done without its consent. The broadcast of the report, in any case, provoked the ire of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which in a letter, called for the “immediate end” of the injections and the launching of an investigation.
Six weeks later, Professor Roni Gamzu, director general of the Ministry of Health, ordered the end of the practice, revealed Haaretz. In an official directive, he asked all gynecologists in the country to “not renew the prescriptions of Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin or other women who, for all sorts of reasons, do not understand the implications of this treatment “. However, the Ministry points out that this instruction “does not constitute a statement of fact or fact finding” about this forced contraception.
For the spokesperson of ACRI, Marc Gray, this letter constitutes “an important admission that this phenomenon has existed”. Bad publicity that the Jewish state could have done without. It was denounced in 2012 for its hateful campaign to deport African refugees, but had not been called out regarding the Falasha Jews (or Beta Israel), who are Israeli citizens. Long cut off from other Jewish communities, the Jews of Ethiopia were only recognized as such in 1975 by the Israeli government. In the 1980s and 1990s, it organized two large repatriation operations, enabling 35,000 of them to settle in Israel.
According to AFP, today there are more than 120,000, of whom 80,000 were born in Africa, but many still face enormous cultural differences and discrimination in Israeli society.
Distributed by PAJU (Palestinian and Jewish Unity)