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March 25, 1988 - Image 52

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-03-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

k

I FOLLOW-UP I

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ii iraiglggfa l 25 e 1988

thiopia, a nation
racked by war, poverty
and famine, may
become an even more hostile
environment for the approx-
imately 10,000 Jews who re-
main in the country, accord-
ing to a new report issued by
the U.S. State Department.
The 1987 Country Reports on
Human Rights Practices
states that the Marxist
government of Mengistu
Haile Mariam continues to
pursue resettlement and
other programs which
threaten to uproot and
disperse the Jewish com-
munity.
The State Department re-
port touches on the Ethiopian
Jewish community in the con-
text of the Ethiopian govern-
ment's general disrespect for
human rights. It says that
while Ethiopian Jews ex-
perience "economic discrimi-
nation" in land ownership,
they have not been singled
out for other forms of mis-
treatment. But according to
American activists, condi-
tions which may be trouble-
some to the population at
large could be "catastrophic"
to the Jewish community.
Dr. Will Recant, executive
director of the American
Association for Ethiopian
Jewry (AAEJ), pointed out
that since the 1984 exodus of
some 7,000 Ethiopian Jews to
Israel during the Operation
Moses airlift, those remain-
ing in Ethiopia are mainly
women, children and the
elderly. "It is never easy to
get by in Ethiopia," Recant
said. "But this is a communi-
ty whose most productive
members are thousands of
miles away. Farming is more
difficult, defending the
villages is more difficult,
preserving Jewish traditions
is more difficult. With the
possibility of another famine,
and the government's deci-
sion to relocate parts of the
community elsewhere, the
burden has only increased."
Both AAEJ and the North
American Conference on
Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ)
report that the community
has been spared from famine
so far. They also concur with
the State Department's con-
clusion that "stories of

E

CONCEPTS IN ORGANIZING CLOSETS
AND ALL STORAGE AREAS FOR
MAXIMUM UTILIZATION

BIRMINGHAM, MI

The Jews of Ethiopia
Face New Threats

651-5009

ft,

Jeff Rubin is assistant editor of
the "Near East Report," a
Washington weekly on the Middle
East.

`genocidal' actions by Ethio-
pian authorities, or of highly
brutal behavior toward Ethio-
pian Jews„ have not been
substantiated . .
The State Department re-
ports that in 1987 the govern-
ment gave foreign visitors
"relatively unrestricted ac-
cess" to Jewish villages. But
Recant said certain groups
have been denied entrance to
some Jewish areas. Never-
theless, the Mengistu gov-
ernment permits the U.S.
government and other 6utside
groups to send special relief to
Ethiopian Jews.

One of the most disturbing
revelations of the U.S. report
is the Ethiopian govern-
ment's intention to resettle
some 300,000 citizens from
the Gondar province this
year. Gondar is the heartland
of Ethiopian Jewry.
American activists allege
that moving Ethiopian Jew-
ish communities en masse
would enable the government
to control the shape of
neighborhoods and the struc-
ture of leadership: Jews find
themselves living next to non-
Jews rather than family
members; their village
leaders are Communist party
officials, not religious figures.
One man reportedly was
killed by new neighbors when
they discovered he was
Jewish. Integration, prejudice
and the further breakdown of
the community's leadership
can only contribute to the
pressure to assimilate, says
Recant.
By dispersing the commu-
nity, resettlement and
villagization would also com-
plicate future efforts to
remove the community.
Only a trickle of Jews have
left the country since large-
scale rescue operations ended
in 1985, said Jewish activists.
The State Department re-
ports that "in 1987 about 25
people were arrested in Addis
Ababa, Dire Dawa and Gon-
dar reportedly after arrang-
ing for the surreptitious
departure of Jews from
Ethiopia." American activists
confirm that 11 individuals
have been imprisoned on
charges of smuggling, sedi-
tion and money currency
violations. It is unclear
whether they have been tried.
Amnesty International re-
ported that several of these
prisoners have been tortured.
Said a NACOEJ spokes-
man, "We must continue to
push for the reunification of
Ethiopian Jewish families in
Israel."

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