After Israel was accused of forcing Ethiopian women to accept injections of the contraceptive Depo-Provera in an attempt to lower birth rates among black immigrants, an official has for the first time admitted use of the drug among Ethiopian women.
In a letter to the Israeli Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu, Sharona Eliahu-Chai of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, demanded that the Israeli health authorities stop administering the injections immediately. The letter also demanded that the authorities conduct an investigation into allegations stemming from the practice.
The Association of Civil Rights in Israel is a group that represents several women’s rights and Ethiopian immigrants’ groups.
The National reports that Hedva Eyal, project coordinator of a women's rights research group, said in Haifa: "I believe there is a deliberate targeting of these [Ethiopian] women."
According to The National, Eyal and other activists say that the birth rate in the Ethiopian community in Israel has halved in the past 10 years. Eyal's civil rights group and six others have asked the Israeli health ministry to explain the widespread use of Depo-Provera injections among Ethiopians.
Haaretz reports an Israeli government official has for the first time acknowledged the practice of injecting women of Ethiopian origin with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera.
Haaretz reports that the Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu, has instructed the four health maintenance organizations in the country to stop the practice immediately. The Israeli ministry and other state agencies have for long denied allegations that the government-funded health facilities were targeting Ethiopian women for selective use of the contraceptive.
Gamzu’s directive instructed "all gynecologists in the HMOs not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment."
The drug is given by injection every three months, The National reports. Doctors consider it a birth-control method of last resort because of the side effects associated with its use.
Israel: Ethnic cleansing?
Observers note that the ministry's response side-stepped the allegation raised that the authorities were targeting Ethiopian women. The response did not say whether there were explicit policy guidelines underlying prescription of the drug or for how long government-funded health facilities have administered the drug to African women of Ethiopian origin. The response also gave no hint about how many women of Ethiopian origin were involved.
The allegation that the Israeli authorities were targeting Ethiopian women for prescription of the drug Depo-Provera was first reported five years ago. The National reports that in 2009, Eyal supervised a study that showed that 57 percent of Depo-Provera users in Israel were Ethiopian, although their community was less than 2 per cent of the population.
The National reports that about 90,000 Ethiopians have immigrated to Israel since the 1980s, but rabbis have questioned the claims that the Ethiopians are Jews and many Israelis also doubt it.
According to The National, "Ethiopians... face widespread discrimination in jobs, housing and education and... their blood donations were routinely discarded." According to Eyal, "the unspoken policy is that only children who are white and Ashkenazi are wanted in Israel."
A report by the Israel Education Television said medical staff pressure Ethiopian women to take Depo-Provera at transit centers in Ethiopia where they are prepared for immigration.
Indepth Africa reports that interviews with 35 Ethiopian immigrants provided evidence that explain the almost 50-percent decrease in birth rate among Israel's Ethiopian community in the past decade.
According to one of the women interviewed, “They told us they are inoculations. They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn't want to." According to the report, officials threatened to deny some applicants entry into Israel if they refused to accept the injection.
In her 2009 study, Eyal described the drug use as part of an "unspoken [official] policy" aimed to "reduce the births in a community that is mostly black and poor."
Israel a racist state?The National reports that allegations of racism against the Israeli state have been an issue among the more the 60,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Israel.
Rioters injured many asylum seekers in Tel Aviv in May last year after politicians incited them with speeches against illegal Sudanese and Eritreans. According to The National, Miri Negev, a politician of the ruling Likud party, told supporters asylum seekers were a "cancer in our body."
According to reports, the state of Israel routinely denies refugee status to Africans fleeing war zones. Israel is reportedly building a detention facility in the Negev desert to house African immigrants and asylum seekers, The National reports.