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Report: Israel Forced Ethiopian Jews To Take Birth Control Without Their Knowledge Or Consent

A truly shocking story out of Israel:

Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.

The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynaecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically.

One of the Ethiopian women who was interviewed is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia.

The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive.

Nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have moved to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s, but their Jewishness has been questioned by some rabbis. Last year, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the health portfolio, warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state”.

Haaretz published an extract from a letter sent by the Ministry of Health to units administering the drug. Doctors were told “not to renew prescriptions for Depo Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment”.

There really isn’t much that can be said about this. Assuming it’s true, it’s nothing less than reprehensible. I do remember when these Ethiopian Jews were first “discovered” in the late 1980s. At the time, there was much debate in Israel over whether or not they were really Jews and the Orthodox community did not support the move to grant them the Right of Return which at the time was essentially the only thing that could have saved them in an Ethiopia that was coming apart at the seems. It would appear that they were never really accepted, either as Jews or as members of Israeli society.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Israel is ceding the moral high ground at an alarming rate.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Once you crucify Jesus…anything goes.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 15

  3. legion says:

    The hell? How can people explicitly coming to Israel under the Law of Return be considered “illegal immigrants”? I never liked Bibi much before, but this is positively vile.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 0

  4. Lit3Bolt says:

    Israelis practicing eugenics on racially different Jews? Does this Godwin’s Law is officially dead, since reality has trumped it?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 0

  5. legion says:

    @C. Clavin: I figure that’s snark, but unfortunately it’s something far too many Christians actually buy into. This, despite the fact that Jesus was condemned by a Roman, crucified by Romans, and stabbed in the side by a Roman soldier…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  6. An Interested Party says:

    Hmm…so they don’t want Ethopians to procreate…hmm…I wonder why they don’t want them to have children? I also wonder what comes next…Jim Crow laws, maybe…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @ Legion…
    Every religion is farcical…misguided zealots all look the same to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  8. C. Clavin says:

    @ Legion…
    According to Wikipedia…which of course is Wikipedia;

    “…According to the New Testament accounts, the Jewish authorities in Roman Judea charged Jesus with blasphemy and sought his execution (see Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus), but lacked the authority to have Jesus put to death (John 18:31), so they brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of the province, who consented to Jesus’ execution (John 19:16)…”

    Certainly they were as guilty as that old hand-washer, Pontius.
    Now…If I am to believe that we are all decended from Adam and Eve and the original sin…and that Jesus was immaculately concieved…and then raised from the dead…and that Moses parted the Red Sea…why am I not to believe this?
    Maybe the problem with religions is that they spend too much time deciding which supernatural myths to believe and which supernatural myths not to believe…and too little time loving thy neighbor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  9. JohnMcC says:

    Wonder how much play this will get in the ‘conservative-entertainment-complex?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  10. wr says:

    Well, now we see why the Republicans are so in love with Bibi’s government — much more so, in fact, than with our own.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  11. legion says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Every religion is farcical…misguided zealots all look the same to me.

    That I can’t deny. But the idea that one group of the caste that ruled the Jews – inside Israel, which was a conquered territory of the Roman Empire – could push Pontius around and get him to approve the execution of whoever they wanted just doesn’t pass a smell test. And while it is rather farcical on its face, that incident has been used numerous times throughout history as an excuse to literally murder all the Jews in a region. Westboro Baptist I can laugh at… this is a little harder.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. Sejanus says:

    Doug: “Assuming it’s true, it’s nothing less than reprehensible.”

    What do you mean by “assuming it’s true”? The first sentence of the article you quoted says the Israeli government admits it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  13. Ian says:

    @JohnMcC:

    I’ll go with “Studiously ignored”. Mememorandum seems to back me up on that one, at least at 6 pm EST.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. As of now, it’s made the front page at Memeorandum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Montanareddog says:

    Nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have moved to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s, but their Jewishness has been questioned by some rabbis. Last year, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the health portfolio, warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state”.

    There are a couple of different remarks to be made here:

    1) it is misleading of The Independent to conflate Netanyahu’s reprehensible remarks about illegal immigrants from Africa and the legal arrival of Jewish Ethiopians – it is irrelevant whether the Rabbinate considers them genuine Jews; and it is irrelevant to this scandal (which predates Netanyahu’s government) that Netanyahu made racist allusions about non-Jewish illegal immigrants from Africa; the Ethiopians arrived legally and are legally Israelis.

    2) It is an open secret that a significant proportion of the Russians who arrived in Israel post-Soviet Union were only tangentially-Jewish. But their demographic input was considered so valuable that a blind eye was turned. Has the Israeli Health Service been slipping birth control to the women of this community?

    3) There is another sector of Israeli society with a high birthrate, full rights as Israelis but which refuses to engage completely in the wider community while availing itself of its advantages. I refer to the Haredim. Has the Israeli Health Service been slipping birth control to the women of this community?

    So we have the Russians, the Haredim and the Ethiopians – 3 communities that a reactionary purist could assert were not fully Jewish and/or not fully Israeli – only the Ethiopians were abused by the medical profession in this way – I wonder what differentiates the Ethiopians from the Russians and the Haredim?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  16. If God said “Be fruitful and multiply,” they’re doing it all wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I am shocked, SHOCKED…..

    Really folks, have you not been paying attention to the treatment of Israeli Arabs? Never mind those people in the West Bank or Gaza….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  18. The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive.

    The same drug used in drug-based criminal castrations.

    Maybe someone should propose suspending all foreign aid to Israel now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  19. Gustopher says:

    And this is why you can be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic.

    Reprehensible. Those who ordered and those who implemented the policies should be facing jail time.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  20. mantis says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Once you crucify Jesus…anything goes.

    Now that’s some tired antisemitic shit there. I’ll just assume you don’t realize what your glib comment represents.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  21. A. Hitler, NSDAP says:

    I can understand this completely.

    Racial Purity is kind of a big thing.

    The trick is to make sure you can cover it up for quite some time… so at least they got THAT part right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  22. C. Clavin says:

    @ Mantis….
    My comment reflects a deep cynicism of all things religious…I don’t discriminate in my irreverence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. C. Clavin says:

    Kinda funny that all the Idiot Israel supporters would also prevent American Women from having the very same birth control drug…or any contraception for that matter. Will this episode cause them to rethink anything? Nope. Idiots can’t rethink…because they didn’t think it in the first place…they were told what to think.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  24. mantis says:

    @C. Clavin:

    My comment reflects a deep cynicism of all things religious…I don’t discriminate in my irreverence.

    I’m not talking about respecting religion; I’m talking about all the awful shit done to Jews through the centuries in the name of avenging Jesus. That’s not religion; that’s history.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  25. C. Clavin says:

    @ Mantis…
    It may be history…and keep in mind that the reason we have time, or history, is so that everything doesn’t happen at once…but it all comes back to religion.
    Religion has f’ed this world up since the very moment insecure humans invented it.
    My supernatural myths are true…yours aren’t.
    My nonsense is deeply metaphorical and allegorical…your nonsense is just bat-shit crazy.
    It’s all just so much bullshit. Just so much prejudice…hatred…anger. All over a bunch of made-up shit.
    If all the zealots in the world would just get over themselves the world would be a lot better off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Eric J. says:
  27. Rob in CT says:

    Googled this a bit and this seems to be the meat of it:

    Last Sunday the Haaretz newspaper published a letter written by Ron Gamzu, the director general of the country’s health ministry, in which he responds to comments made by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and ordered several organizations treating Ethiopian women to stop administering birth control injections. In the past, the Israeli government has denied giving contraceptive drugs to cut the birth rate among immigrants.

    In his letter, Gamzu advised gynecologists treating Ethiopian women in official health ministry clinics not to renew prescriptions for the drug Depo-Provera in case the patients did not fully understand the consequences of taking it. Gamzu added that doctors should call on translation agencies to ensure that the patients had understood these consequences before taking the birth control drugs.

    So it looks to me like the government will attempt a “lost in translation” defense.

    Gal Gabbay, an investigative journalist who had interviewed 35 Ethiopian immigrants, found that while the women were still in transit camps in Ethiopia they were sometimes intimidated or threatened into taking the Depo-Provera shot, often being misled about why. “They told us they are inoculations,” said one of the women interviewed. “They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.”

    Telling someone it’s an innoculation is pretty screwed up. Telling someone that lots of childbirth can be hard on your body, on the other hand, seems like providing accurate information to me. The “we didn’t want to” is big, though.

    Some of the stories I find I can’t get to right now, or are behind a paywall.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. Rob in CT says:

    Damnit! Blockquote failure. It appears I am destined to screw that up at least once per week. Anyway, reverse things and it works.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. wr says:

    @Gustopher: “And this is why you can be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic”

    And you can oppose the current Israeli government without opposing the state of Israel.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  30. wr says:

    @mantis: “Now that’s some tired antisemitic shit there. I’ll just assume you don’t realize what your glib comment represents. ”

    I think his glib comment represented a joke…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. mantis says:

    @wr:

    I think his glib comment represented a joke…

    And who doesn’t love a good antisemitic joke!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  32. Kylopod says:

    >And who doesn’t love a good antisemitic joke!

    Indeed. It reminds me of Ann Coulter’s “humor.”

    (Last I knew, though, Coulter never tried to back up one of her “jokes” with an excerpt from Wikipedia.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0