JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Ethiopian-Israeli soldier who was beaten by police officers for coming out against violence, calling it “true leadership.” On Monday, May 4 Netanyahu met with Damas Pakada, whose beating last week was captured on videotape. The attack spurred violent demonstrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu told Pakada that he was shocked by the beating and said it cannot be accepted. “The police will do whatever it takes to correct itself, but we need to fix Israeli society,” Netanyahu said. He called the violent protests a result of “genuine distress.”
Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino apologized to Pakada on behalf of the Israel Police and informed him that the officer who beat him was fired immediately. Also Monday, President Reuven Rivlin said Israeli society has “erred” when it comes to the plight of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. “The protesters, in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv, revealed an open and raw wound at the heart of Israeli society,” Rivlin said. “The pain of a community crying out over a sense of discrimination, racism and of being unanswered. We must look directly at this open wound. We have erred. We did not look, and we did not listen enough.”
Addressing the demonstration Sunday night in Tel Aviv that injured more than 40 police and demonstrators, Rivlin said, “Among the protesters on the streets were some of our finest sons and daughters: outstanding students, those who served in the IDF. We owe them answers.”