‘We made a mistake’: Israeli president to Ethiopians after thousands-strong protest

Protesters, mainly whom are Israeli Jews of Ethiopian origin, shout slogans during a demonstration against what they say is police racism and brutality, after the emergence last week of a video clip that showed policemen shoving and punching a black soldier during a protest in Tel Aviv May 3, 2015. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin has said the country’s government “made a mistake” ignoring the issues of the Ethiopian population. The protesters “exposed an open, bleeding wound in the heart of Israeli society,” the president added.

“It is a wound of a community crying out over its feeling of discrimination and racism that are falling on deaf ears. We must face this open wound straight on,” Rivlin said, as quoted by AFP.

READ MORE: Police fire tear gas during demo against racism, police brutality in Tel Aviv (VIDEO)

“We made a mistake. We didn’t see and we didn’t listen well enough,” the president concluded.

It comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to meet with Ethiopian community representatives to listen to their woes.

“There is room to examine all claims, but no place for violence or lawbreakers,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.

His statement came hours after thousands of protesters clashed with security forces in central Tel Aviv during the anti-racism and anti-police brutality demonstration.

Police used stun grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets, and arrested 43 demonstrators.

Over 60 people were wounded in the violence.

The protesters blocked major arteries and junctions, and later, in downtown Tel Aviv, threw stones at security forces and overturned a police car.

The protests were triggered by a video that showed an Ethiopian Israeli soldier being beaten by two police officers, without apparent provocation from his side.

The Sunday demonstration was the second in a week, with the protest on Thursday also turning violent: 13 protesters and three policemen were injured in those clashes, according to the Times of Israel.

Around 130,000 Jews of Ethiopian descent are Israeli residents, having arrived in two waves during the 1980s and 1990s.