[News] Did Israel violate the Genocide Convention by forcing contraceptives on Ethiopian women?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 29 11:33:53 EST 2013

  Did Israel violate the Genocide Convention by forcing contraceptives
  on Ethiopian women?

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Mon, 01/28/2013 - 23:13

After initial denials, Israel has admitted that medical authorities have 
been giving Ethiopian women long-term contraceptive drugs 
and it has been alleged that this was done without the women's consent.

If the allegations are proven, this practice may fit the legal 
definition of *genocide.*

The government has now ordered clinics not to renew prescriptions for 
the long-acting injectable contraceptive drug Depo-Provera "for women of 
Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not 
understand the ramifications of the treatment."

    Allegations of coercion and threats

In some cases, the drugs were reportedly administered to women waiting 
in transit camps for permission to emigrate to Israel. The women's 
allegations, reported by /Haaretz/ are shocking 

    "We said we won't have the shot. They told us, if you don't you
    won't go to Israel And also you won't be allowed into the Joint
    (American Joint Distribution Committee) office, you won't get aid or
    medical care. We were afraid... We didn't have a choice. Without
    them and their aid we couldn't leave there. So we accepted the
    injection. It was only with their permission that we were allowed to
    leave," recounted Emawayish, who immigrated from Ethiopia eight
    years ago. She was one of 35 women, whose stories were recorded by
    Sebba Reuven, that relate how they *were coaxed and threatened* into
    agreeing to receive the injectable birth control drug.

    Dramatic decline in Ethiopian birthrate

The journalistic investigation was prompted by a precipitious decline in 
the birth rate among Ethiopian women in Israel:

    About six weeks ago, on an Educational Television program journalist
    Gal Gabbay revealed the results of interviews with 35 Ethiopian
    immigrants. The women's testimony could help explain the *almost
    50-percent decline* over the past 10 years in the birth rate of
    Israel's Ethiopian community.

    The Genocide convention

 From /The Independent/:

    Sharona Eliahu Chai, a lawyer for the Association of Civil Rights in
    Israel (ACRI), said: "Findings from investigations into the use of
    Depo Provera are extremely worrisome, raising concerns of harmful
    health policies with *racist implications in violation of medical
    ethics.* The Ministry of Health's director-general was right to act
    quickly and put forth new guidelines."

But if indeed the goal of those who administered the program was to 
target Ethiopian women, and to reduce the number of births they have, 
then the policy may be a crime under Article II(d) of the Convention on 
the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 

    In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts
    committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national,
    ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
    calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    *(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;*
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    Reasonable suspicion

If the coercive contraception program were administered against women in 
general, it would be unethical and abhorrent, but it can only be 
genocidal if it is done "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a 
national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such."

In this case, there is no allegation that the policy was employed 
against anyone except Ethiopian women. That would be one indication of 

These Ethiopian women emigrated to Israel under the "Law of Return," 
Israel's racist policy to only allow those it considers Jews into the 
country, while keeping out indigenous Palestinians.

But remember, Israeli officials and state rabbis long delayed or denied 
entry to tens of thousands of Ethiopians whose Jewishness did not meet 
official standards.

In the early 1990s, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir accused thousands of 
Ethiopians of secretly being Christians 

Ethiopians, even those who came under the Law of Return and are 
recognized as Jews, have faced a long, documented history of state and 
societal discrimination including being forced to attend segregated 

    Anti-African incitement from the top

The forced contraception has also come to light at a time when 
anti-African incitement 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/africans-israel> and violence, 
stoked by Israeli leaders 
has reached unprecedented proportions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has also served as health 
minister throughout his term of office, and is therefore personally 
accountable for the policy, stated last year that African migrants 
"threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state."

So the atmosphere in Israel is one in which hatred and incitement 
targeting Africans in general is rife and encouraged by authorities.

    Israel unlikely to discourage Jewish births in general

It would also be illogical that Israel would institute a general birth 
control policy for women it recognizes as Jewish. Israel has no interest 
in decreasing childbirths by Jewish women in general, and due its 
obsession with demography, anxiously hopes that the Jewish birthrate 
will accelerate and non-Jewish birthrates will slow down 

Israel's two chief government rabbis also recently endorsed an 
organization <http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4329319,00.html> 
that specifically opposes abortions by Jewish women and whose stated 
goal is "to increase the Jewish birthrate in Israel 

But given the racism against Africans as Africans, whether Jewish or 
not, it is plausible that the policy was meant to target Ethiopian women.

Even if it is proven that the policy targeted Ethiopian women and was 
intended to prevent births among Ethiopians, Israel could argue that the 
policy had other goals than "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a 
national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such." That would 
require knowing the motivations of those who planned and implemented the 

To put it mildly, Israel does not have a strong history of investigating 
itself, and while genocide is a crime that any state can pursue, it is 
doubtful that signatories to the Convention will challenge Israel's 
impunity and investigate this case.

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