More questions are raised than answered with an Israeli government official’s letter on the birth control scandal in the country’s Ethiopian community.
Health Ministry Director General Ron Gamzu has instructed HMOs to stop injecting women of Ethiopian-born women with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera. The background is that last month an Israeli television report alleged that Ethiopian immigrant women were coerced into taking contraceptive shots in transit camps in Ethiopia when waiting to move to Israel, and continue to receive the shots in Israel.
Gamzu has not confirmed in so many words that women have been coerced to take the contraceptive, but has indicated that there are Ethiopian women who don’t understand exactly what they’re taking and why. His letter instructs gynecologists “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.” (To be clear, Gamzu did not indicate that the government is responsible for the situation, but just that it must stop.)
This is a step forward from the previous situation that saw everyone, in Israel and the Diaspora, denying knowledge of a problem, but it’s far from the comprehensive investigation needed in to such a serious matter.
Fear spread across Israel’s illegal immigrants from Sudan last summer. As the Forward reported, it has seemed in recent days like the Interior Ministry’s deadline was looming and they would soon be imprisoned. In August he announced plans to jail all Sudanese illegals without trial starting on October 15 and was expected to get underway any time now.
But today, it emerged that his threat had received no authorization from the government, and is therefore illegal. Today, in response to advocacy groups representing the illegals with a petition in the Jerusalem District Court, the state revealed that no official decision was taken on the arrest of Sudanese citizens in Israel.
“At this time, the Immigration Authority has yet to receive any order pertaining to the incarceration of Sudanese infiltrators,” the State Attorney wrote. “Should such a decision be made in the future it will be stated publically by the authority, 30 days before going into effect.”
So what was going on here? Did the Interior Ministry carelessly overlook the need to get authorization for his planned round up? Unlikely. At the Forward we suggested as early as June, even before Yishai’s imprisonment promise, that he was bluffing with his tough talk on illegals, making threats that he knew Israel couldn’t keep. And it would appear that for the populist value of the statements and/or to deter other illegals from coming to Israel, he made such unfulfillable threats.
One question which remains: Why didn’t others in government, some of whom where deeply unhappy about his threats as the Forward reported in June, pull the rug from under him and save Sudanese in Israel several months of panic?
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