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Ethiopian-Israelis clash with police, disrupt Jerusalem traffic over discarding of donated blood

JERUSALEM: Hundreds of Israelis of Ethiopian descent clashed with police and briefly blocked the entrance to Jerusalem on Monday in a protest of the Health Ministry's wholesale discarding of donated Ethiopian blood.

Police said four officers were hurt.

Last week, Israel's Channel 2 TV reported that the ministry had revived its practice of throwing out the Ethiopian-Israelis' blood, for fear it would be contaminated with disease. A similar disclosure a decade ago sparked protests and widespread outrage in a community that feels it is a target of racial discrimination.

"We are healthy people, like everyone else," said Galit Maarat, 24, who traveled to the demonstration from the southern city of Ashkelon, some 75 kilometers (45 miles) away. "It's unjust, a terrible affront."

Takelu Yayech, 25, who also traveled from Ashkelon, said demonstrators formed a human chain and sat down in the road at the entrance to Jerusalem to protest what she called racist policies.

Inbal Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the Health Ministry, said all blood donors must fill out a questionnaire that specifies that certain groups of people cannot donate blood, including those who have been in countries, like Ethiopia, where AIDS is endemic.

Jacobs said Israel followed international criteria that didn't specifically target people from Africa, but rather anyone who had spent a considerable amount of time in countries at risk of blood-borne disease, including those who were in Britain during the Mad Cow disease outbreak.

"There are certain guidelines, and these procedures are not unique to Israel," she said.

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