Jerusalem, 29 July 1996

SUMMARY OF NAVON COMMISSION REPORT ON BLOOD DONATIONS BY ETHIOPIAN IMMIGRANTS

(Communicated by Navon Commission)

The Navon Commission investigating blood donations by Ethiopian Immigrants issued its report yesterday (Sunday), 28 July 1996. Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres established the commission after an article appeared in the Ma’ariv newspaper on 24.01.96, entitled "The Lie of Ethiopian Blood," and following the violent demonstrations which occurred in the wake of the article, when it was determined that blood donated by members of the Ethiopian community was not being used and that that fact was being withheld from the donors.

The commission was authorized to investigate various aspects of this matter, including its social and public implications. Former president Yitzhak Navon headed the commission and its members included the former president of the Tel Aviv District Court, Justice Dr. Eliyahu Winograd; two members of the Ethiopian community, social worker Ms. Natmar Haallal and spokesperson of the umbrella organization for Ethiopian immigrants, Mr. Adissu Messele (who was later dismissed from the commission by order of the High Court of Justice); two doctors, epidemiologist Professor Lechayim Nagan (who is also Vice-President of Ben-Gurion University) and hematologist Professor Eliezer Rahmilevich, Director of the Hematology Department at Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem; and former MK and head of the Sephardic Community Committee in Jerusalem, Mr. Yechezkiel Zakai. Mr. Nadav Anar served as secretary to the commission and Rina Hod and Israel Cohen served as media advisors and spokespersons.

The commission found many flaws in the decision-making processes of the Ministry of Health and the Blood Bank, but did not recommend that any personal conclusions be drawn in this matter, despite differences of opinion between members of the Commission on this issue. According to official figures given to the Commission, there are 1,400 known AIDS carriers in Israel, 850 of whom are from the general population and 550 are Ethiopian immigrants. The Commission recommended new directives that will from now on facilitate acceptance of blood donations by Ethiopian donors on a case-by-case basis. The Commission called upon the government to work to ensure that Ethiopian immigrants gain full recognition as Jews.

The commission recommended setting up an inter-ministerial information team under the auspices of the Ministry of Health to prepare a comprehensive, multi-disciplined program for the members of the Ethiopian community. The Ministry of Health should be given the requisite budget and manpower to establish this program. The commission further recommended that the country’s educational, cultural and informational networks conduct broad-based programs for the general public regarding the customs and culture of the Ethiopian community so as to prevent its being stigmatized as a risk group.

In light of the flaws in the decision-making process, the commission recommended establishment of an advisory committee to the Health Minister on issues of particular relevance and concern to the Ethiopian community, and which have have extra-medical implications. The commission also believes that it is vital that the decisions of the Ministerial Committee on Absorption which were made after this episode came to light regarding the improvement of the absorption of Ethiopian Jews, be fully and quickly implemented, and that appropriate budgetary resources be allocated to this end.

"The Commission hopes that adopting these steps and accepting these recommendations will calm feelings in the community, and foster peace and understanding among us. It is unnecessary to emphasize that the full absorption of Ethiopian immigrants is a fundamental mission of the State of Israel and is one of its supreme tests."