Israel: Black Lawmaker Pnina Tamano-Shata Barred from Donating Blood over Ethiopian Origins

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By Umberto Bacchi | December 12, 2013 8:50 PM EST

Ethiopian-born Israeli lawmaker Pnina Tamano-Shata was not allowed to donate blood by Magen David Adom (Reuters)

An Ethiopian-born Israeli lawmaker was not allowed to donate blood at a parliamentary blood drive due to her origins. The incident sparked demands for a review of Israel's HIV prevention guidelines.

A crew of paramedics with Magen David Adom (MDA), the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, was expelled from the parliament after it emerged they rejected Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata, 32, from donating blood.

"I am good enough to serve the state and in the Knesset," Tamano-Shata told Ynet. "But for some reason to give blood I am not good enough."

Health Ministry regulations ban everyone who is at risk of being affected by AIDS from donating blood. Individuals who were born or spent more than a year in Ethiopia after 1977 are considered as possible AIDS carriers.

Also Israelis who have recently returned from central Africa, Southeast Asia or the Caribbean are forbidden to give blood.

Tamano-Shata, a member of the Yesh Atid party, which is in the governing coalition, said the regulations are discriminatory.

"I'm 32, I arrived in Israel at the age of three, did my military service and have two children. There's no reason to treat me in this way," she told Channel 10 television.

Israel is home to about 120,000 Ethiopian Jews, who mostly emigrated from Africa in two big waves in 1984 and 1991.

The discussion between Tamano-Shata and the MDA crew was caught on camera aired by local media, prompting Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to ordered the paramedics' stand to be removed from the Knesset.

"I thought this was behind us, but now it turns out I was wrong. This unacceptable phenomenon that has no place in the Knesset," Edelstein said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and health minister Yael German pledged a review of the guidelines.

"I think it is absurd and unacceptable that in the year 2013, in the State of Israel, members of the Ethiopian community, who arrived here 25 years ago, can't give blood," German said. 

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