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Ethiopian Knesset member declines to join blood drive

JERUSALEM, Dec. 11 (JTA) — Labor Knesset member Adisu Massala refused to participate this week in a blood drive, saying that Magen David Adom continues to discriminate against Ethiopian donors. Massala, the first Ethiopian elected to the Knesset, said officials conducting the blood drive at the Parliament building had refused to assure him that his donation would be used. His refusal comes nearly a year after a controversy over the issue erupted. In January, an Israeli newspaper disclosed that blood donations from Ethiopian Jews had been routinely discarded because of what health officials thought was a high incidence of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in the community. Revelation of the practice sparked angry protests by the Ethiopian community, which has long felt discriminated against by the rest of Israeli society. A public commission established in the wake of the protests found serious flaws in the policy regarding blood donations from Ethiopians. The commission’s report, issued in July, said that of the 1,400 know cases of AIDS in Israel, 550 of them came from the Ethiopian community. The report recommended that new criteria be set so that blood donations would be accepted on a case-by-case basis. But Massala said this week that nothing had been done to change the blood donation policy. Health Minister Yehoshua Matza said Massala was welcome to donate his blood and it would be used if it was found fit.