The Zionist Circular Maze

December 07, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

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By Gilad Atzmon

On Thursday Israel cheered as the EU called on its member states that have not yet done so  “to endorse the non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism employed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).”

Israel called this move a “breakthrough,” the European Jewish Congress hailed the declaration as  “unprecedented.”  Both are correct: the Europeans ‘adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism is both a ‘breakthrough’ and ‘unprecedented.’ It confirms that Europe has explicitly abandoned its Athenian ethical ethos.

Rather than declaring its opposition to racism as a universal precept and denouncing all forms of discrimination and prejudice against any group or person of any X’ simply for being X’ (for example, a Jew for being a Jew, a Black person for being Black, a Gay person for being Gay, etc.), the EU has fallen into the most banal trap and subscribed to the primacy of Jewish suffering.

A lot has been written criticising the IHRA definition, how it stifles free speech and treats one particular group as exceptional but I think we have failed to address the most important question the IHRA raises. Why are Jewish institutions so enthusiastic about a definition that clearly extinguishes the Zionist promise to make ‘Jews people like all other people.’ The IHRA validates the vile antisemitic claim that Jews are somehow different than others, as no other people have advocated for nor benefit from an IHRA-like definition of prejudice directed solely against them. One should wonder why Jewish institutions see a need to impose such a definition on individuals, organisations, states and even continents.

The answer is circular. Jewish institutions need the IHRA definition simply because they have managed to impose such a definition —  since the acceptance of the IHRA definition points at boundless political power, the IHRA definition serves to target and suppress any exploration, discourse or even  discussion of such power.

This reflexive reasoning recalls the old rude joke; ‘why does a dog lick its testicles?  Because it can.’  Why does the Lobby impose the IHRA definition on us? Because it can.

I wish the effects were merely so simple. The dog joke is amusing because it hints that if men could indulge in a similar gratifying act, the world would be somehow calmer and friendly like the happy dog. The joke is basically a comical illustration of Freud’s pleasure principle. But the IHRA definition is neither funny nor pleasing. It is hardly gratifying for those who have endorsed it, and in some cases its adoption has involved a chain of abuse and harassment (in the British Labour Party, for instance). While the dog is thrilled or titillated by his own act, it is not clear whether Europeans and Americans are at all happy to have to endorse a ‘non legally binding definition’ imposed on them by a powerful foreign lobby. It is reasonable ask why the EU Council has adopted a non universal definition of racism. It has done so  because it doesn’t have another option.

This state of affairs is far from simple, harmonious or peaceful. It is in fact, pretty much a situation that incites instability, fear and anger.

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Western lawmakers call for ‘free elections’ in Bahrain

The file photo, taken on December 26, 2014, shows a Bahraini man holding up a placard reading in Arabic, "Your government and your parliament are without legitimacy," during an anti-government protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama. (Photo by AFP)

The file photo, taken on December 26, 2014, shows a Bahraini man holding up a placard reading in Arabic, “Your government and your parliament are without legitimacy,” during an anti-government protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama. (Photo by AFP)

Fri Nov 9, 2018 03:47PM

The government of Bahrain has come under fire by Western lawmakers against the backdrop of a ban on an opposition party from contesting the upcoming elections in the Arab country.

Bahrain is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections on November 24.

A cross-party group of British lawmakers, including Conservative MP Peter Bottomley, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, said in a letter to the Foreign Office that Bahrain “effectively bans major opposition figures from holding political office.” They added that a countless number of Bahraini individuals have been “incarcerated on charges that criminalize free expression and assembly.”

“Free and fair elections can only take place if citizens are able to express their views.”

The British lawmakers also referred to the forcible closure of the only independent newspaper, Al-Wasat, back in 2017 and the detention of at least 15 journalists and Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab for comments deemed critical of the Bahraini state.

“Bahrain may be a key strategic ally to the UK but human rights and democratic values are fundamental pillars of our society and foreign policy”, the letter concluded.

In Ireland, a cross-party group of lawmakers involved in foreign affairs urged the release of all political detainees in Bahrain and permitting international bodies to observe the elections.

Members of the European Parliament also slammed the Bahraini regime for missing the opportunity of the elections “to ease tensions and allow space for open dialogue to take place.”

Some 40 members of the European Parliament composed a letter addressed to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah which is to be published next week.

The letter also points to “the enactment of increasingly repressive measures.”

“Under these conditions, Bahrain’s elections cannot be recognized by the international community as free, fair, or legitimate.”

Last week, US Congressmen James McGovern and Randy Hultgren, who are co-chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos human rights commission in the US House of Representatives, stressed that it would be difficult for the international community to recognize the upcoming elections as legitimate, noting that Manama “has dissolved two major opposition political societies, barred all members of the societies from running for office on an individual basis, and imprisoned a number of key figures, as well as writers and civil society leaders.”

“In addition, Bahrain’s electoral infrastructure inherently disadvantages the political opposition. There is no independent electoral commission and, to date, there has been no commitment by the government to permit either domestic or international observers,” the letter added.

In May, Bahrain’s parliament approved a bill barring members of the al-Wefaq from running in elections, the latest step in Manama’s political crackdown.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom on February 14, 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and let a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

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Canada Will Continue to Stand up Strongly for Human Rights: PM

August 24, 2018

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern Thursday over reports that human rights activists in Saudi Arabia face the death penalty.

The two countries are locked in a diplomatic dispute over Canada’s criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record, but Trudeau said Canada continues to “engage diplomatically” with Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups say Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five human rights activists, including, for the first time, a woman.

The five stand accused of inciting mass protests in mainly Shiite areas of the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province. Human rights groups say that the execution threat is a calculated bid to stifle dissent.

“I think it’s important to have positive relationships with countries around the world,” Trudeau told a press conference in British Columbia.

“At the same time, we have expressed our concern with the sentence handed down by Saudi Arabia, our concern for defending human rights and our shared values all around the world,” he added.

“Canada will continue to stand up strongly for human rights,” said Trudeau.

Two weeks ago Canada called for the immediate release of detained activists, including award-winning women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi.

Saudi Arabia froze all new trade and investments, moved to pull out thousands of Saudi students from Canadian universities and pledged to stop all medical treatment programs in Canada. State airline Saudia also suspended flights to Toronto.

In the end the Saudis gave its students an extension until September 22, according to several universities.

SourceAgencies

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Save Israa Al-Ghomgham, the Female Activist Saudi is Demanding to Execute!

Incorrect pictures have been circulated also. In this regard, many have asked why there is no current photo of Israa. The answer is simple, Israa is from a conservative part of the kingdom where women many choose not to show their face in the public domain. Therefore, the only picture that exists of Israa in the public domain is one of her in her childhood.

Huma? Rights

Israa al-Ghomgham, a female human rights defender from Qatif, is about to be sentenced to death under the watchful eye of the world.

In a first move of its kind by the Saudi prosecution, Israa was hauled before the notorious Saudi counter-terrorism court in Riyadh (Specialized criminal court), where the public prosecutor demanded that Israa be punished with the maximum punishment of the death penalty.

This would be the first time that the Saudi prosecution have EVER called for capital punishment against a FEMALE activist.

Israa’s trial and her charges

Israa is being prosecuted as part of a mass trial, along with 5 other men, including her husband.

Her trial commenced in August 2018, and followed 32 months of arbitrary detention. Israa faced her first court session without any legal representation. Following pleas for help by her father on social after being asked to pay extortionate amounts for a lawyer, many honorable Saudi lawyers came forward to offer their services pro bono.  Israa’s second court session is scheduled for 28th October 2018. During this second court hearing her sentence may or may not be announced.

Despite being a peaceful activist Israa is being prosecuted under 2017 anti-terrorism laws. The charges levelled against her include:

‘Participation in congregations and protests, creating an account on YouTube called ‘Qatifyah’ and sharing video clips of individuals who were killed in security clashes and fleeing to Iran out of fear of being arrested’.

These are amongst many other trumped up charges. All of the charges against Israa are non-violent in nature and despite this, the prosecution are still pushing for her to be executed. This goes against international law criteria on the death penalty which assert that the death penalty can only be applied for the ‘most serious of crimes’ (which usually means intentional killing).

Israa’s Background, her arrest and her detention

Israa is a brave human rights defender, who actively participated in the Arab spring joining peaceful pro-democracy protests and calling for the release of prisoners of conscience. She was also very active on social media sites reporting on the Arab spring and expressing her peaceful opinions.

Israa was arbitrarily arrested along with her husband, Musa Al-Hashim, during a violent raid on their home on the 8th December 2015. She was detain at GDI prison in Dammam, a facility notorious for torture.

Little is known of her treatment during here detention at the GDI prison, but in late 2017 her family indicated a deterioration in her health and psychological condition during her time in detention.

False reports of execution and sentencing

Unfortunately, a lot of false reports have been circulating on social media stating that Israa has already been executed or has already been sentenced. Please do not circulate these reports, as Israa’s family have already indicated that such false reports cause great distress to the family who are already under pressure.

Incorrect pictures have been circulated also. In this regard, many have asked why there is no current photo of Israa. The answer is simple, Israa is from a conservative part of the kingdom where women many choose not to show their face in the public domain. Therefore, the only picture that exists of Israa in the public domain is one of her in her childhood.

What now?

In a bid to avert the issuing of the death penalty, activist have rallied round and created a twitter account @IsraaAlGhomgham to help raise support and ensure accurate information is being disseminated about her. Please follow the account to help raise her profile.

What can you do? Share #IsraaAlGhomgham story far and wide.

It is important for the international community to rally around and pressure Saudi Arabia to halt this new and violent terrifying trend toward female activists within Saudi Arabia.

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Antisemitism and Antiblackness

August 16, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

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By Eve Mykytyn

Great Britain’s Labour Party has been wrestling with allegations of antisemitism. One of the charges is that although the Labour party adopted The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) ‘s definition (often incorrectly identified as the ‘international’ definition) of antisemitism, Labour did not include in its definition all of the examples listed in the IHRA definition. Specifically, Labour omitted the provisions that define criticism of Israel as antisemitism.

Israel may claim that it wants to be a state like all others, but it vigorously campaigns to limit criticism of its expansionist policies by forcing critics to navigate a minefield of potential claims of antisemitism. I can think of no other country that even attempts to limit criticism by outsiders.

Even without the provisions relating to Israel, the IHRA definition of antisemitism seems overly broad and unnecessary in light of the discrimination that many people have faced. In the United States our record is spotty at best and many immigrant groups have faced discrimination by the legal system, by the actions of our public institutions and by the behavior of other Americans.  Notably, and at different times, Asians and Jews have been affected by quota systems in our universities, the Chinese were exploited and then deported under the exclusion acts, Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps during World War II and our president has accused Mexican Americans of being rapists.

And then, no group has suffered the systemic racism that has been directed against African Americans. Not only do we have few laws that begin to atone for their continued exploitation and incarceration, we don’t even have a word in common usage that refers specifically to discrimination against African Americans. There is such a word in the dictionary, however, and it is ‘antiblack.’

Since the United States has not treated Jews any worse than its other immigrants, it seems odd that the State Department has adopted a specific definition of antisemitism and not of antiblackness. Borrowing from the IHRA definition of antisemitism, I would like to offer the following, modeled on the IHRA definition, to fill this void.  Other groups may wish to follow suit. Words from the IHRA definition are italicized.

Antiblackness is a certain perception of Blacks, which may be expressed as hatred towardBlacks. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antiblackness are directed toward Black or non-Black individuals and/or their property, toward Black community institutions and religious facilities, especially the targeting of Black churches.

Two examples: the Charleston church shooting, in which the killer argued that he didn’t deserve the death penalty since the nine people he killed were Black; or the killing of four young girls at a church in Birmingham, Alabama after which the killers were protected by the federal government for at least 15 years.

Manifestations might include the targeting of majority black countries, conceived as merely a collection of Blacks. (e.g., calling them shitholes) However, criticism of such countries similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antiblack.  So, if you wanted to criticize apartheid South Africa, you must find another apartheid country to criticize in the same way. (Israel?)

Antiblackness frequently charges Blacks with conspiring to harm whites, and it is often used to blame Blacks for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits. For example, the negative stereotypes of Blacks as portrayed in film, the press, etc. as people who are shiftless, crime seeking, etc.

Contemporary examples of antiblackness in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

• Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming or mass incarceration of Blacks for crimes that are routinely charged only against Blacks, such as vagrancy, in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of race.

• Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Blacks as Blacks such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about the advantages of slavery over life in Africa, the myth that more Blacks than others are on death row, or that Blacks do not contribute to society. Included in this is the theft by artists of the intellectual property of Blacks, under the antiblack assumption that Blacks will not respond.  For example, The Beach Boys ‘ ripoff of Chuck Berry in Surfing USA (Sweet Little Sixteen) or George Harrison’s theft of My Sweet Lord from Ronnie Mack (He’s So Fine).

• Accusing Blacks as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by any Black person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Blacks, this would include blaming Blacks for the deterioration of a neighborhood.

• Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms or intentionality of the enslavement of Black people at the hands of the United States, and the financial gain from such labor enjoyed by the South and its accomplices in the North, as well as in a number of European countries who continued to finance the South during the Civil War. Included in this is the de facto slavery of Black people that continued in many states after slavery was abolished, including using convicts guilty of dubious crimes, such as loitering, as ‘free’ labor in factories, mines and other businesses or the sharecropping system that left Blacks unable to exercise the right to move or to realize any financial gain from their own labor.

• Accusing Blacks as a people of inventing or exaggerating slavery or the millions of deaths that occurred in the brutal passage of Blacks from Africa to various parts of the ‘new world.’

• Accusing Black citizens of not being loyal to the United States when they protest the treatment of Blacks in the United States.

• Denying Blacks their right to choose leaders, either as in the past through poll taxes or absurd history tests, or as in the present through voter id laws or by gerrymandering of voting districts. The paragraph in the IHRA definition refers to denying Jews the right to self determination by claiming Israel is a racist endeavor. Two points here: if Israel is the collective state of the Jews then we are not talking about self-determination but policies set by some number of Jews and Israel is a racist endeavor in that only those who are racially qualified may become citizens and others may not.

• Applying double standards by requiring of Blacks behavior not expected or demanded of other people such as submission to stop and frisk policies.

• Using the symbols and images associated with classic antiblackness (e.g., unhinged accusations of rape or use of Aunt Jemima or Little Black Sambo) to characterize Blacks.

• The next IHRA paragraph prohibits drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, but since Gaza resembles a mega Warsaw ghetto I’m not sure why this is not simply an observation.

•Profiling Blacks as lawbreakers by targeting them in ‘random’ traffic stops.

•Failure to provide Black communities with decent infrastructure similar to that enjoyed by nearby white communities (Flint water).

•Using Blacks purely for financial gain such as for medical experiments deemed too risky for the general public, or incarcerating a vastly disproportionate number of Blacks in for profit private prisons.

Of course, Blacks are not the only group facing discrimination. Hispanics, Native Americans and others may wish to get into this speech inhibiting game. Then they too can decide how and for what they may be criticized. Or we could prohibit racism against any subgroup by defining racism as Unesco has, as “a theory of races hierarchy which argues that the superior race should be preserved and should dominate the others. Racism can also be an unfair attitude towards another ethnic group. Finally, racism can also be defined as a violent hostility against a social group.”

For The Few, Not The Many

’But we are confused no more. Two weeks ago,  the chief rabbi of Britain together with 68 other rabbis mounted  pressure on the Labour party to change its ‘antisemitsm code.’ The British rabbis were upset because, although Labour generally adopted  the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism, left out of Labour’s definition were four examples from the IHRA that restrict criticism of Israel* The Labour party seems to believe that it is kosher to criticise an ethnic cleansing state that deploys snipers against unarmed protestors. Chief Rabbi Mirvis couldn’t agree less. He told the BBC that it is “astonishing that the Labour Party presumes it is more qualified to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.” The clear message is that, at least from a rabbinical perspective, the distinction between Zionism and Judaism is nebulous to nonexistent.
Last Friday the so-called British Jewish ‘establishment’ went a dangerous step further.  Britain’s three main Jewish newspapers were emblazoned with identical front pages. Under the headline “United We Stand”, they all claimed that a Jeremy Corbyn-led government would be an “existential threat to Jewish life” in the UK. The British Jewish leadership insists that Britain’s No.1 anti-racist is a Hitler type. I would like to believe that this is just the latest phase in Jewish humour. But the Jewish papers appeared damn serious.  Stephen Pollard, Editor of the JC, said in a Sky interview, that while a teeny tiny minority of British Jews  are fine with what is going on with the Labour party, “we are saying to the Jewish community, we’re united, the media is united behind you, the community is united.” It seems that the Jewish media establishment also sees the alleged ‘dichotomy’ between Jews and Zionists as a false dichotomy.
Since the British Jewish leadership seems to be united more than ever, we are left with no other option but to dig into the belly of the beast in order to grasp what seems an unprecedented outburst of collective Jewish Corbyn phobia.
I admit that, like the British Jewish leadership, I am upset by Corbyn and Labour’s attitude to the IHRA definition. My reasons though are very different. I would expect the Labour party to adhere to its universal values and reject the IHRA definition altogether. This is an anti universalist definition. It prefers one people over all the rest.
Racism and bigotry, I hope we all agree, are bad. But racism and bigotry are not that difficult to define. We are dealing with an expression of hatred or discrimination against X for being X  (X might be Black, a Woman, a Jew, a Gay person, or a member of any other such group). This definition is universal and sufficient to tackle any form of racism including anti Jewish bigotry. In contrast, the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism suggests that Jews are actually not people like all other people. We have yet to see an international working definition of racism against Blacks or a working definition that addresses anti Muslim bigotry.  The IHRA’s working definition confirms that Jews, at least in their eyes, are somehow chosen. The fact that British institutions have adopted such an exclusivist definition may suggest that Britain is drifting away from its universal heritage.  This is, obviously,  an alarming news for everyone including Jews.
That the IHRA’s working definition is treated as an ‘international’ definition and is pushed globally by different pro Israeli pressure groups also suggests that, at least in the eyes of leading Jewish bodies, Jews are once again hated globally. I do not believe that this is the case, but the Jews who buy into this tormenting line of thought should ask themselves how this is happening again just 70 years after the Holocaust. After all, this is exactly what Zionism and Israel vowed to prevent.
Zionism promised to make Jews people like all other people. Early Zionists thinkers diagnosed some very problematic traits in Jewish diaspora culture. The Labour Zionists were upset by what they saw as the ‘non-proletarian’ nature of Jewish diaspora society. They were disturbed by the proximity between Jews and capital. They were also troubled by a lack of proletarian spirit amongst their brethren. Some early Zionists including Herzl were worried about the concept of the ‘court Jew,’ the Jew who bought political influence through financial support of monarchs and royals. In that regard, early Zionism promised to take the Jews away – to relieve the Goyim of Jewish political lobbying and pressure groups.
If we examine the IHRA’s working definition within a Zionist ideological framework we find that the definition may provide the most anti Zionist statement in Zionist history. The definition highlights  the notion that Jews aren’t people like all other people but are in need of special and particular treatment. The definition treats the Zionist’s promise to make the Jews respected and loved as a complete failure, and it contemplates that antisemitsm is back. The IHRA’s definition also confirms that the Jewish State is not a state like all other states; no other state bothers to restrict criticism of its politics by others.
As things stand, the only genuine principled Zionist left in the world of politics is Jeremy Corbyn. Jeremy, like the early Zionists, insists that Jews are indeed people like all other people. Jeremy believes  that Israel is a state like all other states and is, accordingly, subject to criticism.Jeremy’s blunt anti racism is at the core of the Jewish leadership’s feud with him. Jeremy preaches to the Brits a simple unifying message namely, ‘For The Many Not The Few.’ The Jewish leadership and their embarrassing IHRA definition seem to push the opposite — For the few, not the many.
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ISRAEL’S ASYLUM SEEKERS

February 24, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

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By Eve Mykytyn

Take $3,500 and a one-way ticket to an ‘unnamed’ African country (Rwanda or Uganda) by April 1, or face indefinite imprisonment. This is what Israel told the 40,000 African migrants who have been stuck in limbo in Israel for years. According to the Israeli governmentroughly 20,000 Africans have already been expelled.

On February 21, following the imprisonment of seven Eritreans who refused to leave Israel, 750 African asylum seekers detained at the  Holot detention center began a hunger strike reportedly refusing both food and water.

It seems that Israel has come face to face with one consequence of trying to be a ‘nation like all others’: having to cope with the difficulties of refugees who want the protection of your state without necessarily subscribing to your values.

Israel calls itself the Jewish state (as opposed to a state of its citizens), and actively seeks Jewish immigrants. This has given religious identity  a huge role in Israel, although Israel  is largely secular. Israel has not yet become a ‘nation like all others’  in its treatment of non Jews.  Its 20% Palestinian minority are second-class citizens.*

The African asylum seekers and its Palestinian citizens are not the only non Jewish residents of Israel has who have the potential of conflicting with Israel’s policy of being the Jewish state. Like many wealthy countries, Israel has chosen to import labor for the lower rungs of the pay scale. After the 1967 war, Palestinians crossed into Israel to work in construction and agriculture. Then following the first intifada in 1987, Israel banned most Palestinians  from entering and decided instead to import labor from developing countries. By 2002, there were 226,000 migrant workers living in Israel. Such workers; Thais on farms, Chinese in construction, African street labor and Filipino caregivers are sometimes described as ‘transparents,’  communities invisible to most Israelis. These laborers were never intended to and largely have not been given permanent refuge in Israel.

To keep the migrant population from ‘taking root,’ as Israel’s Interior Ministry puts it, the ministry has devised a byzantine system of barriers. Work permits for foreign caregivers are valid for only five years and three months, and are meant to ensure their presence is transitory. They face additional restrictions on the locations in which they can work, their ability to marry,  to ‘visit’ Israel with family members and in job mobility.

Nonetheless, Israel’s right wing parties see migrant workers as  a direct threat to the country’s Jewish makeup. In 2008, the government moved to deport 1,200 children of undocumented foreign workers. After a public outcry the Israeli government granted amnesty to 800 children of migrant workers who met certain strict criteria.  Other than this trivial number of new permanent residents, Israel has been successful in importing cheap  labor without adding to its non Jewish citizenry.

Israel has taken in a number of Jews from relatively poor backgrounds, particularly Ethiopian Jews.  While these immigrants may present more problems of integration then European or North American Jews, as Jews they fit Israel’s goal of remaining a primarily Jewish state.

In the 1990s over a  million citizens of the former Soviet Union claimed Jewish ancestry and migrated to Israel . They and their progeny now constitute around 15% of Israel’s population of 7.7 million. Many of these immigrants are not Jewish. Anyone from the former Soviet Union who had a Jewish father or grandparent, or who was married to someone meeting those criteria, was granted Israeli citizenship under the country’s liberalized law of return.

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics around 30% of immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s were not Jews or not considered Jewish under Orthodox law  (which treats Judaism as either inherited from the mother or obtained through conversion). In 2005 over 59% of former Soviet immigrants were not Jewish.  Less than 5% of these nonJewish immigrants have converted.

The Russian immigrants initially encountered a scarcity of jobs and housing. They have now achieved near parity with other Israelis and have successfully gained political power. The former Soviets are an important part of Israel’s governing coalition and are relentlessly rightwing, reliably opposing concessions to the Palestinians, supporting settlement expansion and seeking to curb the rights of Israel’s Palestinian population.

Were the non Jewish ex Soviets accepted because they were right wing, because as Europeans they helped Israel to form a stronger bulwark against Palestinians or was it purely racism that allowed Israel to welcome these white skinned immigrants? Those decrying the rise of racism in Europe aroused by recent African immigration might consider adding Israel to their list of reprobates.

The African immigrants do not seem to serve a purpose for the Israelis, either as a political entity or in Israel’s goal of remaining  a Jewish dominated state. Most of the Africans crossed into Israel through the Sinai desert between 2006 and 2012, fleeing harsh political conditions in Eritrea or genocide and war in Sudan. Their stay in Israel has not been easy. Many migrants spent years in the Saharonim prison in the Negev desert and were subsequently transferred to Holot. Some have been briefly released from these facilities to travel to Tel Aviv, only to be sent back again when the Ministry of Interior refused to renew their visas.

Human-rights organizations claim that most or all such migrants have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home countries and are entitled to asylum. Applicants for asylum face a years-long delay due to ‘backlog’ and in any case of the more than 13,000 people who had applied for asylum as of last summer, only 10 have been granted refugee status. Israel recognizes far fewer people in “refugee-like situations” as refugees when compared to almost all Western countries.

The Israeli government has argued that these migrants are not fleeing persecution but are ‘economic’ refugees looking for work in Israel.  “In the last few days, a false campaign [has attempted] to harm the government’s efforts to remove infiltrators from Israel,” wrote Ayelet Shaked, the Israeli minister of justice. “The state of Israel is too small and has its own problems. It cannot be used as the employment office of the African continent.”

Despite protests from Israel’s left, opinion polls suggest that  70 percent of Israel’s Jewish population support Israel’s deportation policy. Possibly such broad support is the result of conditioning, native Israelis may simply see non-Jews within the state as a threat to their safety or to maintaining a Jewish majority. “It’s really hard for them to distinguish between the refugees and the Palestinians they were taught to be against,” said Rabbi Idit Lev, the social-justice director for Rabbis for Human Rights.

But Israel has not entirely behaved as if the migrants have no right to asylum. Although the government argues that the Eritrean and Sudanese migrants are not truly refugees, it has not sent them back to their country of origin as would be proper with economic immigrants. Doing so to refugees would violate international conventions around refugee rights.

The migrants do not want to be deported back to their own countries or to Rwanda. Although Israel pays the migrants to leave,  those who have arrived in Rwanda report that their documents and money were confiscated on arrival and they ended up on the streets.

UNHCR said in a recent report that only nine asylum seekers deported to Rwanda have actually stayed there. What has not been adequately documented is where the refugees have gone from there. The African migrants claim that returning to their country of origin will mean certain death.

Economic immigration presents tough issues to many countries. If Israel is unable to deport the remaining 40,000 African immigrants, it may find itself a little more a country like all others.

* (GA) This doesn’t include the millions of Palestinians who live in Israeli controlled territories, lack any political status and are subject to constant lethal abuse… 

 

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