Category Archives: Zionism and racial purity

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s Segregationist Founder

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s Segregationist Founder
Seth J. FrantzmanMay 18, 2015

‘The danger we face is that the great majority of those children whose parents did not receive an education for generations will descend to the level of Arab children,” Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared at a July 1962 meeting. He was speaking with the head of a teachers federation on the question of whether to segregate “Mizrahi” children, whose parents came from Muslim countries, from “Ashkenazi” children in school.

In the document from the Labor Party archives, revealed recently in Haaretz, a shocking image is conjured up. Did Israel’s first leader really consider segregating Jewish children according to country of origin? Why did he use racially tinged terms of abuse, worrying that Israel would become “Levantine” and “descend” to be “like the Arabs”?

The document is emblematic of a tragic Israeli problem, the legacy of the disastrous policies put in place in the early years of the state that at the time seemed in line with prevailing European concepts but did irreparable harm.

Consider the case revealed on April 9 by author Orna Akad at the blog +972. She related how 23 years ago she went to a workshop at the community of Neve Shalom. “One of the participants in the workshop was also a member of the community’s admission committee… we came up to her full of hope and said proudly that we are a couple, a Jewish woman and an Arab man, and that we would like to register and appear before the community’s admission committee,” Akad said. The woman had bad news: “We are a community which encourages life together in coexistence, but we are opposed to mixed marriage.”

If you are perplexed, you should be. Israel’s small communities have an unusual way of organizing themselves. An “acceptance” or admissions committee regulates almost every single community outside a major town. You can’t just move to a place, you have to ask to be admitted. It is why a May 2012 headline screamed, “Sderot activists win right to move to Kibbutz Gevim.” They didn’t want to be kibbutz members, just to live in an expansion area of the kibbutz. But one committee member had blocked them, reportedly saying, “We are trying to introduce new blood into the community, but new blood needs to match what is already there.” The newcomers were not “attuned to community life.”

  How did some 1,000 communities in Israel become gated communities, so that people who are Arab, Ethiopian or other minorities can be denied the right to live where they want either directly or as result of euphemistic rulings like that they are “not attuned to community”? This is one of the main legacies of 1950s Israel.

Admissions committees created ethnically homogenous Jewish communities (Yemenites in one place, Hungarians in another). Worse, a segregated education system for Jews and Arabs cemented total separation so that 99% of pupils study in either Jewish or Arab schools through the end of high school. The education system was put in place in 1949, but it should have been obvious that “separate development” was a road to future disaster.

David Ben-Gurion is often portrayed as a mythical formative figure in the early years of the Jewish state. In Anita Shapira’s 2014 biography she lionizes him: “He knew how to create and exploit the circumstances that made its [Israel’s] birth possible.” Peter Beinart similarly paints a picture of early Israel endowed with liberal and socialist principles. “Labor Zionists insisted that the character of Jewish life in Palestine, and of the eventual Jewish state, was as important as the state itself.” The well-known author Ari Shavit wrote in his book, “My Promised Land,” that “the newborn state [of Israel] was one of the most egalitarian democracies in the world.” Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen romanticized Israel’s early years as “fighting intellectuals, rifle in one hand and a volume of Kierkegaard in the other.”

There is a massive nostalgia and a total misunderstanding of the nature of the state in those years. Israel was not egalitarian in the 1950s; it was a divided society, in which Arab citizens, having watched the vast majority of their community flee or be expelled from the country in 1948, were kept under military-imposed curfew. It was a society in which security concerns trumped civil rights, in which nationalistic military parades were common, and ethnic and religious divisions were cemented.

The founders of the state saw themselves as embarking on a massive social engineering experiment. As these new documents reveal, Ben-Gurion imagined that the Jews who had come from Arab countries would soon outnumber Jews of European origin — “In another 10-15 years they will be the nation, and we will become a Levantine nation, [unless] with a deliberate effort we raise them…” he said. The country had a responsibility to elevate this population from its many generations of living in, as he disparagingly put it “downtrodden, backward countries.” The disdain for Arab culture was extreme, despite the fact that Arabs in British Mandatory Palestine held high positions, were the intellectual elite of the country and had a sophisticated society.

The discrimination of the 1950s haunts Israel today. It persists in the media, as when Tel Aviv’s Ashkenazi elite is referred to as a “white tribe,” or when Russian immigrants are mocked as having “crime in their blood” and a successful Arab citizen like TV host Lucy Aharish is described in one article as not “dressing like an Arab.” The segregated schools and admissions committees created a balkanized society. Rather than romanticizing the leader who perpetuated these divisions, people should imagine an Israel in the future that reforms the failed legacy. Reduce segregation and encourage diverse communities. Interrogate the past, don’t whitewash it.

Seth J. Frantzman is the opinion editor of The Jerusalem Post.

Israel’s elections bring ‘racism’ to the fore

Israel’s elections bring ‘racism’ to the fore

Political ads banned after Jewish parties accused of using denigrating language towards Palestinians.
Jonathan Cook Last Modified: 21 Oct 2013 13:23

Critics say Israel’s local elections have brought out a tide of ugly racism, especially in ‘mixed cities’ [AP]
Nazareth, Israel – In some parts of Israel, voters in Tuesday’s elections will be casting a ballot not on how well their municipality is run but on how to stop “Arabs” moving in next door, how to prevent mosques being built in their community, or how to “save” Jewish women from the clutches of Arab men.

While the far-right’s rise in Israeli national politics has made headlines, less attention has been paid to how this has played out in day-to-day relations between Israeli Jews and the country’s Palestinian-Arab minority, comprising a fifth of the population.

According to analysts and residents, Israel’s local elections have brought a tide of ugly racism to the fore, especially in a handful of communities known as “mixed cities”, where Jewish and Palestinian citizens live in close proximity.

Jewish parties, including local branches of the ruling Likud party, have adopted openly racist language and fear-mongering suggesting an imminent Muslim takeover of Jewish communities in a bid to win votes.

“Israeli society has become more and more racist, and the candidates are simply reflecting this racism back to voters knowing that it will win them lots of support,” said Mohammed Zeidan, director of the Human Rights Association in Nazareth.

Last week, as electioneering intensified, Salim Joubran, an Arab judge, stepped in to ban adverts by the Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the cities of Karmiel and Tel Aviv.

Joubran, who is the first Arab in Israel’s history to chair the Central Elections Committee, which oversees elections, said the ads were “racist and almost certain to hurt the feelings of Arab Israelis and disrupt public order”.

In doing so, Joubran overruled the advice of the attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, who had argued that the committee had no authority to regulate online ads and posters.

‘Gentrifying’ neighbourhoods

Notably, Netanyahu and his ministers have refused to condemn or distance themselves from the campaigns run by their local branches.

In Jaffa, the commercial capital of Palestine before Israel’s creation in 1948 and now a mixed suburb of Tel Aviv, Likud ran ads against local Muslims. A third of Jaffa’s population are Palestinian, but they face increasing pressure to leave under a programme of “gentrifying” neighbourhoods.

One ad – using the slogan “Silence the muezzin in Jaffa? Only Likud can” – echoed threats Netanyahu made in late 2011 to ban mosques from using loudspeakers to call Muslims to prayer.

A Likud party spokeswoman declined to comment on Joubran’s criticisms.

Sheikh Ahmed Abu Ajwa, an imam in Jaffa, said: “This is a racist campaign but we must not forget that those who promote hatred against Muslims and Christians in Jaffa are simply following the lead of the government.

“It is a great impertinence to tell us we need to silence our mosques. We were here – and so were our mosques – long before Israel’s creation. If they don’t like it here, they are welcome to leave.”

Another poster, implying that Palestinian citizens are not loyal to Israel and that Likud would intensify moves to remove them from the city, said the party would “Return Jaffa to Israel”.

Joubran similarly banned a phone ad used by the Likud party in Karmiel, a so-called “Judaisation” city in the Galilee designed to bring Jews to a region with a large Palestinian population.

Jewish residents had received a recorded phone message from someone calling himself “Nabil” inviting them to a fictitious cornerstone-laying ceremony for a new mosque in the town.

Karmiel’s Palestinian residents, believed to number less than 2,000 in a city of 45,000 people, say they have not even proposed that a mosque should be built in the city.

Koren Neuman, head of Karmiel’s Likud electoral list, said the election committee’s decision was unjustified.

“Our message is that we want to keep our city Jewish-Zionist. That, after all, is the mission of the state of Israel. We’re not against anybody. But Karmiel is supposed to be a Jewish city and we must not allow its character to be changed.”

He added that at meetings with voters, “the fear that is raised is that the city will become mixed”, and there would one day be an Arab mayor.

‘Take our women’

Naama Blatman-Thomas, a local political activist, said Jewish parties in Karmiel had resorted to “dirty tricks” in response to the emergence of a joint Jewish-Arab party, Karmiel Rainbow, contesting the council election.

“When I have spoken to Jewish residents, the narrative in their minds is that their city is under threat of a takeover, that the Arabs will take our women, and so on. The views expressed in Karmiel are part of a much wider trend across the Galilee.”

Most communities in Israel are segregated on an ethnic basis.

However, in recent years Palestinians in the Galilee have started migrating to Judaisation cities such as Karmiel in growing numbers because Israeli land policies have deprived their own communities of land for new house construction, said Zeidan.

In rural communities such as the kibbutz and moshav where housing is available, vetting committees have been put in place to ensure housing is off-limits to Palestinian citizens.

But in cities such as Karmiel, homes are available for purchase if Jews will sell to Palestinian citizens. Blatman-Thomas, who is researching segregation policies in Karmiel for her doctorate, said Jews were emigrating from the city because of a shortage of employment opportunities, opening the way to Palestinians from the surrounding towns and villages to buy apartments.

Recent surveys show a strong aversion from many in the Jewish public to living in shared communities. According to the annual Israel Democracy Index, published this month, 48 percent of Jews would not want an Arab neighbour, while 44 percent favoured policies to encourage Palestinian citizens to emigrate from Israel.

Such sentiments have received official backing from municipal rabbis. More than 40 signed a decreein 2010 that Jews must not sell homes to non-Jews.

At that time, Karmiel’s deputy mayor, Oren Milstein, set up an email “hotline” on which residents could inform on Jewish residents who were intending to sell to Palestinian families. Milstein claimed he had managed to stop 30 such sales.

Dov Caller, a spokesman for Karmiel Rainbow, said the city’s attractiveness to Palestinian families in the area was a reflection of the discrimination they faced in their own communities.

“When they have the right to land for development, their own industrial zones, gardens, sports centre and decent schools, then Karmiel won’t be the only option available to them.”


Similar tensions have erupted in Upper Nazareth, a Judaisation city built in the 1950s to contain the growth of Nazareth, the Biblical city of Jesus’ childhood.

Over the past decade, large numbers of Christians and Muslims have moved into Upper Nazareth, with some estimates suggesting of the city’s 55,000 population a quarter may now be Palestinian citizens, most of them from Nazareth.

The mayor, Shimon Gapso, has erected large Israeli flags at every entrance to the city in the run-up to the election, in a move he said was designed to make clear that Palestinian citizens were not welcome in Upper Nazareth.

Raed Ghattas, one of two Arab members of the local council, said Gapso’s whole election strategy had been based on a hatred of Arabs. “There are four candidates for mayor – for us, it is a matter of which one is the lesser evil. But Gapso is definitely the worst of a bad bunch.”

Earlier this year Gapso issued a pamphlet to residents warning: “This is the time to guard our home! … All requests for foreign characteristics in the city are refused.”

He has rejected building a church or mosque, allowing Christmas trees in public places or, most controversially, building an Arab-language schoolfor the 2,000 Palestinian children in the city.

Gapso stoked tensions further during the election by running a bogus election campaign using posters urging voters to “Throw the mayor out” that quoted prominent Palestinian politicians in Israel denouncing him.

Haneen Zoabi, a parliament member who is running for mayor of neighbouring Nazareth, was quoted as saying: “Upper Nazareth was built on Arab land. We will fight to the end against Shimon Gapso’s racism. [Send] the racist home; Arabs to Upper Nazareth.”

Defending his election campaign in an article in the Haaretz newspaper under the headline “If you think I’m a racist, then Israel is a racist state”, Gapso accused his critics of “hypocrisy and bleeding-heart sanctimoniousness”. The important thing, he wrote, was that his city “retain a Jewish majority and not be swallowed up in the Arab area that surrounds it”.

In another interview, he said: “95 percent of Jewish mayors [in Israel] think the same thing. They’re just afraid to say so out loud”.

Jewish-Palestinian couples in Israel face increasing pressure as racism becomes more open.

‘Don’t take our girls …’

Jewish-Palestinian couples in Israel face increasing pressure as racism becomes more open.

Mya Guarnieri, Al Jazeera, 29 January 2011

Not long after religious nationalists held a rally in Bat Yam under the banner of “Jewish girls for the Jewish people,” a group of rabbis’ wives published a letter urging Jewish women not to date Arab men.

Jewish-Palestinian couples remain uncommon in Israel. But both the rally and letter point towards the difficulties faced by such couples, even those from liberal backgrounds.

Rona, a young professional Jewish woman in her early thirties who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, has kept her relationship with a Palestinian man a secret from most of her relatives for almost four years.

While her parents know and have met Rona’s boyfriend, Rona says that she is at a point where she is “actively lying” to the rest of her family.

“I don’t know how to articulate how they’d react, “Rona says. “I think that my aunt and uncle know that there is someone … and they definitely know that he’s Arab. But it’s more about my grandmother and her sisters and the older generation. It’s like if [I] were to bring home a mass murderer.”

She laughs nervously and continues.

“It just doesn’t happen. It’s like: ‘Bring home somebody who is a total loser, but don’t bring home an Arab.'”

Rona describes her parents’ political views as “moving more left but kind of traditional,” adding, “my mum always says that she thinks that the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 was a mistake and that [Israel] should have returned the territories.”

Still, Rona did not tell her parents about her relationship right away.

“There was a period of time I was hiding it for convenience’s sake. I just wanted to enjoy my life and not be harassed.”

When she did talk to her parents about her boyfriend, who is a non-practicing Muslim, they sidestepped the issue of his race, focusing instead on “cultural differences”.

“I was like, ‘What are you saying? That he’s going to come home one day and want me to put on a hijab? Do you know what the cultural differences are?'” Rona recalls. “So I took immediate offense to this concept. I thought it was racist from the get go.”

Her parents also objected to the relationship because “it would be so difficult for us to live here together,” Rona says, due to the widespread discrimination they would face.

She describes the first time her parents met her boyfriend as “awkward”.

“I think it was actually their first personal interaction with an Arab, other than [those working in] stores and restaurants. I think it was a very emotional encounter for them. They liked him and my mum said he seemed like an amazing guy.”

Still, Rona’s mother insisted that she not put herself “in that kind of a situation”.

Rona says that she has not felt any racism coming from her boyfriend’s family. But, because of the political situation, there are moments when she feels a divide between them.

She was living with her boyfriend when Operation Cast Lead began in December, 2008. Her boyfriend’s mother, whose sister lives in the Gaza Strip, happened to be visiting when the war began.

“We were watching the news and they were showing the first strikes, the air attack,” Rona recalls. “His mum was screaming and crying and cursing the army and the Israelis and the Jews and everyone and I was standing there like ‘I don’t know what to do.’ On the one hand, I wanted to show her that I care. On the other, does she now want an Israeli Jew to put her arm around her? But I did.”

History of mixed marriages

Although Israel’s religious nationalists have only recently spoken against such relationships, they are far from new. Jews and Arabs have been falling in love in Palestine for as long as both have been there. 
Iris Agmon, a professor in Ben Gurion University’s department of Middle East studies, says: “In the Ottoman sharia court records one can find women whose nicknames hint to the fact that they are converted Muslims.” And some of these women were probably Jewish.

After Ottoman rule ended, the British mandate also saw such couples. Deborah Bernstein, a professor in the University of Haifa’s department of sociology and anthropology, says that although there is no “systematic documentation or even discussion of the subject … it is clear that such a phenomena did exist”. She found family stories of these couples while researching her Hebrew-language book about women in mandatory Tel Aviv.

Bernstein also discovered “archival welfare documents,” pointing to such relationships. “For example, [one referred to] a [Jewish] woman leaving her husband and children and going to live with an Arab man.”

In most cases, Bernstein says, Jewish women converted to Islam before marrying their Arab partner. She believes that a majority of these couples left Israel when it was established in 1948. 

Bernstein did not come across any examples of Jewish men marrying Christian Arab or Muslim Arab women.

Bernstein adds that the Jewish community was “very strongly opposed” to “mixed marriages”.

“This was the case in [Jewish immigrants’] countries of origin,” Bernstein says, explaining that the opposition to mixed marriages took on an “additional national element” in Israel.

But, sometimes, protests against such relationships ran the other way – leaving a lasting impact on generations to come.

The Palestinian grandson of such a marriage lives in a neighbouring Arab country. According to Jewish religious law, he is not Jewish. While, technically, many of his cousins are Jewish, they do not know it – their grandmother’s conversion is a strictly-guarded secret, shared with only a few members of the family.


Because it remains an extremely sensitive issue for both communities, a number of Jewish-Palestinian couples declined my requests for interviews. Several are so concerned about family reactions, they have not told their parents about their Jewish or Arab partner.

But Alex and Salma are lucky. Alex is the son of Jewish Israeli leftists. Salma is a young Palestinian woman whose Communist parents raised her and her four sisters with only a nod to their Christian roots. Because their families are so progressive, Alex says, their relationship is “relatively simple”.

“The first song I learned to sing was shir l’shalom [song for peace]. We’ve gone to demonstrations since I was a toddler. So I was always on the left,” he explains, “but I never knew any Palestinians.”

Alex’s comment points to the deep divisions in Israeli society that make Jewish-Palestinian relationships so unlikely.

“[Society] is built in a way that doesn’t help relationships,” Salma says. “Everything is segregated. The educational systems are separated … People don’t meet. And if they do meet, they meet under unusual circumstances, like at a demonstration.”

Even though both Alex and Salma grew up in liberal homes, the two were no exception – it was activism that brought them together.

And it helps keep them together. Most of their friends hold similar political views, providing a buffer from the rest of Israeli society.

“You know, we sort of chose our lives,” Salma says. “I can’t be friends with racist people so it’s easy to avoid. But I think if we would have gone out to more parties we would have faced more problems.”

Still, things are only “relatively simple”.

Alex recalls running into a friend from school who made a racist and obscene remark about his relationship with Salma. And one of Salma’s closest childhood friends stopped speaking to her when she joined a Jewish-Arab group that advocates for a bi-national solution to the conflict.

“I think it comes out more than that,” Alex adds.

Salma nods and begins to explain: “I have one sister who got married last summer. She knows Alex and his family very well, so she wanted to invite [them] …”

She pauses and, a bit like an old married couple, Alex picks up the thread and continues: “And the oldest sister says, ‘What are you going to invite all of your Zionist friends?'”

There is a flicker of hurt on Alex’s face as he remembers. “Now, this comes out of nowhere. I refused [mandatory military service],” Alex says. “I’m definitely not a Zionist. I refused and my parents aren’t Zionists.”

Alex emphasises that he maintains a warm relationship with Salma’s oldest sister and that her remark came during an emotional argument. But, Alex says, the incident pointed to something that “can’t be completely erased … that the relationship can’t be normalised. It always has to be politically justified.”

What do such tensions say about Israeli society?

“Nothing good,” Alex answers.

The couple is also concerned about the recent outbreak of open racism in Israel.

“I think the hatred is becoming more and more explicit,” Salma says, pointing to the rally in Bat Yam and the rabbis’ wives’ letter as two examples. “It’s ‘don’t take our girls’ ….”

Israeli town launches campaign against foreign workers

Israeli town launches campaign against foreign workers

Bnei Brak city hall begins public campaign against renting flats to migrant workers yet simultaneously employs them.

Bnei Brak city hall launched a public campaign against renting flats to migrant workers and refugees two weeks ago, but it appears the municipality actually employs migrants, Haaretz has found. The city employs 10 foreign workers in its sanitary department through the subcontractor Ford Municipal Systems.

The municipality, in confirming this, said all 10 had residence and work permits, and that it could not restrict the workforce under its current contract with the subcontractor.

“When we signed the agreement, we weren’t aware I should tell them where the workers come from,” Bnei Brak mayor Rabbi Yaakov Asher told Haaretz. “To my knowledge, the workers aren’t local. They don’t sleep here. We’re running our check to make sure that these worker don’t return to our neighborhoods through the back door. We’ll do what we can.”

If the migrants were working at the municipality because they live in Bnei Brak, the mayor said he would do what he could “with the instruments we have.”

Two weeks ago, the Bnei Brak municipality announced it would take steps against landlords renting rooms to migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers in the city’s Pardes Katz neighborhood. The move followed a call from several rabbis in Bnei Brak for pressure to be put on these landlords. City hall said pressure would mostly be aimed at those who split up flats illegally and rented out rooms to migrants. Flyers distributed in the city called on residents to report on split apartments.

Asked how the city could campaign against migrants while employing them, the mayor said: “We’re acting within the limits of the law. We’re not putting people on buses and sending them away. No municipal inspector grabbed a refugee and took him somewhere in a van.”

The mayor said the national authorities were to blame for the migrant situation. “They’re hanging about our streets and other cities’ streets, a Philippine, a cushi [“Negro”], a Nigerian,” Rabbi Asher said.” It’s become a wave. It’s not natural. They’re coming into the weakest places, just as we are trying to rehabilitate a neighborhood and take it out of poverty. If a state decides that it’s humane, it can find them suitable places. Today they’re just taking the entire neighborhood a generation backward.”

He said that his office had received many complaints from residents in recent months. “I never got so many letters on any other issue. People are frightened.”

Israeli law proposed to enable racial segregation

Segregation of Jews and Arabs in 2010 Israel is Almost Absolute

For those of us who live here, it is something we take for granted. But visitors from abroad cannot believe their eyes.

By Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu 

October 30, 2010 “Haaretz” — Under the guise of the deceptively mundane name “Amendment to the Cooperative Associations Bill,” the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee this week finalized a bill intended to bypass previous rulings of the High Court of Justice. If indeed this legislation is approved by the Knesset plenum, it will not be possible to describe it as anything other than an apartheid law.

Ten years ago, the High Court of Justice ordered the town of Katzir to accept the family of Adel and Iman Kaadan, Arab citizens of Israel, as members of the community. Seven years later, the court issued a similar ruling against the Galilee village of Rakefet, which, like Katzir, is Jewish. Now, however, the legislature has come up with a proper “Zionist” response to the justices: If it becomes law, the amendment will give acceptance committees of communal villages the authority to limit residence in their towns exclusively to Jews. 

Using polished and sanitized language, the bill would allow such committees in small rural suburbs to reject applications from families that “are incompatible with the social-cultural fabric of the community, and where there are grounds to assume that they will disrupt this fabric.”

In other words, if admissions committees were previously forced to exercise some degree of creativity if they wanted to hide their national-ethnic grounds for rejecting Arabs, now, as Rabbi Akiva said, “All is foreseen, and freedom of choice is granted” (Pirkei Avot 3 ). Arabs? Not here. Sorry, the law is with us on this.

Those who feign innocence, including some from the center of our political map, will say, “The bill is not intended to keep out Arabs. What’s wrong with supporting the right of communities to protect their unique way of life?”

Indeed, what is wrong with that? There’s no argument that the vegetarians of Moshav Amirim, in the Galilee, have a right to defend themselves against an invasion of carnivores, just as the practitioners of transcendental meditation at Hararit, in the Misgav region, need to be able to meditate without interruption, but those communities are genuinely unique in character. This is not the case for the dozens of yeshuvim kehilati’im (literally, “community settlements” ) all over Israel, whose principal cultural feature is the fact that their residents are Jewish and Zionist – hardly a population under imminent threat, whose unique way of life needs protection.

Several months ago, we were given a glimpse of just how quickly the new law will be implemented, when several such villages, anticipating the Knesset’s action, hurriedly established bylaws that effectively barred Arabs. In the communities of Yuvalim and Manof, in the Misgav area, applicants are now required to declare their allegiance to the Zionist vision, while in Mitzpe Aviv, a bit to the south, applicants must declare their identification with the values of Zionism and the definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

It’s not as if Arab families are standing in line to move to these gated communities, which were established mainly in the 1970s and ’80s by Zionist organizations like the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund for the purpose of “Judaizing” areas like the Negev and the Galilee. No one ever expected these towns to provide the answer to the horrendous housing shortage faced by Israel’s Arab population. For them, not a single new town has been established since 1948, with the exception of a few impoverished Bedouin settlements in the Negev. Nor has the central government seen fit to assist or give approval to the existing Arab municipalities in the drawing up of master plans that would allow them to implement a program of growth and development to meet the needs of a growing population or mitigate their poor quality of life.

And this is without even mentioning cities like Upper Nazareth, Safed or Carmiel, where a variety of statements have been made – sometimes by the most senior municipal officials themselves – that are designed to push Arabs out or prevent their integration into these cities.

Segregation of Jews and Arabs in Israel of 2010 is almost absolute. For those of us who live here, it is something we take for granted. But visitors from abroad cannot believe their eyes: segregated education, segregated businesses, separate entertainment venues, different languages, separate political parties … and of course, segregated housing. In many senses, this is the way members of both groups want things to be, but such separation only contributes to the growing mutual alienation of Jews and Arabs.

Several courageous attempts – particularly in mixed cities and regions – have been made to change the situation, bridge the rifts and promote integration. These range from efforts to develop mixed educational frameworks, to joint economic ventures and other interventions intended to foster good neighborly relations based on equal opportunity. Until now, these attempts addressed a situation of de facto segregation. From today, however, segregation will be de jure, to the shame of Israel.

Amnon Be’eri Sulitzeanu is the co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, an organization that promotes coexistence and equality between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.

Israel’s Fear of Jewish Girls Dating Arabs’s Fear of Jewish Girls Dating Arabs; Team of Psychologists to “Rescue” Women

By Jonathan Cook, AlterNet
Posted on September 25, 2009, Printed on January 10, 2010

A local authority in Israel has announced that it is establishing a special team of youth counselors and psychologists whose job it will be to identify young Jewish women who are dating Arab men and “rescue” them.

The move by the municipality of Petah Tikva, a city close to Tel Aviv, is the latest in a series of separate — and little discussed — initiatives from official bodies, rabbis, private organisations and groups of Israeli residents to try to prevent interracial dating and marriage.

In a related development, the Israeli media reported this month that residents of Pisgat Zeev, a large Jewish settlement in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, had formed a vigilante-style patrol to stop Arab men from mixing with local Jewish girls.

Hostility to intimate relationships developing across Israel’s ethnic divide is shared by many Israeli Jews, who regard such behaviour as a threat to the state’s Jewishness. One of the few polls on the subject, in 2007, found that more than half of Israeli Jews believed intermarriage should be equated with “national treason.”

Since the state’s founding in 1948, analysts have noted, a series of legal and administrative measures have been taken by Israel to limit the possibilities of close links developing between Jewish and Arab citizens, the latter comprising a fifth of the population.

Largely segregated communities and separate education systems mean that there are few opportunities for young Arabs and Jews to get to know each other. Even in the handful of “mixed cities”, Arab residents are usually confined to separate neighborhoods.

In addition, civil marriage is banned in Israel, meaning that in the small number of cases where Jews and Arabs want to wed, they can do so only by leaving the country for a ceremony abroad. The marriage is recognized on the couple’s return.

Yuval Yonay, a sociologist at Haifa University, said the number of interracial marriages was “too small to be studied.” “Separation between Jews and Arabs is so ingrained in Israeli society, it is surprising that anyone manages to escape these central controls.”

The team in Petah Tikva, a Jewish city of 200,000 residents, was created in direct response to news that two Jewish girls, aged 17 and 19, were accompanying a group of young Arab men when they allegedly beat a Jewish man, Leonard Karp, to death last month on a Tel Aviv beach. The older girl was from Petah Tikva.

The girls’ involvement with the Arab youths has revived general concern that a once-firm taboo against interracial dating is beginning to erode among some young people.

In sentiments widely shared, Hezi Hakak, a spokesman for Petah Tikva municipality, said “Russian girls” — young Jewish women whose parents arrived in Israel over the past two decades, since the collapse of the former Soviet Union — were particularly vulnerable to the attention of Arab men.

Dr Yonay said Russian women were less closed to the idea of relationships with Arab men because they “did not undergo the religious and Zionist education” to which more established Israeli Jews were subject.

Mr Hakak said the municipality had created a hotline that parents and friends of the Jewish women could use to inform on them.

“We can’t tell the girls what to do but we can send a psychologist to their home to offer them and their parents advice,” he said.

Motti Zaft, the deputy mayor, told the Ynet website that the municipality was also cracking down on city homeowners who illegally subdivide apartments to rent them cheaply to single Arab men looking for work in the Tel Aviv area. He estimated that several hundred Arab men had moved into the city as a result.

Petah Tikva’s hostility to Arab men mixing with local Jewish women is shared by other communities.

In Pisgat Zeev, a settlement of 40,000 Jews, some 35 Jewish men are reported to belong to a patrol known as “Fire for Judaism” that tries to stop interracial dating.

One member, who identified himself as Moshe to the Jerusalem Post newspaper, said: “Our goal is to be in contact with these girls and try to explain to them the dangers of what they’re getting themselves into. In the last 10 years, 60 girls from Pisgat Zeev have gone into [Palestinian] villages [in the West Bank]. And most of them aren’t heard from after that.”

He denied that violence or threats were used against Arab men.

Last year, the municipality of Kiryat Gat, a town of 50,000 Jews in southern Israel, launched a programme in schools to warn Jewish girls of the dangers of dating local Bedouin men. The girls were shown a video titled Sleeping with the Enemy, which describes mixed couples as an “unnatural phenomenon.”

Haim Shalom, head of the municipality’s welfare department, is filmed saying: “The girls, in their innocence, go with the exploitative Arab.” A police representative also warns that the Bedouin men’s “goal is to take advantage of the girls. There is no element of love or an innocent friendly relationship here.”

In 2004, posters sprang up all over the northern town of Safed warning Jewish women that dating Arab men would lead to “beatings, hard drugs, prostitution and crime.”

Safed’s chief rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, told a local newspaper that the “seducing” of Jewish girls was “another form of war” by Arab men.

Both Kiryat Gat and Safed’s campaigns were supported by a religious organisation called Yad L’achim, which runs an anti-assimilation team publicly dedicated to “saving” Jewish women.

According to its website, the organisation receives more than 100 calls a month about Jewish women living with Arab men, both in Israel and the West Bank. It launches “military-like rescues [of the women] from hostile Arab villages” in co-ordination with the police and army.

“The Jewish soul is a precious, all-too-rare resource, and we are not prepared to give up on even a single one,” says the website.

Yad L’achim’s founder, Rabbi Shlomo Dov Lifschitz, is quoted on the site saying: “People must understand that Jewish-Arab marriages are part of the larger Israeli-Arab conflict.  They [Arab men] see it as their goal to marry them [Jewish women] and ensure that their childen aren’t raised as Jews. This is their revenge against the Jewish people. They feel that if they can’t defeat us in war, they can wipe us out this way.”

The degree of general opposition in Israel to interracial marriage was suggested by a government-backed television ad campaign earlier this month that urged Israeli Jews to inform on relatives abroad who were in danger of marrying a non-Jew. The ads were hastily withdrawn by surprised Israeli officials after many US Jews took offence.

In her book Birthing the Nation, Rhoda Kanaaneh, a Middle East scholar at New York University, points out that “politicians frequently attack ‘peace’ or ‘dialogue’ programs for promoting miscegenation” in fear that it will lead to Jewish assimilation.

She also notes that Israel’s adoption and surrogacy laws require that adoptive parents be of the same ethnic group as the biological mother.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

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Zionist leader: Let us bribe Palestinians to emigrate from their homeland

The Jerusalem Post
Internet Edition

New proposal: Transfer-for-cash plan

Matthew Wagner, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 21, 2007

A new proposal designed to solve Israel's Arab
demographic concerns suggests offering a million
Palestinian residents of refugee camps in Judea
and Samaria incentives totaling as much as $50
billion to convince them to leave the area.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Kohanim
Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and MK Benny Elon (National
Union-National Religious Party) have joined
forces to promote the proposed program, which
they said would be funded by the state. The two
men, who are next door neighbors in Beit El,
propose paying the refugee camp residents $50,000
to $100,000 each if they agree to emigrate.

"Those poor people have been suffering for six
decades," said Elon. "I believe that if we give
them the option of leaving they will grab it."

Elon said that he was astounded to discover that
Palestinians who want to leave had difficulty
getting to Ben-Gurion Airport, for security

Elon said many western countries, including
Canada as well as some in South America, were
open to immigrants, especially if they brought
cash with them. He said he hoped to gain the
cooperation of western countries for the program
by emphasizing its humanitarian dimension.

Aviner, a respected halachic authority, has
written an article advocating the
transfer-for-payment idea, which appeared this
weekend in Be'ahava U'Be'emuna, a pamphlet that
is distributed in thousands of synagogues across
the nation every Shabbat.

"Arabs are busy killing Jews or providing aid,
cover and legitimacy to terrorists," Aviner said
in a telephone interview.

"There is no end in sight. I do not want to keep
killing them to protect myself. So the best
solution is to encourage them to leave," he said.
"As soon as the word gets around that Israel is
paying compensation to anyone who leaves, it will
have a snowball effect."

Aviner quoted the Koran as well as the Bible to
demonstrate that the Land of Israel belongs to
the Jewish people.

Arabs who agreed to stop all terrorism against
Israel and to accept second class citizenship,
without voting rights, would be allowed to stay,
Aviner said.

MK Ibrahim Sarsour (United Arab List-Ta'al)
called the proposal "satanic," "fascist," and
"nearly Nazi."

"Palestine is an integral part of
Waqf-administered sacred Islamic land," said
Sarsour, who is also the head of the Islamic
Movement in Israel. "It belongs to the Muslim
people. Benny Elon and others like him will have
to trample over our dead bodies to remove us from
this place."

Sarsour said "Islam" was willing to normalize
relations with a sovereign Israel within the
Green Line. He said all Jews living in the West
Bank or eastern Jerusalem must leave their homes
or renounce Zionism and agree to second-class
citizenship, without voting rights.

"But Elon is trying to push for the option of
conflict and extinction of both peoples," he said.

Sarsour said "zealots" like Elon and Aviner had
caused the destruction of the Second Temple, and
that history could repeat itself.

"The weak do not stay weak forever, nor do the strong," Sarsour said.

Hush, we’re deporting survivors

Hush, we're deporting survivors
By Ruth Sinai

The descriptions reported by survivors of the horror taking place in Sudan's Darfur province sound as though they were taken from the era of the Cossack pogroms against the Jews: Rioters gallop into town on horseback, kidnapping and raping the women, killing the men and burning the houses.

Over the past year, nearly 300 Sudanese have infiltrated into Israel. Some of them survived the ethnic cleansing being carried out by Arab militias in Darfur, with the support of the Muslim government in Khartoum. The survivors fled first to Egypt, but suffered from harassment and economic distress there, so they fled to Israel.

Ever since they arrived here, Israel has not disdained any means in its attempt to get rid of them. Neither the lessons of history, the protests of human rights organizations, the commands of conscience nor moral considerations interfere in the least.

Converts to Judaism may not receive Israeli citizenship

Chief Rabbinate prepares bill to remove converts from Law of Return

By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent
Converts will no longer be recognized as Jews under the Law of Return, according to a bill formulated by the Chief Rabbinate and presented to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert a few days ago. The revolutionary bill is now awaiting a decision by the prime minister whether to make it a government-sponsored bill.
The bill was initiated by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar in an effort to block the possibility that the High Court of Justice could recognize Reform conversions carried out in Israel. Amar expects the government to adopt the initiative after other solutions proposed by the state to the High Court, such as a recent suggestion to establish a second Ne'eman Committee to discuss conversions, seemed no more than stall attempts.
The Chief Rabbinate said Monday the proposal was an egalitarian one that would withstand the scrutiny of the High Court. It argued the bill would "close the loophole" in the Law of Return that allowed foreign workers to convert in order to receive Israeli citizenship.
However if the law passes, it is likely to lead to a major crisis between Israel and the Diaspora.
The bill would give rabbinic courts and the Chief Rabbinate sole authority over conversions, as another bill, which did not pass, had also stated. The main element in the bill is a change in the clause defining a Jew for the purposes of the Law of Return. At present the clause defines a Jew as a person born to a Jewish mother or who converted to Judaism. The bill proposes that an the only individuals recognized as Jewish by the Law of return will be those born to a Jewish mother.
In the past, the Orthodox political parties had attempted to change this clause to include only Orthodox converts in accordance with halakha (Jewish law). This demand was rejected by successive Israeli governments due to concern over relations with Jewish communities outside of Israel, especially the Jewish establishment in the United States, where non-Orthodox Jews predominate.
The Chief Rabbinate argued Monday that Interior Minister Roni Bar-On supports the initiative. However an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said Bar-On was not familiar with it.
The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the legal advocate of the Reform Movement in Israel, called Monday on Olmert to reject the Amar initiative, which it said would "bring about a rupture between Israel and most of the Jews in the world."
IRAC's Rabbi Gilad Kariv said Monday, "It turns out that Rabbi Amar's hatred for non-Orthodox streams is so great that it leads him to harm the basic principle that there is no difference between a convert and an individual who is born Jewish."
MK Zevulun Orlev, the chairman of the National Union-National Religious Party, expressed his support Monday for Amar's bill, which he said would "protect the unity of the Jewish people and prevent a rift that would be caused by recognizing Reform conversions." Orlev added that the passing of the bill would be a test of the ability of Shas as a member of cabinet to impact the Jewish character of the state.
The Conservative Masorati Movement in Israel said it opposed Amar's bill, which it called an attempt to detour around the High Court of Justice.

Attempting to convert Russian non-Jews

The unbearable hardness of becoming a Jew

By Amiram Barkat
Haaretz Fri., November 18, 2005 Cheshvan 16, 5766

Earlier this week, Svetlana Kostin and Yulia Leibrov appeared before the special conversion court in Petah Tikva. After more than a year’s preparation, the two had arrived at the fateful moment when three Orthodox religious court judges would pronounce whether they were fit to join the ranks of the Jewish people.

In Kostin’s case, the answer was positive; but Leibrov was sent to "improve" by visiting her synagogue, and told to return "three or four months later."

She burst into tears in the corridor. "I was surprised, because it seemed to me the questions were simple. My teacher says it must be because I look young and they suspect I want to get married," she said later.

The two are among some 300,000 non-Jews who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union during the 1990s. The members of this group are registered as "others" at the Population Registry. The nationality rubric in their identity cards is blank, except for those who came to Israel under the Law of Return and automatically received Israeli citizenship.

The conversion process has been heavily funded over the past two years. About NIS 50 million are poured into the process as compared with only a few million in previous years. The authority that deals with conversion in the Prime Minister’s Office says it is proving its worth: Some 1,300 people have converted in state frameworks this year – a 50-percent increase over the average of previous years. In the Israel Defense Forces, 700 soldiers converted as compared with 450 previously.

"This is an improvement, but it is still not satisfactory," says Rabbi Moshe Klein, deputy head of the authority.

"That is the understatement of the century," comments Dr Asher Cohen of Bar-Ilan University. He says the rate should be 10 times higher. "Every year, 5,000 non-Jewish immigrants arrive… There are more than 100,000 non-Jews aged 15 to 34, and if we do not convert them, the problem will continue for generations."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who gets weekly reports on the conversion numbers, blames the low rate on the rabbis and their strict attitude toward the would-be converts. Two years ago, Sharon took the conversion process out of the hands of the ultra-Orthodox and placed it under the auspices of his office, but the move was held up for about a year because of a struggle over the authority to convert.

Rabbi Haim Druckman, the head of the conversion authority and Klein, his deputy, have succeeded in ironing out some of the bureaucratic problems and changing attitudes toward the immigrants.

Mark Polonsky, who teaches would-be converts, concurs that the attitude has changed in some of the religious courts, but not in all of them. He says there has been an increase in the number of people coming for courses following an Immigrant Absorption Ministry campaign.

Under the present arrangement, the immigrants study twice a week for 10 months, a heavy load for people who have to work hard for a living. Kostin says she lost her job as a cashier at a supermarket two months ago because she had to leave early twice a week. Leibrov says she was forbidden to eat food prepared by her non-Jewish parents for reasons of kashrut. "I used to make my own meals or eat with a friend," she says. "My parents were very insulted."

Jewish spouses who do not observe Jewish tradition are also expected to attend the courses. "I have a friend who begged her husband to come but he refused because he hates religious people," she said.

Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of the Itim Institute, which helps the immigrants, says that "many immigrants refuse to convert simply because [the rabbinical authorities] demand that they send their children to religious schools."

He says this problem must be dealt with immediately, suggesting that the religious court judges go out and get to know the immigrants "so both sides can see they are dealing with people and not monsters."

International Emergency Conference on Jewish Demography

November 29, 2002
24 Kislev, 5763

Invitation To Press Conference On Jewish Demographic Emergency

Deputy Prime Minister Sharansky, Jewish Agency Chairman Sallai Meridor Ambassador Dennis Ross and Prof. Sergio DellaPergola will speak.

You are invited to attend a press conference on the "Emergency in the Demography of the Jewish People," will take place on Monday, 2 December, at a luncheon in Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel at 12:30. The press conference is being held in the context of an International Emergency Conference on Jewish Demography, which the Jewish Agency has convened from Saturday night (30 November) to Tuesday (3 December).

The Agency’s three-day conference, held under the aegis of the Jewish Agency’s newly established Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, will analyze data and policy implications. Hebrew University Professor Sergio DellaPergola, who heads the Jewish Agency’s Jewish demography initiative, is the academic director of the conference.

Jewish Agency Chairman Sallai Meridor, Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky who head the public council for the demographic initiative, will participate in the press conference as representatives of the decision making echelon.

Prof. DellaPergola will present the results of research conducted throughout the Jewish world in the context of the initiative. Ambassador Denis Ross, chairman of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute will discuss policy implications emanating from the research.

30 leading international authorities in the field of demography, among them Prof. Sidney Goldstein from the USA and Prof. Barry A. Kosmin of the UK are among the participants in the international conference. Likewise Prof Yehezkel Dror, President of the Jewish Agency’s Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, Prof Irwin Cottler of Canada and Mr. Avinoam Bar Yosef, Drector-General of the Institute are participating on behalf of the Institute.

The demographic data and research, which will be presented at the Jerusalem Conference, paint a bleak picture throughout the Jewish world. Their policy planning implications on the international level will be analyzed at the conference.

The conference will also present new research on anti-Semitism.

For additional information contact Yehuda Weinraub 053-927017 or Orna Tamar 054-807300 and Batsheva Ganot 052-784503

Or contact the Office of the Spokesman:
Yehuda Weinraub
Liaison to Foreign Press and Media
Jewish Agency for Israel
Fax: 972-2-6204013

Requirements for ‘becoming’ Jews

Conversion to Judaism

Any non-Jew can become a Jew by converting. Once he converts, he then becomes a Jew in every regard and his relationship with God is the same level as that of every other Jew.

Unlike many other religions, Judaism does not demand that all people convert to the religion. Maimonides explains that any human being who faithfully observes the "7 Laws of Noah" earns a proper place in heaven. The Torah of Moses is a truth for all humanity, whether Jewish or not.


*        *        *

But what about the non-Jew who does wish to convert to Judaism? According to the Code of Jewish Law (the "Shulchan Aruch"), there are three requirements for a valid conversion. The requirements are:

1) Mitzvahs – He must believe in God and the divinity of the Torah, as well as accept upon himself to observe all 613 mitzvahs (commandments) of the Torah.
2) Milah – Male converts must undergo circumcision by a qualified "Mohel." If he was previously circumcised by a doctor, he then undergoes a ritual called "hatafas dam".
3) Mikveh – All converts must immerse in the Mikveh – a ritual bath linked to a reservoir of rain water.

All of the above must be done before a court of three Jewish men who themselves believe in God, accept the divinity of the Torah, and observe the mitzvahs.

[Note by the editor, E.D.:  A person born to a ‘Jewish’ mother does not need to "believe in God and the divinity of the Torah, as well as accept upon himself to observe all 613 mitzvahs (commandments) of the Torah.", as is required by a person who wishes to ‘become’ a Jew.   His ‘Jewishness’ is determined genetically, not through any act or belief.   The genetic ‘Jew’ may be a thief, murderer, sinner, agnostic, but will be considered as a ‘Jew’ for the purpose of the Israeli Law of Return, used to determine the demographic nature of the State of Israel.]


*        *        *

The conversion must be motivated for the sole purpose of getting close to God and His Torah, and not for ulterior motives such as money or marriage.

It is inadvisable for anyone to convert until he is able to accept the responsibilities a true conversion would entail.

Definition of ‘Jew’ confronts Israel

Definition of ‘Jew’ confronts Israel

Thousands of Ethiopian Jews who were pressured to convert to Christianity are waiting to move to Israel.

| Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
9 January 2004

Mikoyet Zighaya is an Israeli with a grievance.

Dressed in army fatigues, his black beret tucked onto his shoulder, he joined a protest this week of more than a thousand Ethiopian Israelis. They demanded that their relatives be brought to Israel in keeping with a government decision last year to expedite the immigration of about 20,000 Ethiopians waiting to join previous waves and trickles of Ethiopian immigrants.

But now several key ministers are starting to openly question the decision, citing a lack of funding and raising questions about the Jewishness of those waiting. Mr. Zighaya’s hopes of being reunited with his handicapped father, Albache, who has been waiting to come to Israel for six years, appear to be fading.

A banner nearby proclaims: “Blacks are Jews, too,” and the crowd, holding up pictures of their relatives, chants “Mama,” “Papa,” “Sister,” “Grandma.”

“Sometimes I ask myself why I serve this country when they are casting away my father,” Zighaya says.

The vast majority of those waiting are Falash Mura, people whose ancestors converted to Christianity under pressure or by choice but who consider themselves Jews.

The controversy over whether they should be allowed to immigrate en masse from their huts and shacks – where they survive off the largesse of American Jewish donors – pits the once-sacred ethos of ingathering Jewish exiles against the vagaries of Israeli politics. And it raises tough questions not only about how Israel defines who is a Jew but also whether color and economic status determine who can become Israeli.

The issue, which began bubbling when Ethiopian Israelis saw the cabinet decision was not being implemented, erupted last week. Absorption Minister Tzipi Livne said flatly that there is not enough money to implement a rapid, large-scale immigration.

Thursday, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that the current pace of immigration – about 300 Ethiopians a month – is too slow. “We have to take all considerations into account, but I would very much like to see this problem behind us,” he told Israel radio from Ethiopia.

Livne says it is far more expensive to absorb Ethiopians than other immigrants. In an affirmative action to make up for their impoverished background – most were farmers – the government pays for Ethiopian immigrants to live in absorption centers for two years and underwrites their mortgages. Often the older generation is unable to adjust to Israel’s high-tech market economy, which means they are given extended welfare payments. Livne says that many among those waiting are opportunists simply claiming to be Jewish in order to gain access to a better life in Israel.

Her critics, however, argue that during past waves, including that of hundreds of thousands of North African Jews during the 1950s, cost was never an obstacle. “When did the state of Israel ever make economic calculations about immigration?” says Avraham Neguise, head of an advocacy group for Ethiopians. “They travel the world trying to encourage immigration from Russia, the United States, and Canada, but for Ethiopians, they do not have enough money. I do not want to say this is racism. I prefer to call it a misunderstanding.”

But the Falash Mura’s woes are as much political as economic. They have both patrons and opponents in Israel’s fractious multiparty system.

The decision to bring them to Israel was spearheaded by Shas, an ultraorthodox Sephardic party that controlled the interior ministry. After elections last February, the ministry passed into the hands of Avraham Poraz, from the secularist, middle-class Shinui Party. Mr. Poraz stalled and charged that Shas wanted the immigrants only because it saw them as potential voters.

Ethiopian Israelis, who number 85,000, many of whom arrived with great fanfare during epic rescue operations, are the worst-off group among the country’s Jewish population. Despite some success stories, many Ethiopians have had trouble adjusting. Twice as many Ethiopians drop out of high school as other Israelis, and 47 percent of Ethiopian adults do not participate in the labor force, twice the national average, according to a 2002 survey.

Shlomo Amar, Israel’s chief rabbi, has welcomed the Falash Mura back to the fold. He ruled last spring that they are from “the seed of Israel” and added that to dispel any doubt they should undergo a conversion ceremony after study in Israel. When opponents of the immigration seized upon the latter point, Mr. Amar wrote to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stressing that the Falash Mura are “complete Jews without any doubt.” Noting their trying conditions in Ethiopia, he added that it is a divine commandment to speed up their immigration and “save them from the gates of death.”

Livne, however, distinguishes between the Ethiopian Jews who came in previous immigration waves and the Falash Mura. “There are Ethiopian Jews who dreamed about Jerusalem, and there is this group,” she says, adding that they are “non-Jews because they converted to Christianity.”

The debate is not merely academic. Immigration to Israel has traditionally been based on the “Law of Return,” which gives even the grandchild of a Jew and his spouse the right to immigrate but disqualifies those who practice another religion. “The difference is not between Europeans and Africans, it is between Jews and non-Jews under the Law of Return,” Livne says.

That legal argument masks a double standard between Russian immigrants and the Falash Mura, Livne’s critics say. They stress that a large number of Russian Christians entered Israel under the Law of Return during the 1990s, when a million people from the former Soviet Union immigrated. But the Falash Mura, many of whom have become religiously observant during their wait, are being excluded by the same law.

Zighaya, who in addition to his father has dozens of other relatives waiting in Ethiopia, says the problem is that Ethiopian Israelis have no political power. “The politicians do whatever they want to us,” he says. “This is not about money, this is about racism.”

Court decision reignites ‘who is a Jew’ issue

Court decision reignites ‘who is a Jew’ issue
By Bradley Burston, Ha’aertz Correspondent
Ha’aretz, 20 February 2002

Battered by spiralling violence, bent under the fallout of a failing economy, Israel faced yet another powerful challenge to its social fabric Wednesday, as the Supreme Court reignited the fierce, bone-deep debate over Who is a Jew, granting for the first time formal recognition to Reform and Conservative conversions performed in the Jewish state.

By a 9-2 vote, the court ruled that persons who had undergone non-Jewish conversions whether in Israel or abroad were entitled to be registered as Jews in the state identity card rubric which reads “nationality.”

Although the court steered clear of official definitions of Jewishness for the purpose of marriage, citizenship, and immigrant rights, the decision was seen as a dangerous precedent by Orthodox religious authorities, who since the founding of the state have held an effective monopoly over decisions pertaining to legal definitions of membership in the Jewish people.

The court also broke from an unstated practice by public officials of refraining from stoking the flames of religious-secular ire during times of military strife.

Perhaps mindful of the volatility of the decision, the court at the same time unanimously threw out a challenge by leftists who sought to quash the longstanding draft exemptions provided ultra-Orthodox students allowed to study in yeshivas rather than serve in the Israeli military. But the wrath of religious leaders was little assuaged by the deferment ruling that went in their favor.

Minutes after the conversion ruling was announced early Wednesday, Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau slammed the decree, saying that it would not only deepen the rifts already plaguing the society, it would also prove detrimental to the Reform and Conservative converts that it was designed to aid.

“There will be converts who are registered as Jews according to Jewish law and tradition, then there will be other converts registered as Jews only according to the High Court’s ruling today, and they will be bandied about in a great storm.

“Their identity cards will now be worthless,” Lau continued. “Tomorrow, if they want to register to get married, the day after if they go to the Immigration Ministry to ask for their basket of benefits or citizenship, they’ll be told ‘No, you’re only thought of as a Jew on the population rolls, while as far as everything else goes, you remain in your goyishness.”

Tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union could be directly affected by the conversion ruling, undergoing Reform and Conservative conversions to be recognized on the Interior Ministry’s official population rolls as Jews.

Attorneys for the converts had argued that historically, information appearing on the Interior Ministry’s population registry – the data base from which the contents of identity cards are drawn – was based on personal details supplied by the bearers of the cards, and was not subject to review or revision by religious or other authorities.

Secular leftists and non-Orthodox religious leaders hailed the decision as a landmark. Meretz lawmaker Ran Cohen said, “The High Court gave us that which was already obvious – the fact that a Jew that who is converted and registered anywhere in the world as a Jew, Reform or Conservative, will be registered in Israel as well. This is simply normalization of the Jews, and normalization of the state of Israel.”

Ultra-Orthodox politicians, meanwhile, were unrestrained in their rage over the decision, taking the court to task for having, in their view, meddled in an area far beyond their jurisdiction and understanding. United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni decried what he foresaw as the prospect of “wholesale conversions.”

“The significance of this matter is one of two options: either the Knesset will pass a law barring the High Court, which doesn’t have a clue in this matter, from doing whatever it wishes on these issues, or we will forced to assemble record books of family trees, something that will tear the people to pieces.”

The ruling was not the courts baptism of fire on the hair-trigger issue of recognizing non-Orthodox conversion. In 1986, the High Court ordered officials to recognize Reform and Conservative conversions performed overseas. Then, seven years ago, note Ha’aretz correspondents Moshe Reinfeld and Anshel Pfeffer, the court went further, ruling that the Orthodox monopoly on conversions was illegal, but refraining from explicitly ordering the state to accept non-Orthodox conversions. “In practice,” they add, “no government has ever done so.”

“In ensuing years, the court repeatedly postponed hearings on petitions by some 50 people who demanded that the state register them as Jewish following local non-Orthodox conversions, while successive governments tried, yet failed, to broker a compromise that could be enacted into legislation.”

The matter came to a head in 1998, when the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the state must recognize such conversions, calling it absurd for non-Orthodox conversions to be valid when performed overseas, but not when performed locally, Reinfeld and Pfeffer write in Wednesday’s print edition. “The state appealed this decision, and it is this appeal on which the court ruled.”

The next move appeared to be up to Interior Minister Eli Yishai, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas, who was quick off the mark in blasting the ruling as “horrible, dangerous, most grievous, as well as anti-democratic.”

Yishai, whose party has long feuded with Israel’s judicial branch over such issues as the conviction of Yishai’s predecessor Aryeh Deri for a range corruption offenses, said the High Court had rendered its decision on behalf of “the tiniest of minorities, on the fringes of the very fringe of the margins of Israeli society.”

The interior minister added that “A small fringe group, the Reform, cannot run the country here, and the High Court’s decision is one that will lead to assimilation and the destruction of the Jewish people.”

Yishai said he could not bring himself “to register a non-Jew as a Jew.” He pledged to fight the decision with new Knesset legislation aimed at neutralizing the court’s stance.

As one option in the interim, Yishai said, if his office registers a Reform convert as a Jew, his clerks “add next to this the word ‘Reform,’ so that the whole Jewish people will know that he is Reform. If he’s so proud of being a Reform Jew, let’s let him stay one.”

Send ‘rabbinical attaches’ to Soviet Union to check Jewishness of immigrants

Jeruslem Post reported
9 January 1991

“Spiritual attaches? mooted for Jews in Soviet Union

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira has appealed to Religious Affairs Minister Avner Shaki to send “rabbinical emissaries? to the Soviet Union to begin the process of “spiritual absorption” of prospective immigrants.

Shapira also asked that such emissaries be endowed with the diplomatic status of “rabbinical attaches.” They would seek to solve some of the more pressing halachic problems, such as proof of Judaism, marrive and divorce, before the immigrants actually arrive here, where solution of their personal halachic problems may become more complex due to the distance from their areas of origin.

The Jerusalem Post has also learned that Shaki is to demand that the aliya cabinet provide funding for the creation of “conversion classes? for the non-Jewish immigrants.

Welcome non-Jews from Soviet Union: flexible Zionism

A "flexible" attitude to racial purity (example)


Sheva Weiss
Jerusalem Post
29 December 1990

Let’s open both the heavenly and earthly gates

It may be that 30 percent of the Soviet Jews are not Jewish according to Jewish law.  Perhaps more than 30 percent ? or less than 5 percent ? belong in this category. No one knows.

But it is clear that a majority ? a large majority, perhaps 95 percent ? are linked by family relationships to Jews.  A Jewish husband marries a non-Jewish wife and the children are not Jewish according to Halacha. A Jewish woman marries a non-Jewish husband and the children are Jewish according to the Halacha.  Men and women of any age are not Jewish if they were born to a non-Jewish mother.

But they are immigrating to Israel…

Here they will absorb Judaism whether they want to or not.  Here they will learn the Tora and Hebrew literature. Here they will serve in the Israeli Army and perhaps even fall in defense of Israel. Here they will be converted according to Halacha if they wish, and most indeed wish it, certainly those intending to join their destiny to ours.

The Jewish people lost one third of its sons and daughters in the Holocaust, and another portion in waves of assimilation.  

The Jews can absorb another people if they want to live in our midst and take upon themselves our religion, our nationality.

Many will do thus, willingly, sooner or later. Most will do it sooner.
Judaism is not racist; it takes into its ranks ? lovingly, freely, without coercion ? whoever chooses of his own free will to join this congregation and adopt the obligations of conversion.

It is therefore a serious mistake that Absorption Minister Rabbi Ytizhak Peretz has committed by raising a stormy, raucous argument about the Jewishness of immigrants from Russia.

Instead of opening hearts to all those arriving, displaying the pleasantness of our Jewish faith, opening up for them the Gates of Heaven at the same time as we open the gates to our Land, he drives them away from us, and distances himself from most of Israel, which desires this immigration with all its heart and might.

We must, in this matter, voice praise for Agudat Yisrael and Rabbi Menhem Porush, who declared, also publicly, our obligation to absorb every immigrant from the Soviet Union without classificaation, reservation or seletion.

This he did out of the hope (which has a viable foundation) that here, in the Land of the Jews, even those who are not Jewish will become Jewish.

Peretz should rethink his stand. There is no need more Jewish than this…

(The writer is Labor MK and a professor of political science)

Israel pressures Holland to deport 100 “Jews” back to Israel

Maurits Kopuit
Jewish Chronicle (UK)
20 Dec. 1991

A group of 51 former Soviet citizens, who arrived in Holland three months ago after leaving Israel, were went back to the Jewish State in handcuffs on Monday.

Most of the group claimed that they had been discriminated against in Israel because they said they were not Jewish. On this basis, they had asked to be granted political asylum in Holland.

The Dutch government, which receives 22,000 asylum requests a year, said the group wanted to make Holland its home purely for economic reasons.

Pictures of people being deported by the police evoked memories of the Second World War. Depute Minister of Justice Ad Kosto said that he never thought he would see the day when he would have to deport people to Israel. Israel said that the deportees would be given all the rights afforded to new immigrants.

Zionist activist fears that Russian Jews will determine their own future

Joseph Millis
Jewish Chronicle (UK)
9 Oct. 1992

Russian Jews need “Western help to create organisations?

Veteran Mizrachi activist Arieh Handler, who has been active on Soviet-Jewish issues for more than 40 years, was in the Russian capital to attend a conference of Jewish Agency emissaries.

He said that, depending on how one determined “who is a Jew”, there were between two million and six million Jews in the countries of the former USSR.

“We must help them find their Jewish identity, so that the chances of their going to Israel increase,” he said, adding that he believed that otherwise, many thousands of Jews from the former USSR would seek to settle instead in other countries ? notably Germany ? in the next few years.