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Immigration

Solidarity, Nationalism and Humanism – on the Question of Immigration

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By Avi Diskin

The question of immigration is part and parcel of the basic societal dilemmas which we call, in the current context, the dilemma of “solidarity limits.” National solidarity is not only a practical and appropriate solution but is also an idea which is a suitable companion to basic liberal rights and freedoms such as the right for self-definition and the right of free association.

The currently most accepted and stable limits of solidarity are the borders of sovereign nations in general and the borders of nation-states specifically. Countries are characterized by territorial limits and by the sovereignty they apply to the territory they control. It is this sovereignty which is decisive in immigration issues. International agreements and the principles of basic morality require countries to help refugees — especially those running for their lives — but in principle leave the formalities of immigration to the various sovereign nations. Countries are not required to grant refugees citizenship or even integrate them into society; they are only required to prevent the refugee’s extradition to places which represent a danger to life. All countries apply selection criteria for immigration and in many countries these tests center around the country’s national identity and the identity of those seeking to immigrate.

Both theoretically and practically, Woodrow Wilson’s liberal philosophy about the right to self-identification was exceptional. This right finds expression in the immigration policies of many countries. The idea of self-identification also was expressed in the foundation of the League of Nations, and while the League recognized the right of the Jewish people to define its own identity and to found a national home for the Jews, it is undoubtedly true that this recognition was the fruit of efforts by the Zionist movement.

At the center of the Zionist ideal is the founding of a national home for the Jews in the land of Israel. The Zionist ideal therefore places immigration of Jews to Israel as a central organizing principle. Anti-Zionist agents would refuse both the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel and the right of a Jewish state to exist. Both Zionists and anti-Zionists connect the rights of immigration and the existence of the State of Israel.

After the foundation of the State the Zionist ideal was expressed in the Law of Return and in citizenship laws. Challenging these laws means challenging the right of the State of Israel to exist. Laws like the Law of Return exist in many liberal-democratic countries, and attempts to challenge them in only the State of Israel are an aberration from what is accepted as ideal and as common practice.

The results of the War of Independence, the Israeli immigration laws, and the Jews’ longing to return to the land fulfilled the Zionist ideal in two ways. First, the clear and stable majority of Israeli citizens are Jews. Second, the percentage of worldwide Jews living in Israel is steadily growing.

A comparison of immigration statistics shows that nationality does have an influence in some countries. For example, similar vocabularies and a feeling of pan-Arabic nationalism explain immigration patterns within Arab countries. On the whole, though, the main variable in immigration patterns is an economic one. Modern theories emphasize the importance of degradation and social distance alongside economics as factors leading to emigration.

The triangle of nation-state, democratic regime, and immigration policy has accompanied Zionism since its earliest days. Jews have been persecuted for being Jews throughout the diaspora. Zionism strove to solve the Jewish problem in every single place by establishing a nation-state to which Jews from the whole disapora would immigrate. Since the Zionist enterprise began, the Zionist leadership and the Zionist majority championed the establishment of a democratic nation-state which would continue the work of ingathering. The overwhelming assumption of the Zionist leadership was that the state which would be established would be a Jewish and democratic state, a nation-state of all its citizens. The attempt to create a contradiction between these two elements, in the context of immigration or in any other context, is neither correct nor ethical. It denies Zionist philosophy, distorts the international experience of the modern era, and stands in contradiction to the political, practical, and judicial reality in the State of Israel. The claim of a universal right to immigration and a universal requirement to integrate immigrants is baseless — morally, legally, and practically — both in Israel and in every other country.

To the full position paper (in hebrew)

Jewish National Home

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The State of Israel as the National Home of the Jewish People

Dubi Helman & Adi Arbel

Executive Summary

Read The IZS Proposal Summary

 

The State of Israel was established as a Jewish state.  This is clear from the terms of the League of Nations Mandate to establish a Jewish Homeland, from the UN Charter (which assumed responsibility for and continued this Mandate), from the UN Resolution of November 29, 1947 calling for the establishment of Jewish and Arab states, and from Israel’s Declaration of Independence (quoted below).

 

Israel’s character and behavior have always manifested its mission as a Jewish Homeland and the vast majority of Israelis have always so regarded their Country.  However, a small group of intellectuals have been advocating a radical liberal form of democracy which would elevate the ideal of absolute equality among all groups above all other democratic values (such as national self-determination, majority rule, liberty,  and civil rights).  This view has infiltrated the decisions of the Supreme Court whose members are  appointed by a committee dominated by sitting Supreme Court judges without any ratification process.

 

Recently, leaders of the Israeli Arab population have issued calls for the conversion of Israel into a bi-national state without any connection to the Jewish people or culture.

 

Because of this radical liberal influence and the court decisions undermining the Zionist foundations of the State, because of the direct challenge to the Jewish character of the state by central elements of the Israeli Arab leadership, because the Arabs outside of Israel still refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state despite Israel’s insistence; it is imperative that Israel enact a Basic Law setting forth clearly that Israel is a Jewish state and the Nation Homeland of the Jewish people, and defining explicitly its Jewish character and mission.

 

 

The State of Israel as the National Home of the Jewish People[1]

 

 

“As of Natural Right” – Introduction

 

“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped… Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland… In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.

 

This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home…

 

… On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel… This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

 

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State…”

(From: The Declaration of Independence, 5708, 1948)

 

“By Virtue of Natural Right” – Background

The State of Israel was established as a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, by virtue of the historical connection between the Nation of Israel and its land and by the recognition and approval of the nations of the world.  In the  Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, the new State was defined by the members of the National Council[2] as the National Home[3] of the Jewish People and the foundations were laid to ensure that it would be a Jewish State with a democratic government.[4] During the sixty years of the State, a wide acceptance of this definition has prevailed in the Zionist public.[5]

 

As  part of the Declaration, it was determined that the elected constituent assembly would ratify a constitution within half a year of the establishment of the State.  Because of the existential wars imposed on the State of Israel since its birth and because of  political disagreements (many of them partisan), Israel has remained until today without a constitution.  Because of this, the State of Israel’s legal character as the National Home of the Jewish People was never explicitly delineated, leaving us only with the general principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.

 

In the past, the State’s status as National Home for the Jewish People was never questioned: it was obvious to the public and to the authorities, including the Judiciary.  Practical manifestation of the Jewish status of the state can be seen in the very name of the State and from a multitude of laws such as the Flag, Symbol and Anthem Law 5709-1949; the Independence Law 5709-1949; the Law of Return 5710-1950 (which grants each Jew with the right to immigrate to Israel); the Work and Rest Hours Law 5711-1951 (which adopts the Sabbath and Jewish Holidays as days of rest); laws that institutionalize the cooperation between the State of Israel and the National Institutions of the Jewish People, and many more.  Additionally, the State of Israel initiated programs and invested resources for the welfare of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, including: the promoting of Aliya to the Land of Israel, programs to bring Jews to the Galilee, assisting in the Aliya of Ethiopian Jewry, supporting Jewish Zionist education, memorializing the Holocaust, and others.

 

In recent years, a back-peddling trend has developed, which weakens the position of the State of Israel as the National Home of the Jewish People. The State of Israel, which was established as a Jewish State with a democratic form of government, would be turned into a liberal-democratic country with Jewish characteristics only to the extent that these characteristics do not contradict the principle of absolute equality among all groups.  This radical liberal approach regards strict and absolute adherence to rigid and ubiquitous equality as the exclusive supreme value in a democratic society.  The only acceptable substantive[6] departure from this all pervasive and supreme equality allowed to the Jewish people is the “special house key given to members of the Jewish People”[7], in other words, The Law of Return, 5710-1950.  But inside this house-within Israel-one must treat Jews and Arabs, as individuals and as a collective,identically.

 

This radical liberal interpretation has not been generally adopted by Western democracies which also regard other fundamental principles such as liberty,  civil rights, and majority rule as primary elements of democratic rule.  Moreover, preference of the founding national group is a common feature of some of our strongest democracies[8].  This elevation of equality by the back-peddlers to an exclusive supreme value in Israel would deny the Jewish people its right to self-determination, seriously distorts democratic principles, violates the intention of the founding fathers, and thwarts legitimate majority rule.  It leads to the warped conclusion that all laws contributing to the Jewish character of Israel are undemocratic (except for now, the Law of Return) and must therefore be annulled.

 

Time to Act

 

The emergence of this Jewish self-denial and back-peddling soon lead to an Arab call for the de-judaization of the Jewish state.  In 2006, the National Board of Arab Regional Councils published is future vision for Palestinian Arabs in Israel[9].  This vision rejects the Declaration of Independence and calls for a bi-national state.[10]

 

The Arabs, according to the wording of their manifesto, claim citizenship in the State of Israel but they eschew any loyalty to that state as actually established, developed, and internationally recognized.[11]  Indeed they fervently espouse a vision which is not only different: it is mutually exclusive.

 

Because of this internal confusion about the Jewish character of the state on the part of a very small but very influential minority of the Jews in Israel; because of the direct challenge to the Jewish character of the state by recent Supreme Court decisions; because of the direct challenge to the Jewish character of the state by certain elements of the leadership of the Arabs in Israel; because the Arabs outside of Israel still refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state despite Israel’s insistence;[12] it is imperative that Israel enact a Basic Law setting forth clearly that Israel is a Jewish state and the Nation Homeland of the Jewish people, and defining explicitly its Jewish character and mission.

 

 

[1]                    This material is extracted and modified from a position paper of the Institute for Zionist Strategies submitted submitted

by Dubi Helman and Adi Arbel

[2]     The Declaration of the State of Israel was signed by the members of the National Council, which was constituted of representatives of the entire Jewish population of that time, including Communist and Haredi representatives.

[3]     The term “National Home” is believed to have stemmed from the Zionist platform that was defined in the First Zionist Congress in Basel, 5657-1897: The goal of Zionism is “establishing a National Home for the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, which is to be protected by International Law…” (For more details in Hebrew, see http://www.knesset.gov.il/lexicon/heb/herzl_ben.htm).

[4]     While Israel is not defined or described as a democracy in the Declaration of Independence, democratic governmental precepts are delineated.  For example “The State of Israel… will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”

[5]     Public awareness of the Declaration of Independence was reinforced during the sixtieth year of the State due to an initiative by the Young Leadership Forum of the Institute for Zionist Strategies, in an attempt to have each of the members of Knesset re-sign the Declaration of Independence. Ninety MKs re-signed the Declaration.

[6]     “Substantive” as opposed to symbolic expressions such as the anthem, to which there are those who object to its being recognized as a representative anthem of the citizens of the State.  Not all of the back peddlers agree to this exception.

[7]     See the words of former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak in the Supreme Court ruling 6698/95, Aadal Kadan et al v. The Israel Land Administration. Ruling 54 (1).

[8]     See Golovensky and Gilboa, 36 Azure, page 28 (and footnote 18, citing Yakobsen and Rubinstein, Israel and the Family of Nations.

[9]     The Future Vision For Palestinian Arabs in Israel, the Regional Board for Arab Council Heads, 2006.http://www.mossawacenter.org/files/files/File/Reports/2006/Future%20Vision%20(English).pdf. This was soon followed by other similar proposals by three Israeli Arab organizations.

[10]    The mission statement clearly states: “The definition of the State as a Jewish State and the usage of democracy to further its Jewish nature excludes us and places us in conflict with the nature and essence of the state in which we live.  Therefore, we demand a consociationalism democratic government which will enable us… to ensure our national, historical, civil, individual and collective rights.”, and “In the center of the collective-national equality we demand for Palestinian Arabs, we request a basic principle, that is the full and real equal partnership, as individuals and as a group, in all of the public resources of the State: the political, the material, and the symbolic.”

 

[11]    The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, November 29, 1947 called for the establishment of  “independent  Arab and Jewish States” in Palestine.  The recognition of Israel by the United States reads as follows: ” The government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof.  The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new state of Israel.”                              “.

[12]    Two US presidents have now publicly and explicitly called for a Palestinian state to be established which would recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The Status of Arabic in the State of Israel

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Abstract

An analysis of the current legal situation

Dr. Aviad Bakshi

It is commonly assumed that there are two official languages in Israel: Hebrew and Arabic. This assumption is not merely an academic theory, but serves as the basis for efforts to strengthen the status of Arabic as a language to be used for public purposes. In other words, many who are under the impression that Arabic has the legal status of an official language seek to maintain it as such.

The purpose of this document is to clarify for decision makers the current legal situation governing Arabic in Israel. This will enable them to make an informed and balanced decision concerning its future status. After the legal ramifications of an official language presented, it will be evident that Arabic is not an official language in Israel.

The State is permitted, and sometimes obligated, to provide linguistic accessibility to government services for speakers of various languages. An official language, though, differs from linguistic accessibility to government services on an as-needed basis, in that it grants a permanent and comprehensive status to the chosen language. An official language is the language in which the government operates in every respect, with all the functional and symbolic significance entailed.

According to Article 81 of the Palestine Order in Council (on which the claim that Arabic is an official language is based), an official language is not limited to enabling citizens to access information, but is the language with which the government operates in general. The official language may be used in courts and government offices, by both the citizens, and judges and officials. Any official government publication must be made the official language(s). The legislature’s choice of an official language therefore expresses a cultural choice concerning the language of government activity, and the public language in its sphere of influence, with all the derivative functional and symbolic significance.

With the establishment of the State of Israel, the Provisional State Council passed the Law and Administration Ordinance and established that any Mandate law shall continue to be in effect, provided that it does not contradict any later legislation or ruling. In light of the full definition of an official language, it would be sufficient to prove that the legislature denied Arabic such a status in a number of key instances to demonstrate that the legislature does not see Arabic as an official language.

The preference of Hebrew as an exclusive official language can be seen from later Israeli legislation, such as: the Criminal Law Procedure Regulations, the Military Justice Law, the Civil Law Procedure Regulations, the Israel Bar Association Law, the Israel Nationality Law, the Planning and Building Law, the Knesset Elections Law, the Physicians’ Ordinance amendment. In contrast with the legislation that gives preference to Hebrew, some Israeli legislation grants equal status to Arabic (and sometimes Yiddish and Russian as well): the Mandatory Tender Regulations, the Television Broadcasts from the Knesset law, the Second Authority for Television and Radio law, the Arabic Language Academy law, and the Films Act. This legislation is generally intended to increase access to information for Arabic speakers, rather than as a symbolic cultural statement.

In light of the all encompassing characteristics of an official language, it is clear that Arabic does have a defined legal status in certain specific legal areas, but that the status of an official language originally granted by Article 82 has long ceased to exist.

The facts parallel the legal situation: Arabic’s status is complex, or more accurately, inconsistent. At times it appears that Arabic has some special status, and at times, it does not. Since, if Arabic were indeed an official language, the government would be required to conduct all its affairs bilingually, we confidently conclude that as a matter of practice, the only official language in the State of Israel is Hebrew.

The question of the status of the Arabic language in relation to the Hebrew language has been raised in the Supreme Court a number of times. A comparison of its rulings from the earlier decades of the State and those beginning in the nineties shows considerable modification. In its earlier rulings, the Court refused to grant Arabic any official status even when legislation explicitly required the use of the Arabic language. In the nineties, the court began to issue rulings that limited the exclusive status of the Hebrew language. For example, in the Kestenbaum case, the court disqualified a ruling that forbade the use of foreign letters alongside Hebrew letters on a private tombstone, but stated that in and of itself, the government’s ability to obligate an individual to use Hebrew was legitimate.  In the Romm case, it ruled that an individual could not be legally compelled to make use of Hebrew, but no demand should be made of the government to use Arabic, for example on street signs. In the Adalah case it ruled that local governments in which the Arab minority is more than 6% are obligated to have all street signs in Arabic, but it ruled that the government could not be prevented from marking Hebrew writing next to the Arabic.

The above is concerning the functional status of Arabic in relation Hebrew. But regarding the recognition of Arabic as an official language with an effective status, the Court’s rulings have seen almost no change throughout the years. Even Chief Justice Barak’s Supreme Court, which greatly advanced the status of Arabic in the Israeli public, refrained from basing a ruling on the claim that Arabic was an official language. One of the most telling examples is the refusal of the Supreme Court to issue a ruling in the appeal of Adalah in 2002, in which the organization sought to allow court proceedings in Arabic. (An exception to the above can be found in a ruling of Justice Durner, but she was in the minority.)

In summary, later legislation has invalidated Article 82, and policy and rulings in Israel have granted the status of official language only to Hebrew. Therefore, any legislation that would grant Arabic official language would not be maintaining an existing status quo, but would be a dramatic change with far ranging consequences

Concerning the proposed Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State for the Jewish People

 

Countries that have more than one official language are dual- or multi-national countries, which Israel is not. The proposed law, which includes a legal right to linguistic accessibility in Arabic and a “special status,” is far more than that which is granted to minorities in Western countries such as the United States, France, Germany, Italy, and other Western democracies.

For the full paper (in Hebrew)

Israel, the Jewish nation, and Judaism

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By Prof. David A. Frankel

Judaism is more than just a religion. Judaism is a way of life based on loyalty to the nation, to its values and history. To be a Jew means to belong to the Jewish people, to the Jewish nation. There is a difference between belonging to a people or nation and identification with a country. The notion of a nation is deeper than that of a country. A person may be a citizen of several countries, but he cannot be part of more than one nation.

The establishment of the State of Israel blurred the concepts and led to misunderstanding by many, as Israeli citizenship does not necessarily equate to membership in the Jewish people. At the same time, at its founding the State of Israel was declared to be the state of the Jewish people and it is primarily defined as a Jewish and democratic state. This definition is also grounded in the country’s Basic Laws. One of the results of these blurred lines is that the country’s character must embrace Judaism in its widest sense.

There are three basic principles, three fundamental characteristics to Judaism and the Jewish people: 1. Pure monotheism, 2. Historical continuity and national memory, 3. Jerusalem, and the land of Israel around it, as the central point of the nation. To strengthen the connection between the disparate portions of the Jewish people, scattered across the face of the globe with ties between them bound to weaken, our sages emphasized three distinct signs: language, the Sabbath, and mythology. The Hebrew language remained the language of prayer. The Sabbath remained the weekly day of rest, and to bolster it various prohibitions were enacted. The mythology, the Scriptural stories, became the spiritual property of every Jewish child everywhere. Thus did the Jewish people experience and emphasize their unique nature among nations.

Despite that classic approach, there have been those who sought to encourage Jews to fully integrate into their places of residence in the diaspora. Various movements and trends blurred the unique characteristics of the Jewish nation, and, in the end, led to the loss of a great deal of the nation. The establishment of the Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and the liberation of Jerusalem, led to a flourishing of nationalism amongst great swaths of the Jewish people.

And yet there are those who still seek to negate the existence of a Jewish people by aiming at significant nationalist symbols: reducing the status of the Hebrew language, abandoning the Bible, damaging the status of the Sabbath, belittling the Jewish holidays, etc. It can be feared that in light of this reality, within a generation or two the historic, cultural, spiritual, national, and even linguistic connection of residents of the State of Israel to the Jewish people will be similar to the connection between residents of modern Greece to ancient Greece or of Italians to ancient Rome.

The State of Israel is not like all other states. In order to safeguard its existence and continuity, and so to safeguard the existence and continuity of the Jewish nation, we must understand that the establishment of the state specifically in the Land of Israel was both a necessity and a result of our existence as a people. In order for the state to be Jewish, as announced in the declaration of independence, and not just a state in which Jews may live, it must steadfastly maintain the fundamentals of the nation, principles like increasing the usage of the Hebrew language, Jewish cultural and literary heritage, history, lifestyle, festivals and holidays, and the centrality of anything connected to the principles of the Jewish people. The state must acknowledge that it is the nationalist-political center of the Jewish nation.

to the full position paper (in Hebrew)

From a distance: what’s the connection between the infiltrators, the housing crisis, and society’s status gap?

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By Ayal Gabbai and Ro’i Yelnick

A new position paper by Ayal Gabbai, former director of the prime minister’s office, and Ro’i Yelnick, an Institute researcher, presents the existential problems which are created by the infiltration of foreigners into Israel. The paper raises significant questions which must be asked and offers practical solutions.

The housing crisis – Currently (2014) there are somewhere between 40,000-60,000 infiltrators in Israel. Most live in extreme conditions: four to six people in one apartment. Their conditions impact the Israeli population and create a housing crisis – in recent years tens of thousands of apartments have been occupied by the infiltrators.

Education and welfare – The main challenge facing the educational system is what and how to teach the foreign student and whether they are to be considered permanent students or transient. The problems compound because the main burdens (welfare, education, and health) fall on already weakened regions, cities, and government infrastructures. Many of the infiltrators live in south Tel Aviv, Eilat, and Arad, none of which are swimming in resources.

Beyond presenting the problem, Gabbai and Yelnick discuss the identity of the infiltrators – do they immigrate for work purposes or are they refugees fleeing for their lives? According to Gabbai and Yelnick, there are organizations which take advantage of the phenomenon in order to destroy Israel’s character as a Jewish state and try to turn the country into a state of all its residents.
Gabbai and Yelnick suggest a number of possible solutions:

  • Take a definitive stance on how to treat women and children who are stopped at the border, in Israeli territory, and suffer from hunger and thirst. What should be done about an infiltrator who attempts to breach the border fence? What means can be used to stop him – rubber bullets, tear gas, other means?
  • Create a feeling amongst potential infiltrators that Israel is not a place to which they should emigrate. This feeling can be created by sentencing infiltrators to long jail sentences and preventing infiltrators from working and earning money.
  • Establish holding camps which will allow the country to achieve two goals: in gathering the infiltrators the country can fulfill its humanitarian obligation while preventing their earning a living in the country. Another way to make Israel less attractive to infiltrators is the threat of returning them to their home countries. There are those who would mock a plane returning 300 infiltrators to their homes, for there are tens of thousands of infiltrators, but the sight of such a plane would have an enormous mental impact, and it is important to understand and to make it clear that the point is not only to be rid of the infiltrators currently in the country but also to stop the flood of infiltrations.

The question of immigration is part and parcel of the basic societal dilemmas which we call, in the current context, the dilemma of “solidarity limits.” National solidarity is not only a practical and appropriate solution but is also an idea which is a suitable companion to basic liberal rights and freedoms such as the right for self-definition and the right of free association.

The currently most accepted and stable limits of solidarity are the borders of sovereign nations in general and the borders of nation-states specifically. Countries are characterized by territorial limits and by the sovereignty they apply to the territory they control. It is this sovereignty which is decisive in immigration issues. International agreements and the principles of basic morality require countries to help refugees — especially those running for their lives — but in principle leave the formalities of immigration to the various sovereign nations. Countries are not required to grant refugees citizenship or even integrate them into society; they are only required to prevent the refugee’s extradition to places which represent a danger to life. All countries apply selection criteria for immigration and in many countries these tests center around the country’s national identity and the identity of those seeking to immigrate.

Both theoretically and practically, Woodrow Wilson’s liberal philosophy about the right to self-identification was exceptional. This right finds expression in the immigration policies of many countries. The idea of self-identification also was expressed in the foundation of the League of Nations, and while the League recognized the right of the Jewish people to define its own identity and to found a national home for the Jews, it is undoubtedly true that this recognition was the fruit of efforts by the Zionist movement.

At the center of the Zionist ideal is the founding of a national home for the Jews in the land of Israel. The Zionist ideal therefore places immigration of Jews to Israel as a central organizing principle. Anti-Zionist agents would refuse both the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel and the right of a Jewish state to exist. Both Zionists and anti-Zionists connect the rights of immigration and the existence of the State of Israel.

After the foundation of the State the Zionist ideal was expressed in the Law of Return and in citizenship laws. Challenging these laws means challenging the right of the State of Israel to exist. Laws like the Law of Return exist in many liberal-democratic countries, and attempts to challenge them in only the State of Israel are an aberration from what is accepted as ideal and as common practice.

The results of the War of Independence, the Israeli immigration laws, and the Jews’ longing to return to the land fulfilled the Zionist ideal in two ways. First, the clear and stable majority of Israeli citizens are Jews. Second, the percentage of worldwide Jews living in Israel is steadily growing.

A comparison of immigration statistics shows that nationality does have an influence in some countries. For example, similar vocabularies and a feeling of pan-Arabic nationalism explain immigration patterns within Arab countries. On the whole, though, the main variable in immigration patterns is an economic one. Modern theories emphasize the importance of degradation and social distance alongside economics as factors leading to emigration.

The triangle of nation-state, democratic regime, and immigration policy has accompanied Zionism since its earliest days. Jews have been persecuted for being Jews throughout the diaspora. Zionism strove to solve the Jewish problem in every single place by establishing a nation-state to which Jews from the whole disapora would immigrate. Since the Zionist enterprise began, the Zionist leadership and the Zionist majority championed the establishment of a democratic nation-state which would continue the work of ingathering. The overwhelming assumption of the Zionist leadership was that the state which would be established would be a Jewish and democratic state, a nation-state of all its citizens. The attempt to create a contradiction between these two elements, in the context of immigration or in any other context, is neither correct nor ethical. It denies Zionist philosophy, distorts the international experience of the modern era, and stands in contradiction to the political, practical, and judicial reality in the State of Israel. The claim of a universal right to immigration and a universal requirement to integrate immigrants is baseless — morally, legally, and practically — both in Israel and in every other country.

For the full position paper (in Hebrew)

Refugees (?) in Israel

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On the Legal Status of the African Immigrants in Israel

By Nir Amran

The Israeli public has been intensely occupied with the arrival in Israel of many African immigrants and refugees over the past decade, their sojourn here, and the obligation of the State toward them, but it seems as though the public debate is missing something and that before our eyes it is falling into the typical pattern of polarity in which cookie-cutter opposing arguments clash. This is especially clear in the debate about the infiltrators’ legal status; each side “bases” its argument on a variety of concepts and ideas – briefly reviewed in this paper- and although most are indeed connected to this complex issue, they are used in a mix-and-match fashion and not always in the proper context.

The purpose of this paper is to summarize the base for claims about the status of infiltrators as seen in international law and expressed in Israeli law and to show the complexity of this legal issue. This document does not try to arbitrate between the claims, only to uncover the correct origins and contexts of concepts drawn from the world of international law and to raise practical questions about their implementation. The document also draws attention to the legal issues which arise from the geo-political and security aspects of the subject.

Special emphasis is placed on the use of legal sources — primary and secondary, learned publications and the work of publicists, and even news items from the press and the internet — to expand and enhance the public debate. These sources are brought to the readers’ attention at the end of the document.

In the conclusion possible plans of action are presented which are based on the rationale behind international and Israeli laws and which support Israel’s desire to find a solution which will be both humane and in keeping with the goals of preserving the country’s Jewish character and social stability.

For the full analysis piece (in Hebrew)

Non-citizen Foreigners in Israel

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Ariel Finkelstein

The phenomenon of non-citizen foreigners living inIsrael has gained widespread recognition because of the infiltrations on the Israeli southern border. Even so, it seems that the public discourse is deficient and is often influenced by manipulation and incomplete data. The purpose of this document is to summarize and organize the primary data and opinions on this topic and serve as a basis for a serious, productive discussion leading to policy. This document will not propose such policy; it will only present the facts and opinions of the various parties to the public discourse. Effort has been made to present the widest set of facts and a variety of opinions and their roots, with no attempt to reach a conclusion.

The document refers to three main groups of non-citizen foreigners in Israel:

1. Infiltrators: Foreigners who have illegally entered Israel on the Egyptian border and who were caught at the border or within the country.

2. Foreign workers: This group is sub-divided in two – foreign workers with valid work permits and foreign workers who entered Israel with valid work permits which have since expired.

3. Tourists without valid permits: Foreigners from underdeveloped countries who entered Israel as tourists and stayed without valid permits. It is thought that most of them work illegally.

The document shows that according to official statistics there are currently some 55,000 infiltrators in Israel and another 93,000 tourists without valid permits. There is debate about the number of foreign workers: the Population and Immigration Authority claims there are some 85,000 foreign workers in Israel while the Central Bureau of Statistics has the group at 110,000 strong.

The infiltrators have come almost entirely from African nations and the absolute majority is male: 85% of this group are adult males and the rest women and children. In contrast, the tourists without valid permits and the foreign workers are mainly citizens of Asiatic and Eastern European countries, evenly divided in terms of gender: some 52% are male and 48% female.

Beyond the statistics about non-citizen foreigners, this document presents the current arguments in Israeli discourse. The document presents the legal, moral, criminal, and medical basis of the public debate over the infiltrators and their absorption. Amongst the claims discussed: Is Israel obligated by the UN Charter to consider the infiltrators refugees? Is the crime rate amongst the infiltrators higher than normal? Do they represent a security threat? Do they represent a medical threat to the rest of the population? The document also presents the various claims about the economic impact of foreign workers and the question of whether their employment leads to unemployment for Israelis. Public discourse does not include any reference to tourists without valid permits, so the various claims about this group’s status are not presented here.

To The Survey of Data and Opinions (December 2014)

The time has come to terminate the activity of UNRWA

By | Immigration | No Comments

By Nir Amran[i]

Throughout THE Protective Edge Campaign (July-August 2014), the Israeli public was exposed to media reports concerning numerous shooting incidents by Hamas from UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) facilities and compounds, such places that by definition are supposed to be neutral, for example:  schools, clinics, offices and humanitarian detention centers and shelters.  Also uncovered, was the fact that the UNRWA offices served as storage places for weapons, explosives and missiles belonging to Hamas, thus endangering  the lives of the very Palestinians most in need of the  Agency services.  Upon discovery, these weapons and ammunition were returned to “the local authorities”.

Much data has been collected over the years by the Israeli security forces, as well as during previous military operations such as Pillar of Defense and Cast Lead, corroborating an existing link between the Agency and anti-Israeli aggressive activity, especially terrorism.  Ever since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2006, the Agency has become a kind of executive branch of Hamas, employing many of the terrorist organization’s own people.

It is very likely that once the new Government in Jerusalem takes office, the peace discussions will resume – with the USA, Europe and Egypt acting as mediators – tackling some of Hamas’ “long term” demands – those that were set aside previously as “too tough to crack at the present time”.  Examples of the issues to be negotiated are Hamas’ demand that a sea port be built, the setting free of additional Palestinian prisoners and the opening up the border crossings completely.  Israel, on its part, will presumably demand a complete demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, and the close and effective supervision of goods and donated funds entering it.

This is the opportune moment for the Israeli side to raise yet another important demand, one which is not wholly new:  in light of the hard evidence the Israeli defense forces now possess proving the corruptibility of the Agency for Palestine Refugees, and the fact that it bears responsibility for significant terrorist activity – the activity of UNWRA in Judea and Samaria and Gaza must be terminated.

Such a demand at the present time, could serve as a valuable lever in renewing the process that began in wake of the Oslo Accords (and later suspended): a process intended to terminate UNRWA’s activity in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and to transfer its authority to the PA (the Palestinian Authority).

If such a demand were made by Israel at the present time, it would have a good chance of being accepted, since it is in the common interest of both Israel and the PA, and would also benefit the mediators – Egypt, Europe and the USA.  The mediators are interested in weakening Hamas, and have already expressed their basic consent (in the past) to transfer some of the funds donated each year to UNRWA to the PA instead[ii] in the interest of  strengthening PA leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).  Mr Abbas is perceived by these mediators and by many others in the international political arena to be a pragmatic and moderate leader.  It is also possible that as a result of this move, the leadership of Hamas would be weakened further, and that the Palestinian Authority would be able to regain control of Gaza.

Effecting this change will be a significant step in the long-term objective of both Israel and others: bringing about the termination of the unique and exceptional mandate given to UNRWA to deal with the Palestine refugees of 1948 – a mission it has failed to achieve any success over the past 65 years.  It is a well-known fact that, over the years, UNRWA has chosen to attack Israel by means of political and terror-supporting activity rather than concentrating its focus and efforts on finding a solution for the distress of the refugees, e.g. by helping them settle down and obtain citizenship and fair treatment in their various countries of residence.  Such a results would go far to help resolve the conflict.

The current situation, outlined delineated below, presents the international community with a window of opportunity to bring about the end of UNRWA’s harmful activity in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, followed perhaps by similar actions in other countries in which it is active.

To the full paper (Hebrew)

[i] Nir Amran is a doctoral student in the Department for Conflict Resolution, Management and Negotiation at Bar Ilan University.  Following his law studies at Bar Ilan (M.A. Legal Studies), he wrote a thesis titled “Who is a refugee?  The definition of a refugee in international law and how it can be implemented in the State of Israel”, which also examined the legal aspects of the ties between the State of Israel and UNRWA.

[ii] The relative portion, intended for refugees in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, of the overall sum of monies and good transferred to the Agency for the benefit of refugees in all the regions in which it is active, namely: Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Gaza and Judea and Samaria.

“Ethnic-Based Duplication in the Israeli Rabbinate”

By | Immigration, Religion and State | No Comments

By Ariel Finkelstein

The ingathering of the Jewish people during the 20th century has led to a significant change in the role of the rabbinate. Up until that period the custom had been for one rabbi, called the Mara D’Atra(lord of the place), to be appointed for each community or city. The 1911 appointment of two rabbis – one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi – for the city of Jaffa and the 1921 appointment of two chief rabbis created the ethnic-based duplication customary to this day in the chief rabbinate and in many cities, townships, and regions.

This position paper surveys the historical development of the laws, regulations and legal rulings dealing with ethnic-based duplication in the chief and local rabbinates and raises three main problems caused by the duplication:

  1. Maintenance of the ethnic-based split: The basis for the duplication rests in the need of different ethnicities for a rabbi identified with their own group, but from the very foundation of the chief rabbinate it was hoped that the need for ethnic-based duplication would rapidly disappear. It is difficult to find any indication of whether the need still exists, but from claims made by committees which have discussed the issue, by members of Knesset from all parts of the political spectrum, and by important rabbis, it seems clear that in the year 2014 there is no longer any real need for two rabbis from different ethnic groups. The increased number of inter-ethnic marriages creates a situation in which the Supreme Court will be forced, in the not-too-distant future, to decide who is to be considered Ashkenazi and who Sephardi. At the same time, the ethnic-based duplication ignores some ethnicities, such as the Yemenites who see themselves as neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardi. From the very founding of the country representatives of the Yemenite community argued that the duplication should be eliminated and that a single rabbi be appointed without consideration of his ethnic background.
  2. Reduced functionality:  In both the Jewish and the democratic traditions it is accepted that there cannot be two kings sharing the same crown, and therefore each role which includes a decision-making component is filled by only one person. Experience shows that in many cities – and often even within the chief rabbinate – having two rabbis serve at the same time leads to disputes and even to discord between the rabbis, a situation which negatively impacts the religious services given to residents (for example, in kashrut divisions).
  3. Financial burden on religious councils: Religious council budgets are set with no thought to the number of rabbis serving in the city. In 2001 the State comptroller noted that religious councils in local authorities and in the smaller cities are finding it hard to shoulder the financial burden of two rabbis’ salaries. Statistics show that rabbinical salaries in jurisdictions with two rabbis run more than a million NIS on average. For more than 60% of such jurisdictions this represents more than 30% of the religious council budget.

The State comptroller, a number of professional committees over the past two decades, former chief rabbis, and many Knesset members have called for a substantial reduction and even the complete elimination of ethnic-based duplication of rabbinical positions. In 2003 the government issued a decision on the matter, but nothing practical came of it. An analysis of the issue shows that as far as local rabbinates are concerned, the central force for leaving the matter as it stands is sectarian calculations of political parties, who have an interest in appointing as many partisan rabbis as they can. Therefore the situation persists despite the relative consensus amongst the various professional bodies.

to the full position paper (in Hebrew)

The Conversion Crisis in Israel

By | Immigration, nation state, Religion and State | No Comments

Ariel Finkelstein

As a result of the opening of the immigration floodgates over the past two decades, there are currently some 318,000 citizens of Israel classified as without religion or as Christians who identify with the Jewish majority. Within 15 years that number will reach approximately 400,000. This situation creates problems and challenges for the State of Israel, both in terms of the specific citizens’ personal statuses and in national terms.

Even though following the 2008 recommendations of the Halfon Committee on conversion Israel has invested great resources in the official conversion mechanism and despite the natural increase in candidates for conversion, there has been a decrease in the number of converts over the past few years. Even before this, the number of converts had been below expectations.

Surveys show that most immigrants who are potential converts do not even consider the option, for two main reasons: a lack of basic motivation to convert and the policies and administration of the conversion courts. One-third of immigrants who do start the conversion process never finish it.

The State Comptroller’s latest report points to a series of problems in the courts: on the administrative level the report speaks of many failures such as a shortage of mohels and of mikvahs, delays in issuing conversion certificates, illegally charging converts for the process, not staffing the position of conversion system supervisor, and the tardiness with which judges arrive at hearings. More significant problems were found on the strategic level: the State Comptroller has claimed that the conversion division operated without defined work plans and without consistent oversight. Another significant problem raised by the report is that much of the division’s budget went to funding Jewish identity projects though fewer than half the program graduates went on to convert. The report also showed that the government decisions to create a ministerial committee about conversion and the call for distance learning courses for converts were never implemented.

Beyond the technical and strategic problems existing in the conversion courts, the main obstacle to those seeking conversion is the halachic demand that converts fully accept the obligation to fulfill all the commandments. This ruling is upheld by a majority of religious judges, but rabbis who have been involved in conversions have presented more lenient approaches. Former MK Rabbi Chaim Amsalem has stated that if there is a reasonable chance the candidate will fulfill the commandments he should be allowed to convert and Rabbi Yosef Avior has stated that converts should not be required to scrupulously fulfill all 613 commandments; a minimum of Sabbath and kashrut observance, a commitment to giving their children a religious education, and commemoration of Jewish holidays ought to suffice. Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun has gone so far as to suggest that mass ritual conversion ceremonies be held, based on a process of basic Jewish education.

Two significant proposals about conversion were raised during the term of the last Knesset but never got to the stage of becoming laws. One, called the “Conversion Law,” was proposed by MK David Rotem and would have allowed city and local council rabbis to conduct conversions. It was opposed both by the Charedi parties, who feared that an increased number of rabbis authorized to conduct conversions would lead to a more lenient conversion policy, and by the Reform and Conservative movements, who argued that the law would give the Chief Rabbinate and Orthodoxy an absolute monopoly on conversion.

Another law would have normalized the status of army conversions. MK Rotem along with MK Robert Ilatov proposed the law after rabbinical court judges had questioned the conversions, but once Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef authorized army conversions, the law was no longer on the agenda. MK Rotem continued unsuccessfully to push for his law; he felt that the Chief Rabbinate could change its decision in the future and that the matter ought to be set in law.

There are other important issues in the area of conversion. Some are on the public agenda and some are currently the subjects of appeals to the High Court of Justice. These issues include the status of people converted in private rabbinical courts, the status of people converted by Orthodox practice abroad, and the authority of the Conversions Exceptions Committee, which deals with requests by foreigners to convert in Israel.

The Gavison-Medan Covenant offers a different view of conversions. According to the covenant, a new category of “joined the Jewish nation” ought to be established, with conversion to halachic standards being only one of the possibilities for membership. Gavison and Medan argue that this allows circumvention of the halachic minefield and bypasses the internal discussion of conversion in religious circles while allowing the government to see the person who is halachically non-Jewish as having a substantial connection to the Jewish people. Taken as part of the wider picture presented in the Gavison-Medan Covenant (including civil interment and civil marriages with some restrictions) we find a significant change: this process will free the Gordian knot created when the government tried to dictate its religious outlook to the rabbinical world and charges the government with the responsibility of finding answers to the problems of citizens’ personal status during life events such as burial and marriage.

to the full position paper (in Hebrew)