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Op-Ed: MK Bezalel Smotrich seeks to redefine who can be accepted as a new Israeli citizen

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MK Bezalel Smotrich | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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A proposed Knesset bill seeks to change who is permitted to make aliyah under the Law of Return. 

Currently, anyone who can prove they have at least one Jewish grandparent is granted Israeli citizenship. But Bezalel Smotrich, an MK from the Yamina party, wants the law redefined to a single Jewish parent, and says if the status quo remains, the non-Jewish population could someday overtake the state’s Jewish demographic.

By Torah law, a person is considered Jewish via matrilineal descent, though some liberal streams accept patrilineal descent. Israel also accepts Diaspora converts from Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements.

Israel’s Right of Return perversely took cues from Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws, defining a Jew as someone with at least one Jewish grandparent. It was enough for the Nazis to murder an individual; it should be enough to rescue the persecuted, reasoned Israel’s lawmakers.

The issue, according to Smotrich, is the growing number of immigrants who are non-Jewish by any denominational standards.

He said in a statement that the status quo “could cause severe assimilation in the future, endanger the continuity of the Jewish people, and cancel the Jewish majority and character of the state.”

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A historic event only exacerbated this problem. After the late 1980s Soviet liberalization policies such as Glasnost, and Perestroika, and especially following the Iron Curtain’s fall in 1989, nearly a million Russians made their way to Israel.

So long as someone could show, on paper, they had at least one Jewish grandparent, the doors swung wide open. Sometimes, though, that paperwork wasn’t always available.

So, in most instances, the Israelis just took things at face value. We were rescuing Jews, we thought, and for decades we fought hard to free them of the shackles of persecution. No one could have foreseen the flood of immigrants simply using and abusing the system.

There are countless examples, empirically, and anecdotally, where immigrants came in with forged documentation, merely to get the hell out of Russia, and into a country where they could be provided for. For seven decades, being a Jew in the USSR meant being a second-class citizen, where no one wanted to have the “J” on their passport. Suddenly, everyone was scrambling to pretend to be a Jew, as a free ticket out of squalor and breadlines.

Israeli passport - TheJ.ca | Photo: Юкатан (Wikimedia Commons)

I happen to know a non-Jewish Russian family who (easily) lied their way in, took advantage of the carpet rolled out in front of them, took all of the new aliyah freebies they could, and marked time until they could get to Canada, where their children would never be conscripted.

One would think, with such a liberal-minded and tolerant entry policy, Israel would welcome with open arms any and all Jews that are actually Jews. You would be mistaken.

In recent years, Ugandan Jews – most of whom are Torah-observant – have been denied entry or visas. Yes, Jews who act, speak, learn, and perform mitzvot, have been turned away from Israel. Two years ago, authorities refused a Ugandan Jew to learn in yeshiva.

In a similar vein, shamefully, it took decades of lobbying to allow Bene Menashe – Jews from Manipur, India – to enjoy the Right of Return. By all accounts, their connection to Judaism is strong, traditional, unwavering, and deep – a vast contrast to the immigrants who have one-eighth of a biological connection, and point-eight of a Jewish connection.

An Israeli immigration visa inside Soviet passport | Photo: Wikipedia Commons

In the meantime, Smotrich says his bill is supported by Israelis across the political and religious spectrum. However, reports note that it is not supported by the governing coalition. (Gathering enough votes to support the change is highly unlikely.) 

That’s really too bad because the logic of the argument has a parallel elsewhere.

Every straight-minded Zionist realizes that a “Palestinian Right of Return” is a non-starter to negotiations, by virtue of the fact that demographically it would inevitably change the state’s Jewish character.

This is what so many are afraid might happen if the current rules for aliyah were to continue.  

Long gone are the days when it was difficult to tell who was, or who was not a Jew; long gone are the days when, by necessity, we took people en masse at their word, be it Holocaust refugees, Jewish-Arab refugees, Ethiopians, or Soviet Jews.

But now, the law needs to change, before the demographics do.

In the interim, we should be taking all efforts to assist scattered tribes with aliyah, those who strongly identify as Jews, and who yearn to return to the Promised Land.

Chani Jos is excited to be a regular contributor to TheJ.ca, and has a lot to say about all things Jewish. She owns an electric scooter, a turtle, and wants everyone to know she just cancelled her Rogers account

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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