Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Post-Zionism: From Racism To Narcissim

Left: Israeli Interior Minister, Meir Sheetrit.

According to an Israeli cabinet communiqué, it was decided that the Interior Ministry "would issue entry visas for groups regarding conversion and the acquisition of citizenship only with government approval and in accordance with special criteria."

Addressing the governing board of the Jewish Agency, Israeli Interior Minister, Meir Sheetrit, said that funds scheduled to accommodate new Jewish immigrants to Israel should instead, be directed to helping immigrants already living in Israel.
Mr. Sheetrit said of absorbing "lost tribes" from Africa and Asia: “Don't go finding me any lost tribes, because I won't let them in any more," he declared. "We have enough problems in Israel. Let them go to America."
This new call for stringent Jewish immigration cuts against the grain of Israel's Jewish demographic woes as Arabs both inside and in the occupied territories of Israel continue to out-pace Israeli birthrates.

Essentially, Mr. Sheetrit has lost sight of what Zionism and Israel are supposed to represent. The country was founded on immigration and meant to serve as a refuge for persecuted people. Meir Sheetrit’s own family were immigrants from Morocco. Minister Sheetrit was born in the town of Ksar Souk, Morocco in 1948 and made aliya at the age of 9. He undoubtedly, endured various types of discrimination, as many established Israelis looked down on Sephardi immigrants from Morocco--the so-called "darkies."

Left: Jewish Graduates from India at the MaTan-Herzog Hospital Nurse's Assistant Program in Israel. There are three major Jewish communities in India: the Bene Israel, the Cochini and the Baghdadi Jews. There also exist smaller enclaves including the often forgotten group of "untouchable" Telugu Jews in India.

Apparently, Meir Sheetrit's mobility in Israeli society now allows him to mock descendants of the lost Jewish tribes. Mr. Sheetrit is seemingly, exploiting recent news reports about the discovery of neo-Nazis among recent immigrants to Israel as an excuse to keep out other unrelated groups that sincerely, want to emigrate to Israel. The former has absolutely nothing to do with the latter. Meir Sheetrit's contemplation on immigration is a cut of the cloth that colors immigrant aspiration as economic motivation. Immigration officials all over the world wrestle with this suspicion when deliberating applications for asylum and refugee status.

Left: Jewish immigrants from France disembark from an airplane upon their arrival at Ben Gurion International airport near Tel Aviv. Some 600 Jews from France arrived in Israel in July 2007.

There are elements of racism and ignorance that run through Mr. Sheetrit’s thinking on this issue. A person’s country of origin, the color of their skin or, their economic status have little to do with their Jewish identity – nor should they be. The return to Israel in the Zionist lexicon is meant to be seen as an unassailable process. And no one, not even a minister in the cabinet, should contravene that symbolism--that existential lore.

Israel's Chief Rabbinate recognized the Bnei Menashe as "descendants of Israel" in March, 2005 and sent a a beit din (rabbinical court) on its behalf to the region to formally convert them to Judaism.

Members of the Association for Ethiopian Jews voiced their concerns regarding Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit's suggestion of amending the implementation of the Law of Return.

Left: Danny Admasu, Executive Director of the Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews.

"The Jewish State was not formed so that those who arrived first would suddenly, decide to close the gates. I hope and trust that there are enough individuals within the Jewish people and the Israeli community that wouldn't allow that to happen," said Rabbi Yoel Ben-Nun, a senior member of the association's board.
"I'm very sorry to see Israel's interior minister demonstrating such signs of post-Zionism. So, he says 'stop the immigration for Ethiopia.' Why not? Two-thirds of Ethiopian Jews have already come to Israel. As far as he's concerned, the last third can either go to the United States or try and make it in Ethiopia."

"I don't understand who he is trying to impress," added Ben-Nun. "He allows complete gentiles from Russia into Israel based on the grandchild clause (section 4a of the Law of Return states that the grandchild of a Jewish person may immigrate to Israel even if he of she are not Jewish themselves). Why, because they are white and educated? One might suspect a hint of racism in his words. After all – I didn't hear him call for the cessation of Russian immigration."
Sheetrit says of the Falasha Jews emigrating to Israel to the Jerusalem Post in an interview: "Who needs them?" "They are all Christians. We need to take care of the future of Israel and this immigration will never finish."
The first Falasha to move to Israel were unquestionably Jewish. But a new group calling themselves the Falash Mura emerged. The Falash Mura are Ethiopians living a Christian lifestyle but who claim to have been forced to convert to Christianity from Judaism.

Left: The Israeli Supreme Court complex.

A recent Israeli Supreme Court case highlights the divide between the pragmatist Zionists and the orthodox wing of the concept. The Israeli Interior Minister, Yitzhak Peretz, submitted his resignation in protest of a Supreme Court ruling ordering him to list an American immigrant who underwent a Reform conversion as a Jew in the Israeli population registry.
Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz explained: "The High Court of Justice demanded that I list a non-Jew as a Jew. As a Jew and a rabbi loyal to the tradition and Bible of Israel, I have declared and declare again that my hand will never ever sign for a fraudulent conversion that was not conducted according to the Halakha."
Halakha is the code of Jewish law. The American immigrant, Shoshana Miller, was converted by a Reform rabbi in Colorado Springs, USA, before she came to live in Israel.

When Ms. Miller immigrated and applied for identity papers, Rabbi Peretz agreed to list her as Jewish, but added alongside her religion the word ''converted.'' The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the additional word was illegal and that Rabbi Peretz must list Ms. Miller merely, as a Jew.

Meir Sheetrit's stance on aliya has been clear as early as June. In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Meir Sheetrit criticized Israeli policy of bringing great numbers of "quasi-Jews" to the country, stating that he wants to introduce new criteria that will allow only "bona-fide Jews" to make aliya.

Left: Israeli authorities have been accused of ignoring the growing fascist sentiment in the country. Israeli society continues to become desensitized to violence and hate as the state marries a system of extreme measures to control and subdue its occupied population. The core values and ideals such as patriotism, Jewish pride and empathy are increasingly, being replaced by a narrower mode of thinking; one that is focused far more selfishly on what is best for the individual. Israelis continue to grapple with a widening sense of narcissism, which a culture of hate, violence and confiscation instills and feeds off.
"It's time to bring only Jews to Israel. If we don't discuss these issues now, within a few years Israel will no longer be the State of the Jews. We returned to our homeland after 2,000 years in exile in order to build a Jewish, Zionist state here, not a Foreign Legionaries country. Entrance to the country should not be automatic."
Meir Sheetrit said he was shocked to discover statistics about the number of non-Jews living in the country.

Left: Refugees from the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.
"Seventy percent of emigrants from the Former Soviet Union are not Jewish, the Falash Mura continue to pour in from Ethiopia, Jewish organizations roam the world and bring here quasi-Jews from all sorts of tribes, thousands of illegal residents from the Palestinian Authority live and work here uninterrupted, and thousands of Africans infiltrate to Israel, when only a minority are Darfur refugees," he stated.
According to Meir Sheetrit, Israel should institutionalize a mechanism that would examine candidates for aliya. The new criteria would make sure they are Jewish, obligate a pledge of allegiance to the state and certify that they have a clean record. Other proposals forwarded by Mr. Sheetrit include a residency period of five years and proficiency in Hebrew before attaining Israeli citizenship.

Nevertheless, immigration of Jews to Israel is colored by several seminal issues in the aliya convention. The rate of inter-marriage to non-Jews has been steadily, increasing in many countries, particularly in the ex-Soviet Union. The statistics are similar in North America and Western Europe. The connection of Jews to Israel is quite subjective - and devising an objective regime of criteria without significantly, curbing aliya participants will be no easy task.

Moreover, the motivations to emigrate to Israel are complex - Zionism or an attachment to Israel may not be prioritized as key reasons in a decision to make aliya. The stringent religious requirements of conversion already curtail aliya -- while the Jewish majority in Israel continues to shrink. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens have moved back to their home countries or moved elsewhere. Moreover, fewer western Jews are going to Israel--younger Jews in industrialized nations see no advantage in becoming Zionists.

Left: Israeli immigrants by country of origin (2001).

It is apparent that some have varying levels of allegiance to Israel and many who made aliya did so for reasons other than Zionism. However, defining what exactly constitutes a Jew becomes an equivocal enterprise. Is anyone who converted to Judaism a "quazi-Jew?" In such a case, anyone who is an Ashkenazi Jew, may fall within this "quasi-Jew" net in view of the fact that the ancestors of the Ashkenazi were converts. The State of Israel faces a difficult task if it aims to prove Jewishness to a certain degree.

Of course this legislation is opening a Pandora's box, which may see the end of Israel as we know it -- if the criteria of Israeli citizenship are realigned along these orthodox lines. Israel will not survive as a Jewish society closed to Jews--Zionism depends on the Diaspora for its existence. Moreover, the conscription laws are based of the same aliya principles being assaulted. These so-called quasi-Jews have been conscripted into the IDF and have given their lives to maintain Zionism, but now will not be kosher enough for citizenship.

Be as it may, Meir Sheetrit is no stranger to controversial pronouncements, as Justice Minister 1n 2002, he remarked that the Palestinians should "beg for a cease-fire" after the army steps up its efforts to [violently,] suppress an 18-month uprising." The upheaval was mostly peaceful, but thousands of Palestinians were ultimately, killed by the IDF.

The Viennese Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl, argued in his 1896 book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) the best way of avoiding anti-Semitism was to create an independent Jewish state in Palestine. Herzl's dream of a state for Jewish people was realized in 1948 with the creation of Israel -- the culmination of a vision emblematic of a nightmare in its manifestation in reality. Regardless, the racist actualities of Zionism render problematic the very foundation on which Israeli group identity has been based--a homeland for Jews.

Zionism practices processes of adverse racialization of African, Asian, Shepardi and Mizrahi Jews, as well as Arabs -- has portrayed them as a demographic threat to Israeli society, a threat that can be forestalled by the admission of prospective immigrants from European and western countries. Nevertheless, the fact that these odious operations are directed only against non-white groups discloses Zionism's ambivalence as a Jewish sanctuary.

The racist verity of Zionism avails an Israeli immigration policy, which aims to marginalize and to contain the Palestinian minority by allowing the entrance of non-Jews to Israel as long as they are not Arabs. Not disputing the immensely significant role that the goal of Palestinian containment plays in Zionism, still this goal exists alongside a perception of Sephardi, Mizrahi and non-white Jews as another source of demographic threat to Israel's European character.

The old Zionist dream seems to be over, spent, and morally bankrupt, and that a new belief system, something that spiritualize Jewishness so that its moral fervor does not degenerate for good into a vulgar materialist, expansionist and militaristic patriotism, is needed. The fact of the matter is if there was another, bountifully benign Jewish state, more Jews would live there.

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