The government decision to stop handling the immigration of the Falashmura starting in early June is a worthy move that comes much too late. As illustrated by a series of articles currently being published in Haaretz, a strange coalition of "liberal" American Jewish organizations, rabbis from the messianic branch of religious Zionism and Shas leaders have, for too many years, succeeded in imposing terror on the Israeli establishment and brought to Israel about 26,000 Ethiopian citizens who do not match the Law of Return's criteria for new immigrants.
The Falashmura are not Jews. For many generations, after their ancestors converted, they lived as Christians in Ethiopia. Now they want to exploit their Jewish roots in order to leave one of the poorest countries in the world and to live as welfare recipients in Israel. It is impossible to assess the social and economic price the country has been paying for years for this "aliyah," and because every additional "oleh" will naturally demand that his family be brought, this is a time bomb that only becomes more powerful over the years. Bringing them to Israel has no connection to Judaism or Zionism.
In 1991, then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir ordered not to bring the Falashmura to Israel in the context of Operation Solomon. Two years later, the Tsaban Committee ruled that their arrival in Israel would be possible only on an individual basis, according to humanitarian considerations. These decisions were continually eroded under all succeeding governments. Thousands have entered the country each year during the past decade via the Law of Entry, which was originally designed to enable individuals to become citizens, and not to enable the entry en masse of entire groups. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar's decision to the effect that the Falashmura should be considered "complete Jews" is absurd in light of his demand that they undergo a full conversion process in any case.
It is no wonder that in light of the governmental weakness regarding the Falashmura, additional groups from all over the world want to be recognized as "lost tribes" and to receive Israeli citizenship. A sovereign country cannot be so dismissive of its citizenship laws. By what right does the government refuse to absorb African refugees who risk their lives and cross the border in Sinai, while it gives in so easily to other groups of charlatans?
The Jewish Agency is now winding up its activity in Ethiopia, and this should be welcomed. But the Falashmura and their supporters in Israel and the Jewish world refuse to recognize the decision. Some of the Ethiopian immigrant organizations are threatening an international struggle, angry demonstrations and hunger strikes. Shas leader Eli Yishai plans a highly publicized visit to Ethiopia next month, and has even submitted a draft bill to the government calling to examine the right to aliyah of another 8,700 Falashmura. We can only hope that now, as opposed to the past, the government will succeed in withstanding this pressure and will implement the present decision in full. What is needed now is a clear statement by the prime minister that the State of Israel retains its right to decide who will receive its citizenship.
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