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When Just a Few Dozen People Are a Threat to the Purity of the Jewish People

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Ethiopian immigrants arriving at Ben Gurion Airport, earlier this year.
Ethiopian immigrants arriving at Ben Gurion Airport, earlier this year.Credit: GPO
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

There’s something amusing about the demographic sting operation conducted by Ethiopian Israeli Saraka Siom that brought in 61 new immigrants from Ethiopia, most of whom lack any trace of Jewish ancestry. But the Population and Immigration Authority didn’t find it so funny, deeming the operation “a planned conspiracy that exploited the system.”

In Israel, demographics isn’t a laughing matter. The widespread feeling is that these 61 people didn’t merely infiltrate into the country, like Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers, but actually tried to infiltrate into the Jewish people. Even though 61 individuals are negligible on the scale of a nation, it seems as if each and every one of them constituted a threat to the purity of the Jewish people.

And indeed, the agency sounding alarm bells about the danger of bringing in Falashmura who are waiting for clarification of their Jewish roots is none other than the National Security Council. In a classified document that was signed by Nimrod Guez, the head of the NSC’s Middle East and Africa desk, and sent to both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, the NSC warned about a long list of threats.

“Bringing in thousands of people without clarifying [their Jewish roots] is a dangerous, unnecessary, precedent-setting demographic mistake,” the document said. It also warned of “an influx of non-Jews who are exploiting Israel’s economic situation” and “the involvement of people with different agendas ... in light of the fact that a great deal of remuneration from the state budget is at stake.” The NSC also recommended keeping discussions of the issue classified.

Aliyah Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata was right to say that this document isn’t “a security assessment but a purely political stance.” So the following questions must be asked:

Is the question of who is a Jew an issue of national security? Is it the NSC’s job to guard the borders of the Jewish bloodline? And if so, why is it that we have no problem with Nimrod Guez but can’t stand Benzi Gopstein? How is the NSC any better than Gopstein’s Jewish supremacist Lehava organization?

Without getting into the question of why white non-Jews who infiltrate don’t rouse the same feelings of danger that Black ones do, this entire feeling of demographic danger is pathological. You don’t have to be a genius psychologist to diagnose Israel as suffering from demographic post-traumatic stress, or to understand its source. The whole package of Holocaust remembrance, certainly familiar to everyone who has passed through the Israeli school system, includes black-and-white photographs of the victims alongside sepia prints of countless lists of Jews.

Just recall then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2013, in which he effectively pointed out the Nazis’ demographic victory. “More than 6 million Jews live in Israel today, for the first time since the state’s establishment,” he said. “You, citizens of Israel, are the reflection of our victory.”

It’s easy to identify with this logic. They sought to destroy us, but we defeated them. We survived; we’ve even “made up” for the number of people killed.

Nevertheless, there’s something warped about this preoccupation with Jewish demographics. The problem lies in the way Jews have embraced the view of themselves as a race that’s in danger of extinction and deserves to be permanently included in a preservation program.

Many Jewish organizations keep close track of the number of Jews worldwide. Prominent among them is the Jewish People Policy Institute, which, as part of its efforts “to ensure the thriving of the Jewish People and the Jewish civilization,” produces an estimate of our demographic “inventory” every year.

Such estimates would save anyone seeking to destroy us a vast amount of work, because they numerically track everyone whom the Nazis sought to destroy – Jews, half-Jews and Jews who converted to other religions.

Nevertheless, when for the sake of Jewish purity it has become impossible to grant asylum to refugees or even, heaven forbid, accept a certain percentage of infiltrators – something every normal country in the world does – perhaps we ought to reconsider the Jewish people’s situation.

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