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Israel Is Closing the Gates to Ukrainian Refugees to Spite the Left

Raviv Drucker
Raviv Drucker
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Ukrainian refugees arriving in Israel on Thursday.
Ukrainian refugees arriving in Israel on Thursday.Credit: Hadas Parush
Raviv Drucker
Raviv Drucker

The journalist Kalman Libeskind wrote this in Ma’ariv last week: “We chose to invite, out of the large group of the refugees, those who are eligible [to immigrate to Israel] under the Law of Return. From the Ukrainians’ point of view, there is no difference between a resident of Kyiv who is eligible under the Law of Return and his upstairs neighbor who is not. After all, most of those eligible under the Law of Return that we’ll bring in here are not Jews.”

This is an astonishing claim. First, because it’s true. Everyone involved with immigration to Israel knows that at least two-thirds of the immigrants eligible to live in Israel under the Law of Return are not Jewish. Practically speaking, they are Christians or Muslims.

Second, it is astonishing because this exact claim should be redirected at those who are incessantly promulgating the notion that the Ukrainians who manage to arrive in Israel now are not in danger, and that granting refugee status to a few thousand of them will change the Jewish character of the country.

Here’s the riddle: Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and her supporters vehemently oppose raising the quota for refugees not eligible to come to Israel under the Law of Return from 5,000 to 20,000. This marginal addition of people, some of whom will obviously leave when the war is over, endangers the future of the Jewish state.

Nothing less than that. Those who favor raising the quota are leftists, Hellenists, in favor of “a state of all its citizens.” On the other side, the proud patriots stand ready to take in tens of thousands of non-Jews who have a connection, no matter how faint, to Judaism. And in this case they would be taken in not as refugees but as citizens, with immigrants’ benefits and passports – forever.

That is, a few-thousand more non-Jewish Ukrainians who manage – because of a lack of enforcement – to stay here under the temporary status of refugees after the war is over will endanger the Jewish state. On the other hand, a few more tens of thousands of non-Jewish Ukrainians who stay here as citizens with full rights and who received funding in the billions will strengthen the Jewish state.

There’s another important argument in Libeskind’s article: “On the assumption, apparently accepted by everyone, that prioritization is needed, and given the fact that we are among many other countries prepared to take part in the task, it is clear that we will invite the tens of thousands of our relatives, and the others will find their place with neighbors.” Shaked, by the way, says the exact same thing.

Neither, it turns out, understands the problematic nature of admitting to prioritizing based on race. How would Shaked respond if Britain, Poland, Hungary and Romania announced that in light of the Israeli prioritization, they prefer not to take in people eligible to go to Israel under the Law of Return? There are 2.5 million refugees, they’ll say. Israel only wants 100,000 who are eligible under the Law of Return, and rejects the rest. So let it take in the eligible ones. Isn’t this a logical argument?

Three days ago, Shaked announced that she was changing her cruel plan. She is prepared to accept refugees who are relatives of Israelis. How will she define “relatives”? Good God, how illogical can a position be – as long as it doesn’t appear, perish the thought, that someone is giving in to the leftists. After all, opening the gates to relatives could easily go over the quota of 23,000 refugees (see under Ethiopia).

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who tried for many days to gently persuade his interior minister to be flexible, certainly did not imagine that she would choose such a contorted model. Because there is certainly no wisdom in the new plan, it’s difficult to evade the feeling that a position that sides with closing the gates to Ukrainian refugees does not stem from logical considerations, but rather from the desire to show up the leftists. Let there be no suspicion, perish the thought, that human rights interest anyone around here. If Meretz, Labor and a few journalists are for it, we have to be against it. No matter what the cost.

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