Editorial |

Israel's Top Immigration Official Made Disgraceful Remarks About Ukraine. He Must Go

Haaretz Editorial
Tomer Moskowitz on March 8, 2022.
Tomer Moskowitz on March 8, 2022.Credit: Noam Revkin Fenton
Haaretz Editorial

The statements by Population and Immigration Authority director Tomer Moskowitz must not be ignored. He should be dismissed in disgrace.

Criticism of the policy on taking in refugees from Ukraine tends to focus on Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. But Shaked does not set policy alone. A whole cadre of officials carry out the policy. The tendency to focus on the decision makers must not be at the price of absolving those who implement the policies of responsibility for them. Another person in Moskowitz’s position, a person who is not blinded by hatred of foreigners and understands that his role is to provide protection to people fleeing disaster, could have handled things completely differently.

Democracy or Putin: 'Israel must choose a side in Ukraine'

Last week, Moskowitz took part in a meeting at the Knesset about the refugees. “Foreign workers, as far as it depends on me, will not bring in their relatives, except for high-tech workers, which is routine even in ordinary times because that is in the interest of the state,” he said on that occasion. Moskowitz is also leading the policy of refusing entry to people who have a “previous immigration background.” As far as he is concerned, “people have to know not to cheat the Israeli immigration system and there is a price to pay [for doing so]. Yes, even tomorrow, when they bomb their house. Let them go to another country that’s ready to take them in.”

The fact that there is a war going on doesn’t faze him. “We see what our ability is to deport someone who has been here illegally for four years and the court orders him deported and after that, they quote me poems by [Nobel Prize winning poet] Wisława Szymborska so as not to deport him,” Moskowitz said, referring to a ruling by Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen last week to stop the deportation of a Ukrainian woman.

Moskowitz also said that entry was refused to “those whom we guess came here to be prostitutes.” In response, Yesh Atid MK Vladimir Beliak tweeted: “Maybe at least at this time of tragedy we won’t use that racist and foul claim?” The problem is not only racism and prejudice, because prostitutes are also entitled to proper protection in wartime.

In an interview with Moskowitz in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth on March 18, Moskowitz repeated his statements. “There are wars, famine and natural disasters in the world and women who flee from abusive husbands…what does that mean, that we’ll take people indiscriminately? I am the guardian of the country’s gateway.”

Because we can’t expect Shaked, who appointed Moskowitz, to exercise moral judgment, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett must intervene. If this man is not dismissed from his position, it is a sign that the state shares his views.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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