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The Jewish Mission

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New immigrants to Israel from the Indian community of Bnei Menashe.
New immigrants to Israel from the Indian community of Bnei Menashe.Credit: \ Ilan Assayag

Only demographic panic rooted in fear of losing Israel’s Jewish majority — a panic that was reinforced this week by data presented by the Civil Administration about the demographic parity between Jews and Muslims between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea — could explain the Diaspora Affairs Ministry’s project to track down Jews in every corner of the globe and at any cost.

At a time when tens of thousands of asylum seekers who speak Hebrew and want to link their fates to that of Israel are being ceaselessly persecuted by the government, and when the rift with pluralistic Jewish movements has been steadily worsening, a body within the same government — the Diaspora Affairs Ministry — is instead preoccupied with tracking down potential candidates to join the Jewish people and immigrate to Israel. The ministry concluded that there are some 60 million people worldwide with an “affinity” to Judaism or Israel (Haaretz, March 23), and that Israel should consider a program to bring some of them here.

A commission appointed by Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett submitted its final report to the cabinet secretary Sunday. The report urges the government to map all the non-Jewish communities whose members are not entitled to immigrate under the Law of Return but that have some kind of “affinity” to Israel or to Judaism.

This lost demographic treasure includes the descendants of forced converts to Christianity; communities like the Bnei Menashe, which claim to be descended from the 10 lost tribes; and even communities with only a “spiritual affinity” to Israel. The purpose of the mapping project is to introduce these communities to Jewish and Zionist content, and even to consider “creating a new framework for bringing appropriate individuals, groups and entire communities to Israel for conversion.”

The Diaspora Affairs Ministry says the report hasn’t been adopted, and that its goal is bolstering Israel’s ties to these groups, not mass conversions. But in its report, the commission cited the “unprecedented strategic opportunity to bring these groups closer to the Jewish people through a clear program open to those interested in joining the Jewish people.”

The report recommended, as a first step, exploring cooperative ventures with these communities for public diplomacy on Israel’s behalf, including the battle against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Later, special work and study visas could be issued for community members.

The latest demographic data isn’t surprising. Supporters of the two-state solution have long warned that the only ethical and effective way to maintain Israel’s Jewish majority is to divide the land. But because the current government is working instead to annex the territories, with their residents, en route to an apartheid system, it must concoct delusional plans to import a pseudo-Jewish population. It would do better to recognize that only a two-state solution can guarantee the future of the Zionist project.

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

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