A recent poll by Jerusalem Post finds that, “Only half of Israeli Jews feel responsible for fate of Diaspora.” Of course most Jews living today are not necessarily aware of Israel’s history, that it was created by the Diaspora precisely to the purpose of serving as refuge in time of need. The Holocaust clearly defined the need: not only was it an effort to solve the West’s two-thousand year long “Jewish Problem;” but even as Auschwitz was efficiently serving its purpose the Allies fighting Germany still refused to accept the condemned: the West’s leading “democracy” instead was content to provide the model by which the others maintained closed borders thereby sealing the fate of European Jewry.

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That “half of Israeli Jews” are ignorant of their obligation even as they are beneficiaries of Diaspora-Zionism’s gift. Their ignorance describes a tragic failure of Israeli education, and Israeli politics responsible for that ignorance.

Following is a chapter from my not yet published book, The Jewish Problem and its final solution: Modernity and Destiny


Chapter Twenty: Israel and the “National” Problem

Under the 1970 Amendment to the Law of Return, in response to Germany’s Nuremberg Laws of 1935, refuge is available to the “grandchild of a Jew.” [1, h]

The Orthodox-Secular divide

As described in the previous chapter the debate over Israel-as-Zionist is most visibly represented by a tiny segment of Israeli society with a disproportionate influence regarding social policy. This distortion, as explained, has its roots at the very foundation of the state in David Ben-Gurion, secular-socialist leader of the pre-state Yishuv, inviting two religious parties to participate in the First Knesset. And while the “status quo” agreement was, as were the Basic Laws, provisional pending adoption of a constitution, with the passage of time and failure of secular and religious to agree on a constitution, “provisional” became part of Israel’s social and political norm. It was and remains the fault-line between secular and ultra-orthodox society, between Zionism and anti-Zionism: “status quo” is Israel’s de facto “constitution.” [2, h]

In recent years more voices have been added to those who would limit or even eliminate Israel’s Zionist commitment to provide refuge. In the past critics of the Law of Return were generally limited to Israel’s Orthodox community. In recent years some secular academicians and politicians who somehow continue to describe themselves as “zionist” have joined the ranks of critics of the Law, the heart of Zionism’s commitments to the Diaspora.

Israel-as-Zionist carries obligations unique among modern nation-states. Zionism imposes, was designed to do so, limits on Israel’s sovereignty; imposes limits also on Israeli citizenship. In effect Israel as Zionist was intended and remains a state-in-process, to achieve full “sovereignty” upon the end of threat to Diaspora Jewry. Its primary obligation after self-defense is as refuge, home to all Jews within and without the state today. While Israelis enjoy the protections and obligations of statehood, full citizenship is conditional pending fulfillment of her obligations to the Diaspora. Put another way all Jews are “citizens,” whether living within or outside the state’s physical boundaries. Any effort by religious or secular sources seeking to limit the state’s responsibilities to the entire Jewish people, to limit immigration or residency status is contrary to Israel-as-Zionist and is, by definition, anti-Zionist!

To limit the Law, eliminate the Amendment

As described earlier, in 1970 the religious parties demanded that immigrants converted abroad undergo a second, “halachic” conversion, in order to be listed as “Jewish” by nationality on their Teudat Zehut (identity card). Responding to serial orthodoxy challenges to the Law of Return, in 1970 the government amended the Law to reinforce its Zionist intent.

According to the Grandparent Amendment Israel assumes responsibility for the [3, h],

“child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion…”
Israel has here clearly extended refuge not only to the Jewish People presently defined, but also to non-Jews persecuted as “Jew”, mischlinge according to Nuremberg, so long as the “grandparent” had not “voluntarily changed his religion.” And even then it is likely Israel would still not abandon potential victims based on the “grandparent’s” conversion.

The Law of Return had already defined “Jewish identity” as applying to persons born of a Jewish mother or converted according to any stream of Judaism. The Amendment closed the door on any doubt regarding the commitment of Israel towards all Jews, and to non-Jews defined “Jewish” under Nuremberg. Then, in 2010 a previous candidate for Israel’s Supreme Court and professor of law at Hebrew University Ruth Gavison wrote an 86 page paper, The Law of Return at Sixty Years: History, Ideology, Justification. [4, h] In it she describes the Grandparent Clause as “too broad,” insists the Law of Return not grant automatic citizenship to olim, immigrants to the State of Israel! If all other western countries require immigrants to earn citizenship over time and test she insists, should not Israel as a “normal state” also maintain those standards?

But amending, or even eliminating the Law of Return has been attempted by several previous government initiatives. In 1995 “an internal committee in the Justice Ministry drew up a proposal to reduce the possibility of non-Jewish grandchildren and family members being naturalized under the Law of Return.” [7, h] In 2005 Tzipi Livni, then Justice and Immigration Minister, submitted a bill to the Knesset “that would annul the grandchild clause.” [5, h] At the same time Michael Melchior, deputy education minister, submitted a proposal to then Prime Minister Ehud Barak to limit the Law of Return. [6, h ]Both Livni and Melchior are identified with the political “left,” the ideology that drafted the “grandparent clause” as clarification of the intent of the Law of Return. Melchior has even stronger “liberal” credentials as an advocate for social justice and, ironically, his commitment to strengthening bonds between Israel and the Diaspora. But regarding the Amendment to the Law of Return, that should be eliminated!

Israel’s Declaration of Independence includes instructions designating 1 October, 1948 as the date the Knesset should have presented a constitution for a vote. For various reasons, principally the question of “religion and the state,” the proposed constitution “failed to get out of committee.” The most ambitious effort to create a constitution since then may have been that of Prime Minister Olmert in 2010. Instructed to prepare a constitution in time for Israel’s 60th Independence Day celebrations Professor Menachem Ben-Sasson, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee failed due to reasons of "religion and the state." But regarding the Law of Return the committee was able to achieve a compromise. The members agreed to, “leave out the question of "who is a Jew... [and instead] present the Knesset with a new Law of Return that omits [!] the grandfather clause…” [8, h] By way of compromise the Committee agreed to allow someone not “halakhically Jewish” to immigrate to Israel. Certainly a “politic” response to the anticipated firestorm that conditioning the Law of Return on Halacha would ignite among both Israel’s Russian émigré community and the Diaspora and, particularly, the "interfering” (as described by ultra-Orthodox politicians) Americans! But as a document representing Israel’s approach to its post-Holocaust obligations Chairman Ben-Sasson represents one more step towards the erosion of “Israel as Zionist.”

 
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