More than a third of the Israeli public believes that any talk about changing the Law of Return in light of the Oshrenko family murders - as the suspects in the horrific crime made aliya from the former Soviet Union - is blatantly racist, according to a study published this week at the Kinneret College, Jordan Valley campus.
Carried out by the Georcartography Institute and using a sample of some 500 adults both male and female, the survey asked respondents on November 4 if they agreed or disagreed with recent statements by Immigrant Absorption Minister Sopha Landver (Israel Beiteinu), who said that talk about deeper checks or restrictions on new immigrants because of crime amounted to a "witch hunt" against Jews from the FSU and was "nothing more than racism."
Thirty-six percent of those questioned for the research agreed with Landver and said that proposed changes to the law were an attempt to limit aliya from Russian-speaking countries.
Criminologist Dr. Mordechai Frishtik, who analyzed the results of the study, said that the collective trauma of the Oshrenko family murder, which has been described as the worst in the state's history, played an extremely influential role in the results of the survey.
"People are looking at this and are saying that by chance the murderer was an immigrant from Russia, but they are not ready to say that there now needs to be more stringent checks on new immigrants," Frishtik said.
Dimitry Oshrenko, his wife, Tatiana, their two young children, Revital and Natanel, and his parents, Ludmilla and Edward, were brutally murdered in their Rishon Lezion apartment on October 17. Police have arrested Dimitry Olegovich Kirilik, his wife, Nataliya, and other members of his family suspected of perpetrating the crime.
"Whenever there is talk about a changing or restricting the Law of Return, there is always a discussion of it being racist," said Frishtik, highlighting that discussions in the 1950s to slow down the rate of immigration from Morocco due to Israel's struggling economy also prompted a similar debate.
However, he said that the fact is there are not enough controls or checks over who immigrates to Israel.
"There are committees and investigations into who is a Jew and whether they fit in that criteria for aliya," said Frishtik, "but when it comes to checking people's criminal background or violent past, there is nothing."
He added: "Even those who want to visit the US on vacation must declare their criminal past, Israel is too lenient. Enforcing such a restriction is not racism against Russian immigrants."
A spokesman for Landver said the minister was ready and willing to discuss changes to the Law of Return but not within the context of the immigrant's ethnic background.
"There is no connection to where a person comes from and whether they are violent or a criminal," he said, adding that it was not really the role of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry to enforce or request such background checks.