Does Israel check olim's criminal past?

Conditional citizen Scr

November 1, 2009 23:15
2 minute read.
yaacov teitel 248.88

yaacov teitel 248.88. (photo credit: Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency))

As the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police announced Sunday the arrest of US immigrant Ya'acov Teitel, 37, on suspicion of deadly terror shootings and bombings spanning over a decade, the question was once again raised as to whether the authorities need to more carefully check the backgrounds of potential immigrants. According to the Israeli authorities, the former Florida resident was known to the US authorities and wanted for his alleged involvement in violent crimes there, prior to his aliya in 2000. Despite this suspicious past, neither the Interior Ministry nor the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) could confirm Sunday whether there had been knowledge of Teitel's alleged crimes abroad before he was allowed to immigrate. A spokesman for JAFI did say, however, that potential olim coming from the West are asked only to declare whether they have a criminal record, but are not required to produce police documents proving or disproving this fact. "It is sufficient for them to simply declare that they do not have a criminal past," he said. "The shlichim [JAFI emissaries posted all over the world] are required to take a statement from a person that they do not have a criminal record and then it is up to the Interior Ministry to determine whether to look into their background further." The spokesman stressed that JAFI's role in the aliya process was simply as a facilitator; it is not the authority meant to decide if someone is violating immigration laws. However, he added, that if a shaliach notices something suspicious, he will make a note of this detail in the candidate's file in order to alert the authorities here. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabene Hadad confirmed this policy. She said that under the Law of Return, immigrants are only required to declare any past criminal activity. However, in the past, Hadad has pointed out that many individuals had been denied citizenship on the basis of a clause in the law that a person who is "engaged in an activity directed against the Jewish people; or is likely to endanger public health or the security of the State," could be denied entry. Hadad added Sunday that the Interior Ministry only acted on information provided by JAFI representatives on the ground in various countries, and that it only carried out background checks if suspicions were aroused by JAFI staff. Aliya organization Nefesh B'nefesh, which assists the bulk of immigrants arriving from the US and Britain, said that it simply followed criteria laid out by JAFI and the Interior Ministry. It refused to comment on whether the background-check policy was too lenient or not.

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