falash mura 311.
(photo credit: AP)
The Knesset State Control Committee on Monday gave the government 40 days to complete the investigation of all members of the Falash Mura community currently living in the Gondar camp in Ethiopia and pass a speedy resolution to bring all those classified as Jews to Israel.
Otherwise, said committee chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima), it would consider establishing a state commission of inquiry to find out why the government has failed to implement two decisions it made on the matter in May and July 2009.
Hasson, former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss blasted the government for failing to do so until now.
“This situation must be brought to an end,” said Shamgar, head of the Public Committee on Behalf of the Remnants of Ethiopian Jewry. “They have to be here. They shouldn’t be there. The endless postponements of the decision are like some dangerous disease. I don’t want any more committees of investigation or examinations because that will only give those who are looking for excuses to cause further delays. I don’t want delays. I want aliya.”
According to an estimation by Rabbi Menachem Waldman, head of Shvut Ami, an organization which has been fighting for Falash Mura immigration for the past two decades, there were roughly 8,700 Falash Mura living in Gondar in 2007. Since then, the Jewish Agency has examined or is in the process of examining 1,800 of the Gondar camp residents; many of them have already immigrated to Israel in the past few months.
However, the remaining 7,000 have not been examined. The government has claimed that these people were not on the list of potential olim drafted the by Minister of Interior in 1999 and has therefore refused to examine them up to now.
But Hasson, Shamgar and Lindenstrauss, as well as many of the MKs who attended Monday’s meeting, argue that all the Falash Mura in Gondar must be examined in accordance with the criteria that have been drawn up to determine whether they are Jewish or not.
Some of the MKs went further, arguing that even after the camp is closed down, any member of the Falash Mura community who regards himself as entitled to immigrate to Israel will have the right, on an individual basis, to apply to the Israeli embassy in Ethiopia. Thus, in their opinion, the closing of the Gondar camp does not necessarily mean the end of aliya from Ethiopia.
Eyal Gabai, the director of the Prime Minister’s Office, indicated that this is what he was afraid of.
“One can see consistently that ever since 1992 [when the government
agreed to bring to Israel the 4,000 Falash Mura left behind in Addis
Ababa after Operation Moshe and the camp quickly filled up with more
members of the community before it could be closed down] Israel keeps
talking about groups and criteria and three years later talks about
bigger groups and somewhat different criteria.”
MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima), who was born in Ethiopia, charged that Israeli
governments have made every effort to keep out Ethiopian immigrants
because of their color. “If we were white, they would accept us,” he
said angrily.” They claim we are trying to inundate Israel with black
Africans. But no one will stop this aliya.”
In his summary of the meeting, Hasson said he would invite Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to another session before the final decision
on whether to appoint a state commission of inquiry.
“If we convince him to decide to finish the work in Gondar quickly, the
matter will be closed. If we do not, we will call for an investigation.”