How can pedophiles be stopped from entering Israel? - analysis

For all the media coverage that Leifer’s case has garnered, it is a separate phenomenon involving sexual predators which has become the greater problem.

Malka Leifer, An Ultra orthodox teacher wanted in Australia for child sex abuse, seen on a screen via a video link during a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on July 29, 2020. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Malka Leifer, An Ultra orthodox teacher wanted in Australia for child sex abuse, seen on a screen via a video link during a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on July 29, 2020.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
The efforts by Israeli authorities to extradite alleged pedophile Malka Leifer to Australia to stand trial on charges of rape and sexual abuse there have been both protracted in length and tortuous in the level of effort required to reach the case’s current denouement in the Supreme Court.
But for all the media coverage that Leifer’s case has garnered, it is a separate phenomenon involving sexual predators which has become the greater problem.
Israel’s Law of Return grants any Jew around the world the right to immigrate to the Jewish state and obtain automatic citizenship.
Unfortunately, this right has been abused on a routine basis by either convicted sex offenders or individuals already on trial or under investigation for such crimes.
According to the Magen organization, approximately 40 individuals who have been convicted of sex offenses in their country of origin, or were on trial or under investigation there, have successfully made aliyah over the last decade.
In one case, a Jewish man convicted in New York state of molesting two 13-year-old boys returned to Morocco where he has citizenship, and subsequently made aliyah to Israel.
Although a criminal background check was supposedly required at the time, such checks are produced by law enforcement authorities in the country from which the aliyah applicant is emigrating.
Since this individual had not committed his sex offenses in Morocco, his background check was clean and his aliyah request was approved.
Magen investigators tracked the individual down several months ago and discovered that he provides Bar Mitzvah lessons to 12-year-old boys.
What needs to be done to bring an end to this disturbing abuse of the Right of Return?
One measure now in place, although exactly when enforcement began is disputed, is the requirement for criminal background checks by law enforcement authorities, which presents a significant obstacle for a sex offender to overcome when seeking to make aliyah.
But it is not a cure-all, as many sex offenders try and immigrate to Israel because allegations have arisen against them which have not yet been proven, as in Leifer’s case, or while they are under criminal investigation, but before an indictment has been issued.
In these cases, a criminal background check would not turn up any crime.
Another major problem is that the Israel Police has no registry of convicted sex offenders from abroad, meaning that the criminal history and potential danger to the public of dozens of such people, who have been given citizenship and live in the Jewish state, are unknown to the authorities.
Additionally, even if making aliyah does disclose a criminal background, the Interior Ministry is not required to deny their aliyah request. And even if it does, the applicant could appeal to the Supreme Court on the basis of the Law of Return.
Finally, the option of living in Israel on short-term tourist visas or long-term residency visas provides another avenue for sex offenders to make their way to the country and avoid, at least in the short term, accountability for possible crimes they may have committed in their country of origin.
One solution to some of these issues would be to revoke the citizenship of anyone who lied on an affidavit, which was required before criminal background checks were enforced, about their criminal history.
The Law of Return does stipulate that the interior minister can deny citizenship to someone with a criminal history who poses a danger to “public peace.”
In practice, the only time this has happened was for American Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky, whose request for aliyah was denied in 1972.
Revocation of citizenship is not something mentioned in the Law of Return, meaning that such a step would likely require legislation, as would requiring criminal background checks to obtain long-term resident visas.
Absent such legislation, which will likely prove legally difficult to formulate, the government could at the very least create a police registry of new immigrants who have been convicted of sex offenses in their countries of origin.
This measure would ensure that the Police can track the activities of such people and prevent them from working with children, a capability that it currently lacks.
While the State of Israel has a historical and national responsibility to allow Jews from around the world to obtain citizenship and live in the Jewish state, it has no less of an ethical responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and ensure that its shores are not a refuge from justice for Jewish sex offenders.