Ayelet Shaked to 'Post': Goal isn't to fix global issues but to protect people in fear

The goal isn't to circumvent sovereign states' immigration policies or fix global issues but to focus on the important mission at hand - protect people fearing for their lives

 A PROTEST was held in March outside the home of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked against the government’s policy of deporting some Ukrainian  refugees. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
A PROTEST was held in March outside the home of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked against the government’s policy of deporting some Ukrainian refugees.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

As part of an overall trend, the Refugee Convention was hijacked for the purpose of promoting radical agendas. We must go back and look at the original intent of the convention and clarify that there is no room for the comparison between the Jewish ritual of circumcision and severe persecution that qualifies people for refugee status.

As the interior minister of the State of Israel, I have approved positive recommendations brought before me by the Refugee Committee, varying from people who have suffered persecution on religious grounds, to a former child soldier from Sierra Leone.

In contrast, I recently refused to grant refugee status to a woman in her thirties from that same country, who claimed that she feared she would be forced to undergo the horrible custom of female genital mutilation.

It is important to clarify that my decision is based first and foremost on the factual circumstances of this individual case since there is no information demonstrating that a grown woman in her thirties would be forced to undergo this procedure against her will. Nevertheless, I found it necessary to include in my decision, a detailed position on some of the fundamental issues that arose around this issue.

What are some of the fundamental issues that came from this issue?

 Ukrainian Jewish refugees arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, March 6, 2022.  (credit: HADAS PARUSH) Ukrainian Jewish refugees arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, March 6, 2022. (credit: HADAS PARUSH)

As is well known, the Refugee Convention was drafted after World War II and the Holocaust. It never occurred to the drafters that it would obligate countries to provide a response for all types of hardships and difficulties that affect hundreds of millions of people in developing countries, however sympathetic we may be. Moreover, it was emphasized, in accordance with the basic principles of international law, that the authority to determine who could receive legal immigration status would be retained by each country, according to their internal immigration laws.

In contrast to its original intention, in recent years the Refugee Convention has been hijacked for the promotion of radical agendas on immigration and efforts to expand it almost without limitation. For example, the relatively new Istanbul Convention includes even phenomena such as domestic and economic violence, as sufficient grounds for receiving refugee status.

There is no need to be an expert in international law to understand the possible implications of such a far-reaching approach for any responsible immigration policy or asylum system. Furthermore, it would deplete the term “refugee” from any real substance at the expense of people with a bona fide fear of life-threatening persecution. Thus, it is crucial to lay down responsible and sensible benchmarks for hardships that may constitute persecution, and for this reason I also opposed the recent initiative to push for Israel’s accession to that treaty.

FURTHERMORE, WHEN considering asylum requests on the ground of cultural practices, such as female circumcision, we must be extra cautious. First, an all-embracing approach that views most, or all girls in a certain country as persecuted by their own mothers according to the refugee convention standards, is extremely problematic in itself for obvious reasons.

Thus, it is crucial to develop a more individual, nuanced and fact-based approach to this issue. Secondly, we must take into account that immigrants might bring this practice with them to their new country of residence, voiding the purpose of granting refugee status in the first place.

In light of the general trend described above, and the growth of a similar worldview, initiatives in Europe that would prohibit Jews from performing the religious ritual of circumcision are increasing. These initiatives are advanced through the inaccurate comparisons made between this practice and the barbaric custom of sewing up or cutting out whole parts of girls’ genitals.

As the interior minister, I have a responsibility to protect the rights of Jewish communities around the world to preserve their Jewish traditions and to take into account the possible ramifications of adopting sweeping policies on this delicate and important issue. To that end, my decision lays out the grounds for an unequivocal and fact-based distinction between these practices, which I believe can stand up over time.

In order to preserve the Refugee Convention as an effective international document, we must return to its original concept and purpose, based not only on the drafters and signatory states intentions but also on basic common sense. The goal is not to circumvent sovereign states immigration policies, fix global issues or promote far-reaching social or cultural change, but to focus on the important mission at hand – protecting people genuinely fearing for their lives.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.