The wrong target for deportation

We need to defend our threatened and vulnerable society – a defense that, until now, hasn’t been a sterling success, to put it mildly.

There’s no denying that Israel’s unique geographic position on the crossroads between continents, and its First World standards in an essentially Third World setting, make it an alluring magnet for economic migrants from both south and east. There’s equally no denying that this poses a potent demographic danger to the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
This obliges us to defend our anyway threatened and vulnerable society – a defense that, until now, hasn’t been a sterling success, to put it mildly.
The Interior Ministry’s misdirected zeal in one particular case, therefore, becomes particularly galling – despite some belated backtracking: We are talking about the case of 27-year-old German Thomas Schmidt.
The Interior Ministry informed him last Sunday that he would be deported, although kicking him out of the country wouldn’t have contributed one iota to our safety as a Jewish nation-state. On Thursday, the ministry decided to issue a temporary visa to Schmidt, good until his case is discussed and decided upon conclusively.
Schmidt is the antithesis to the sub-Saharan illegals who infiltrate this country by the thousands via the stillporous Egyptian border. He’s not part of a deluge threatening to engulf us but is a dedicated individual who consciously chose to go against the current, coming as he does from a wealthier, more secure and more peaceful society than ours.
He has lived among us for six years, speaks a fluent Hebrew and is even proficiently literate in it. He has no insidious agenda, no desire to proselytize. He was in a long-term relationship with Nir Katz, one of the two victims killed in the Tel Aviv gay community center shooting in August 2009. Katz and Schmidt were in the process of registering as a couple at the time. Katz’s family regard him as one of their own. But after Schmidt’s residency permit’s “compassionate extension” expired, he faced deportation.
WHAT PURPOSE could ministerial hardheartedness serve in expelling one individual who has thrown his lot in with us, who actually – bucking the trend in his erstwhile European milieu – says he fell in love with us? Why even consider turning against an ambassador of true goodwill, one who doesn’t paint us as villains but as a warm and comforting people? It appears facile to attribute officialdom’s callousness entirely to homophobia. That doesn’t fully account for ministerial obduracy.
The case of a heterogeneous German couple resident here accentuates our doubts. Dr. Andreas Kling and his wife, Angelina, have also been here for six years. Their three children were born here. Kling came to Israel on “an expert worker’s visa” to run seminars on Israel’s economy for marketing students from developing countries. His request to extend his work permit has now been rejected, despite support from both the Foreign and Trade ministries.
The terse Interior Ministry’s explanation was that the Klings’ residency application was denied because “the applicants did not meet requirements.”
What appears to tie both the Schmidt and Kling cases is a surplus of snarled red-tape, along with a manifest lack of benign intentions. The very weighty task the ministry faces as a bulwark against inundation by illegals from abroad will not be served by focusing on the inherently wrong targets.
It is now respectable, sometimes even de rigueur, in some parts of polite society overseas to demonize and delegitimize Israel. We, as Israelis, struggle hard to prove to all and sundry that we are not the international community’s pariahs-cum-ogres, and that we deserve the same openness and tolerance as naturally accorded to other all nationalities.

That, however, demands a modicum of good sense and tolerance from us as well. We have very few friends in the world and can therefore ill-afford to collaborate in our own gratuitous defamation, while turning away those few individuals who had chosen to identify with us.
It’s good that at least in Schmidt’s case level-headedness may have prevailed at the last minute. But this case unfortunately is not exceptional. The story last fall of Swiss nurse Monique Martinek, the granddaughter of a Holocaust victim, who wanted to make aliya, comes to mind.
Too many like it crop up intermittently. This leaves us with the inescapable impression that Interior Ministry officials are foremost guided by the petty antagonisms for which the Shas-run bureaucracy has become so infamous, and that they only retreat from these after Israel reputation has been needlessly tarnished.