- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Russian immigrants who were invited to settle in Israel despite having only distant Jewish roots are being blamed for a startling outbreak of anti-Semitism in the country.
A growing number of incidents, including verbal and physical abuse, swastikas daubed on walls and the desecration of a Jewish cemetery, has led to calls for a rethinking of Israel's aggressive immigration policies.
Yuli Edelstein, an Israeli government minister responsible for settling immigrants, on Saturday became the first senior government figure to call openly for the immigration system to be changed.
In an interview, he said he was concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism and its apparent connection with the "overzealous" policies of the Jewish Agency, which is responsible for bringing immigrants to Israel.
He said he had met heads of the agency to press for more stringent measures to filter out "undesirable" immigrants who have no intention of adopting Jewish customs.
A survey of recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union found that 70 percent did not qualify as "Jewish" according to religious law.
The problem has arisen because Israel's law of return grants anyone with one Jewish grandparent the right to settle in Israel and to bring his or her family. Critics say aggressive recruitment campaigns by the Jewish Agency in former Soviet republics have tempted many people to move to Israel despite only remote Jewish connections.
Zalman Gilchensky, 37, a Jerusalem rabbi who set up a center to monitor the anti-Semitic attacks in Israel, has recorded at least 500 incidents during the past year and is leading a campaign to change the law.
He says it allows non-Jewish and sometimes anti-Semitic extended families to immigrate to Israel, simply because one family member had a Jewish grandfather.
Last week, Mr. Gilchensky organized the first public demonstration about the issue outside the Jerusalem offices of the Jewish Agency. He argued that the agency's rush to bring in new immigrants is endangering the state of Israel.
The agency has acknowledged that it is disturbed by the anti-Semitism but says it will not shift its policies on the right of return.
Spokesman Yehuda Weinraub said: "To change the law of return would betray the trust with the Jewish community as a whole. The answer to this problem lies in increasing education."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide