August 31, 2007

Israel's Law of "Return"

Here's that Magnes Zionist chap again, with his take on Israel's Law of Return. It comes in two parts. Here's the intro to part one, posted August, 14 this year:
In 1950 the Israeli Knesset passed the Law of Return, which begins, “Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh.” As Joppke and Roshenhek (2001) point out, the Law of Return is not an immigration law that confers upon Jews the right to be citizens of Israel; rather it recognizes their natural right to be citizens. It is part and parcel of the view of Israel as a state of the Jewish people who are its actual and potential citizens; it is a constitutive law, and not merely a law that favors one ethnic group over the other in immigration policy. The law applies not only to Jews who have suffered from discrimination or are refugees, but also to those who wish to settler in Israel for ideological, i.e., Jewish reasons. It follows from the two central doctrines of political Zionism: that the natural place for Jews is the State of Israel, and that a viable Jewish state can be attained through massive immigration. This second doctrine points to one of the main goals of the Law of Return – to ensure a solid Jewish majority, because of the recognition that Palestine is inhabited and claimed by another people, the Palestinians.
And here's the intro to the long awaited part two, published yesterday (30/8):
In “Democratic Norms, Diasporas, and Israel’s Law of Return,” Alexander Yacobson and Amnon Rubenstein defend Israel’s Law of Return by pointing to other states, especially Germany, that accord preference in immigration to "co-ethnics" of the majority ethnic group:
Germany, indeed, provides a well-known example. In the 1950s the Germans expanded the right to automatic citizenship to include not just refugees and displaced persons, as provided in their constitution, but also any person of German extraction from the USSR and the nations of Eastern Europe. This applied to a large population of ethnic Germans living in those areas for hundreds of years, without any civic or geographic connection with the modern German state. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the law was revised so that the eligibility for citizenship was limited to emigrants of German extraction from the former Soviet Union. Germany’s current policy toward ethnic Germans in other Eastern European states is to encourage them to remain where they are and to assist them in preserving their German culture.…in all the decades since its enactment, a half century in which Germany’s laws of repatriation granted citizenship to millions of immigrants of ethnic German extraction (along with considerable financial benefits), the laws of repatriation have never been challenged in the European Court of Human Rights (p. 7).
The authors suggest that there is (or was) a close analogy between the immigration practices of Germany and that of Israel. Both Israel and Germany recognize a right of return of its “co-ethnics,” some of whom never actually lived in the homeland, because of a sense of common nationhood. Germany was never criticized for it; why should Israel be? There is some merit in the analogy, provided that one does not look too closely. If one does, then not only do significant differences emerge, but Germany’s policy turns out to be more liberal than Israel’s – more liberal, indeed, than the policy advocated by Israeli liberals.
Anyway, among those of us who hold that Israel is a racist state, as distinct from a state with racists or a state with this or that racist law, the Law of Return is the centrepiece of what makes it so. I'm just putting a marker on this for now, but I do intend to, er, return to it in due course.

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