7 April 2016

In Israel even conversion to becoming Jewish depends on your race

Not everyone can join the herrenvolk

One of the arguments used by those who say that Zionism is not racist is that anyone can convert to being Jewish and thus become part of the master race in Israel.  There is no barrier if you meet the religious criteria of adherence to Orthodoxy, observance of the commandments (mitzvot) etc.

Now we learn that Israel’s conversion authority routinely rejects Palestinian and refugee requests to convert on grounds of ethnicity or their legal status as refugees.  What has one’s status as a refugee got to do with religious adherence?  Nothing of course.  Except of course that the Orthodox Jewish institutions fulfills much the same function vs the Israeli state as the Reich Church in Germany fulfilled in respect of the Nazi state.  The difference was that in Nazi Germany the Confessing Church supplanted the Reich Church which became unpopular with German Christians (not the Confessing Church ever stood up to the Nazis).

In Slovakia during WW2 approximately 10% of Slovakian Jews, between 6,000 and 8,000 converted to Christianity to escape deportation.  In Budapest in 1944 thousands of Jews converted for the same reason.  Almost without exception the Churches put no obstacles in the way of conversion, even though they knew that the reasons for conversion were to save themselves rather than out of religious devotion.  In the majority of case it did not save the Jewish converts from deportation though it did in somc cases.

Tony Greenstein

JTA  Fri, 01 Apr 2016 

Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, director of the Israeli government’s Conversion Authority, made the statement earlier this week, according to NRG.

Photo by: REUTERS

Israel’s authority handling conversions to Judaism rejects Palestinian applicants without review because of their ethnic origin, its head said.

Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, director of the Israeli government’s Conversion Authority, spoke about his organization’s handling of requests by Palestinians to convert on Tuesday during a discussion on conversions at the State Control Committee of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, the news site NRG reported.

To initiate an officially recognized conversion to Judaism in Israel, foreigners need to apply to the special cases panel of the Conversion Authority.

“The threshold requirements” to be considered by the special cases panel, he said, “are that applicants be sincere and that they are not foreign workers; infiltrators; Palestinian or illegally in the country.” In 2014, he added, the special cases committee received 400 applications. “Half of the applicants were accepted, the rest were rejected as foreign workers, infiltrators, illegal stayers and Palestinians,” he said.

Conversions to Judaism by Palestinians are rare in Israel.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which is the legal basis for the country’s basic laws  - a set often referred to the equivalent of Israel’s constitution - ensures “absolute social and political equality to all its citizens regardless of faith, race and gender.”

The Israeli government fears that Palestinian attempts to convert to Judaism would be a covert form of realizing "the right of return," which is demanded by Arabs who were forced to flee or fled their former homes and lands in pre-state Israel just before the state's founding.

'African infiltrators have no halachic affiliation to the Jewish people' (archives) Photo: Gil Yohanan

Dozens of Eritrean and Sudanese infiltrators have asked to become part of Jewish people in past year bid to receive residence permit and perhaps even Israeli citizenship, Ynet learns.

Kobi Nachshoni

Published: 06.11.14, 00:19 / Israel Jewish Scene

Dozens of Eritrean and Sudanese infiltrators residing in Israel illegally have requested to convert to Judaism in the past year in a bid to receive a residence permit and perhaps even an Israeli citizenship, Ynet has learned.

Their requests were rejected out of hand by the Conversion Authority for failing to meet preconditions.

Refugee Problem

According to figures compiled by the Ministry of Religious of Services, dozens of Africans tried to begin a conversion process, and most requests were made when the infiltrators' problem was at the center of the public and media's attention.

A ministry official estimates that the immediate refusal made the entire community realize that it would not find a solution to its distress that way, and the number of requests soon diminished.

"The government built a fence in the south, on the state's border, and we built one here, at the entrance gate to the Jewish people," Shmuel Jeselsohn, head of the State Conversion Authority, told Ynet. "That's why even when there are infiltrators seeking to convert – it's not a phenomenon."

Rejected without discussion

According to Jeselsohn, until a few years ago there were no precondition for conversion, so that "everyone who was deported or banned entry to Israel would immediately knock on the door, and we had to summon them for an interview and start a process.
"This has been stopped," he added, 'and now foreign nationals are required to fill out a form requesting a conversion, which is discussed together with Justice Ministry representatives. If the request is filed by an illegal resident, it will be denied immediately.'

Yet religious sources have expressed their fear that the state will regularize the status of African infiltrators in the future and allow them to reside in Israel. In such a case, they will have the legal right to convert, despite the fact that they have no halachic affiliation to the Jewish people.

"The stories we hear from the religious courts, that they allegedly abuse converts, will pale in comparison to what we are expected to see with the Africans," a Conversion Authority source told Ynet.

"Today we are still talking about immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who in the worst case are assimilators of Jewish descent, and so we are still lenient with them. But here we are talking about tens of thousands who want to assimilate into us and have no connection to Judaism."
Appeals received from Palestinians too

Jeselsohn says the tension between the civil law and Jewish Law is built into the conversion issue, but is hardly witnessed these days.

Jeselsohn offers one example: "A while ago I met a woman with a head cover, who obviously maintains a very religious lifestyle and really wants to be part of the Jewish people. But then it turned out that several years ago she tried to enter Israel without a permit, and so legally she must not be converted."

Today, the exceptions committee allows the Conversion Authority to begin the process for a person who fails to meet the preconditions only in very rare cases. According to Jeselsohn, "We are occasionally approached by Palestinians who experience problems entering Israel."

He recalls an amusing incident when a Bedouin who began taking Judaism lessons called to inquire why he was not receiving an allowance like any other yeshiva student. 

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