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Sunday 19 August 2007

Reform Immigration Policy

Reform Immigration Policy

Yesterday, for example, the Israel Religious Action Center, which is
actually the Reform movement's lobby in Israel, published a proposal for
immigration policy. The most interesting item in the proposal is the
suggestion to examine the possibility of not granting immediate
citizenship to new immigrants, but rather only residency. Citizenship
will be granted to immigrants only after they prove their settlement in
Israel and a certain command of Hebrew. The document entitled "Israel's
Immigration Policy," composed by attorney Nicole Maor, states that such
an approach will reduce the discrimination created by the Law of Return,
and will make the abuse of that law more difficult.

The most prevalent proposal for amending the Law of Return is the
cancelation of the "grandchild clause" - such that the right to
immigrate to Israel will be granted to the children of Jews, but not to
their grandchildren. The Israel Religious Action Center objects to any
restriction to the right of return, including the cancelation of the
grandchild clause, which could harm members of Reform communities
abroad. Still, even the center's staff knows that the proposal enjoys
broad support among politicians. The Reform representatives are
therefore demanding that if the grandchild clause is canceled, a Jewish
affiliation clause should be added. Such an addition would grant the
right of return to "those recognized as Jewish by a Jewish community
recognized in Israel or the Diaspora, or someone who has a proven
affinity to such a community."

Maor's report sums up 15 years of defending the rights of "victims" of
the Population Administration. She explains that the report concludes
that the system dealing with citizenship does not function properly, and
that without a revolution, Israel will continue to violate the basic
civil rights of both Jewish and non-Jewish immigrants. The report
recommends making many amendments to the legislation, but Maor says the
main priority is to increase the number of workers of, and the funding
allocated to, the Population Administration. "Otherwise," says Maor,
"everything will remain suspended in mid-air."

Maor says she feels it is not by accident that additional workers have
not been allocated to the administration so it can cope with the wave of
immigrants. According to her, this seems to be Israel's way of blocking
the gates to immigration with bureaucratic hurdles.

Other proposals included in the Israel Religious Action Center's booklet
on Israel's immigration policy:

b The right of children of those eligible under the Law of Return (the
great-grandchildren of Jews) to receive citizenship should be anchored
in the law;

b Foreign workers who have made a special contribution to the state
should be allowed to remain in Israel for up to 10 years, not up to five
years, as is the current practice. After this period they should be
granted permanent residency. Today the only way for a foreign worker to
receive citizenship or residency in Israel is if he/she is sharing
his/her life with an Israeli partner;

b The authority to cancel citizenship - currently in the hands of the
interior minister - should be transferred to the court. A statute of
limitations of seven years should be set for the offense of obtaining
citizenship fraudulently. After that period, it will be impossible to
annul citizenship, even if it was obtained fraudulently


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