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The ‘Law of Return’ is being tested by Ethiopian Jews as an ‘Israel First’ policy begins to bite

19 24 9

This week, Israel’s cabinet approved a bill to allow 1,000 Ethiopian Jews to migrate to Israel. The bill, which was first announced in September, proposed that Ethiopian Jews who already have family in Israel would be allowed to relocate to the state, bringing with them their partners and any unmarried children.

What the bill failed to mention was that some 7,000 Ethiopian Jews will be left behind in Ethiopia. Members of the Falash Mura tribe, thought to be descendants of the ancient Israelites who were forced to convert to Christianity, have long been a thorny issue for Israel. A 1991 covert operation — which flew over 14,000 Falash Mura to Israel in only 36 hours in the midst of political volatility in Ethiopia — was lauded as an example of Israel’s commitment to protecting all Jewish communities around the world.

Israel is keen to stress that Jews from all corners of the globe can migrate to Israel under the “Law of Return”. That law, which was enshrined in 1950, states that anyone who is Jewish or able to prove recent Jewish ancestry has the natural right to “make aliyah” to Israel. The law is in many ways central to Israel’s raison d’être as a homeland for Jews, which is an ethos that was entrenched further by the recent adoption of the controversial Nation State Law which declared that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”.

READ: Ethiopia immigration undermines denial of Palestinian family unification, Israeli attorney general warns

Yet, as this week’s case surrounding Ethiopian Jews demonstrates, not all Jews appear to be equal in Israel’s eyes. Paying lip service to the Law of Return, what their case demonstrates is the beginning of a shift towards an “Israel First” policy.........

© Middle East Monitor