Law of Return denies refuge?

A survivor now living in France, “Marcel”, expressed serious concerns regarding the plight of French Jewry. He implies that Israel’s Law of Return limits their options regarding refuge. I consider his concerns not factually-based and, with slight revisions for clarity, I attach my understanding of the Law, and his misunderstanding of its application:

“You repeatedly accuse Israel as somehow limiting “refuge  blocked by the idiotic, criminal religious Law of Return.” First, the Law of Return, one of Israel’s first Basic Laws,  and introduced in 1950 provides refuge to ALL Jews.  Second, it was amended in 1970 to specifically cover a  Christian descended from a Jewish grandparent converted to Christian. And I am certain you know all that.

“Your anger, therefore, is directed not at the Law and Amendment, but to the manner in which it is interpreted  and applied when the Ministry of Interior is run by certain  Haredi parties who refused to recognize olim on their  teudat zehut (identity card) not converted according to  Halacha as “Jewish.” But none were denied the right to  immigrate. And when immigrants challenged the minister’s  authority the Supreme Court would come out for the  immigrant.

“As a matter of fact the 1970 Grandparent Amendment was introduced and passed by the Labor government under  Golda Meir precisely to make explicit the intent of the Law  of Return as available to ALL threatened as “Jew,” back to  a single convert Jewish grandparent, a direct response to  Germany’s Nuremberg Laws defining “Jew” back to a single  Jewish grandparent. As, I am certain, you already know.

“As regards French Jewry threatened by Muslims today? I  suspect that those threatened are likely openly identified  somehow as Jews so should have no real or imaginary  reason for fearing oleh status. And as Jews they certainly  have the benefit of a state of the Jews to seek refuge, or  simply choose to live in. If, as most Diaspora Jews, they  decline refuge; if they choose not to avail themselves the  most available and obvious “solution” to the problem  (precisely the Denial I describe in my writings) then the  alternative is to remain in place and, as our German community seventy-five years earlier, hope for the best.  Not my preference, but that is all I have available as  response to your description of the situation in France: ACT, or hope for the best!

“As regards your repeated issue with the Law of Return.  “Marcel”, I can only guess at the source of your anger, and  suspect I described it above: the Ministry, not the Law.  Clearly, if so, then you are not alone in your complaint. And I not only sympathize, but agree. And I will soon discuss precisely the challenges to the Law of Return, religious and secular, in Israel. But I suggest you temporize your thinking  and comments, be clear regarding your criticisms. If you really mean “Who is a Jew” then don’t attack Israel; if you  mean the tiny minority of anti-Zionist haredim, or the  particular coalition government that provides them authority through the Interior Ministry to interpret the Law  of Return, then specify “ministry.” The ministry is not the Law, or Israel.

“Israel has a long track record of accepting as olim populations distant by centuries and longer from what is generally recognized as “mainstream Judaism” today.

“If the choice for French Jewry is as dire as you describe:  prejudice, persecution and murder at the hands of extremists; and if, as you imply, French Jews are anxious to  leave but fear the implications of the Law of Return as YOU  describe it, then I, for one, faced with that which you  describe would have no hesitation under the circumstance, as you describe.”

About the Author
David made aliya in 1960 and has been active in Jewish issues since. He was a regional director for JNF in New York, created JUDAC, Jews United to Defend the Auschwitz Cemetery during that controversy; at the request of Jonathan Pollard created and led Justice for the Pollards in 1989.