Daily Israel Report
More

Zion's Corner Blogs


Left-Wing US Jews Call ’Law of Return’ Racist

A small group of left-wing American Jews is campaigning against the “Law of Return,” calling it racist. Are they inciting anti-Semitism?
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 2/23/2010, 12:44 PM / Last Update: 2/23/2010, 1:02 PM

A small group of left-wing Americans, some of whom call themselves Zionists, have launched a “Breaking the Law of Return” campaign, branding as “racist” the Israeli law that guarantees citizenship to Jews. More than 1,000 American Jews have backed the movement.

American Jewry traditionally had been pro-Israel until peace movements and Israel military efforts to stop Arab terrorism turned a growing number of Diaspora Jews against modern Zionism. One recent effort to maintain close ties with Israelis living abroad is a proposal to allow them to vote in Israeli elections. The idea also raised the suggestion that all Diaspora Jews be allowed to vote for Israel’s leaders.

However, a group of post-Zionist American Jews opposes even having the automatic right to become Israeli citizens by moving to Israel.

"The Law of Return creates an ethnically exclusive citizenship," Dr. Amy Kaplan, an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-founder of the 'Breaking the Law of Return' campaign, told The Media Line. "Anyone who can claim a Jewish grandparent has this automatic right to 'return' to this land while Palestinians who were dispossessed of that land, in 1948 and 1967 and most recently in East Jerusalem, can't have that same right. We see this as unjust and want to repudiate that right."

She said she grew up in a Zionist family but that the Operation Cast Lead operation against Hamas terrorists “personally implicated [me] in the violence that it perpetrates in my name.” She did not explain her remark.

The Law of Return, passed in 1950, carried out the principle of the re-establishment of Israel as a Jewish State. The American Jews campaigning against it cite their drive as part of a public commitment to boycott Israel as part of the growing global opposition to Israeli policies, although many foreign elements also have called for the abolishment of Israel as a Jewish country.

Critics of the campaign include Israeli leftist leader Uri Avnery, founder of the Gush Shalom movement. He told The Media Line, "At this moment I think it's the wrong tactic and the wrong time. It will only turn Israeli public opinion against the peace movement." He said that the Law of Return is discriminatory against Arabs but that trying to abolish it “will mean nothing [and] send a bad signal and do no good whatsoever."

Stronger criticism was expressed by Hebrew University political scientist Dr. Moshe Maor, who told the website, "The Jewish radical left has criticized Israel's policies and undermined Israel's overall legitimacy for years. These kinds of campaigns pose a major threat to Israel as they ignite anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli feelings abroad.”

He pointed out post-Zionist claims that the Law of Return is discriminatory because it favors a Jewish State “is not accepted by the Israeli Zionist center… In 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution for the establishment of a Jewish State. So, the ticket to enter Israel is given to Jews only, but in Israel itself, there is no legal discrimination whatsoever."

Bar-Ilan University political scientist Dr. Gerald Steinberg (pictured), chairman of that NGO Monitor that exposes anti-Israel bias, told The Media Line that the Breaking the Law of Return campaign eventually seeks to make the existence of the State of Israel illegitimate.

"It's always easy to find a group of Jews on the fringes of society who make some noise and who are embraced by pro-Palestinian organizations," he said. "Their entire purpose is to provide more legitimacy to the Palestinian narrative which is focused on repealing the 1947 U.N. resolution which led to the establishment of the State of Israel.

"If there was a French group that denied the right of the French to live in France and demanded that the French language be replaced by a kind of international culture it would get absolutely no publicity," he added. "But because it's Israel it gets attention."

Several American Jews campaigning against the law admit that it is part of a general move against American aid to Israel. "As a Jewish person I oppose what Israel is doing in my name but I also protest that they are doing it with my tax dollars," American Jewish activist Anna Beltzer said.