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      India Leftists Fight Bnei Menashe Aliyah

      India's highly influential Communist Party has announced it will fight to prohibit 6,000 members of the Bnei Menashe community from immigrating to Israel.

      First Publish: 4/8/2005, 1:50 PM / Last Update: 4/8/2005, 4:28 PM

      Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar announced last week that he would recognize the community's Jewish roots and send rabbinical courts to India to convert them, enabling them to move to Israel under the Law of Return.

      "We have heard about exporting weapons and equipment, but it is forbidden to export a community," said Indian Communist party leader Farkish Kret, whose faction holds 18 seats in the Indian parliament.

      Kret also called on India to halt its security cooperation with Israel. The two countries recently agreed to a trade pact, including Israel's purchase of new helicopters from India.

      Upon learning of Rabbi Amar’s decision, Bnei Menashe members spontaneously danced and arranged festive meals, though the leftist opposition put a damper on their joyful reaction. Nevertheless, more than 300 community leaders announced plans for a massive celebration on May 1.

      The Bnei Menashe consider themselves descendents of Israelites who were dispersed before the destruction of the First Temple, reaching eastern India after journeying through Persia, Afghanistan and China. Their extended tribe, the Kuki-Chin-Mizo, numbers almost 1,000,000 members, but most are Christians or Animists and do not consider themselves part of the Jewish community.

      Several hundred Bnei Menashe Jews have immigrated to Israel in recent years, and the majority live in Gush Katif, Kiryat Arba and Beit El, north of Jerusalem.

      The anti-religious Shinui party stopped the Bnei Menashe immigration when it held the Interior Ministry post. Rabbi Amar's decision effectively overrides the Shinui policy, which does not affect those who convert to Judaism before moving to Israel.