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New nationality proposed for immigrants whom Israel deems ‘only partly Jewish’

Israeli settlers march with Israeli flags in East Jerusalem [Ma'an News]
Israeli settlers march with Israeli flags in East Jerusalem [Ma'an News]

An Israeli parliamentarian has proposed an amendment to crate a new nationality in the state’s population register for immigrants “whom Israel deems only partly Jewish”, reported Haaretz.

The new nationality would appear as “Eligible Under the Law of Return”.

According to Haaretz, “under the existing classification system, immigrants who are halakhically Jewish (born to Jewish mothers or converted by Orthodox rabbis sanctioned by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate) are listed as “Jewish” under nationality”.

However, “immigrants who are not deemed Jewish under religious law are listed according to the country of their birth (i.e., “Russian,” “American”)”, as are their children.

The proposed amendment has been drafted by MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) and Dr. Shuki Friedman, head of the Centre for Religion, Nation and State – the Israel Democracy Institute.

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Svetlova said the new “Eligible Under the Law of Return” designation is meant to highlight the connection of new immigrants to the Jewish people, telling Haaretz:

“Many of the immigrants find this practice of labelling them by another nationality offensive and insulting, because it is not how they self-identify. They see themselves as Jewish and Israeli”.

Under Israeli law, every citizen has a designated ‘nationality’ listed on the population registry.

According to legal experts, Israel’s “separation between the citizenship element and the nationality element… creates a hierarchy and exclusion, which is expressed not just on the level of symbols and declarations, but also in terms of allocating resources, governmental power, jobs, discrimination (formal or informal) and the need to indicate in the Population Registry who is a Jew and who isn’t”.

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As explained by the paper, “under the Law of Return, individuals with at least one Jewish grandparent or a Jewish spouse, or individuals who converted to Judaism in an established Jewish community, are allowed to immigrate to Israel and obtain automatic citizenship”.

Israeli immigration and citizenship legislation also works to denationalise and exclude the Palestinians expelled from hundreds of communities in 1948.

Svetlova said that as soon as the next Knesset session begins in mid-October, she intends to ask other lawmakers to add their signatures to the proposed amendment.

“We are not demanding that these people have their nationality listed as ‘Jewish.’ We just want some acknowledgement of their connection to Israel”, the lawmaker added.

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