Ben-Dror Yemini
Ben-Dror Yemini
Photo: Ynet
Tel Aviv City Hall lights up with the colors of Ukrainian flag in wake of Russian invasion

Israel must help refugees, but unbridled immigration not the answer

Opinion: Refugees fleeing horrors of war must be helped by Israel, but general policies of unlimited immigration from Ukraine, Ethiopia or any other state could lead to a conflicted and alienated society

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 03.19.22, 14:14
Taking in refugees in time of crises appears to be a universal consensus. "All are welcome," say the advocates of free immigration who preach for an open, diverse, and multicultural society. When it come to those who escaped to save their lives, there's no debate - our gates must be open for them.
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  • As for all the others, unlimited immigration may pose a threat to the local community which they enter and eventually the nation. This is because of the consensus that the welfare state is a derivative of the nation state - the more heterogenous a society, the less solidarity it can sustain.
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    בניין עיריית תל אביב מואר בצבעי דגל אוקראינה
    בניין עיריית תל אביב מואר בצבעי דגל אוקראינה
    Tel Aviv City Hall lights up with the colors of Ukrainian flag in wake of Russian invasion
    (Photo: Guy Yechieli)
    In 2004, British journalist David Goodhart published an article in Prospect magazine, titled "Discomfort of strangers," which caused an uproar.
    The bottom line of the article was that in the past we were a homogenous society, with common values. Due to this, we were blessed with solidarity that gave way to welfare states. Immigration waves created diversity. The more diverse we became, the more we forgot the common ethos, in the absence of which, the solidarity between people in a given country erodes.
    Prof. Robert Putnam of Harvard University was even more determinative in portraying the negative effects of diverse societies. "The more diverse the group around us ethnically - the less we trust those around us, including people who look like us," he wrote.
    This is also known as the "liberal paradox"- the more homogenous a society, the more solidarity it h; the more heterogenous a society, the more alienated it is.
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    הפגנה מול ביתה של איילת שקד במחאה על מדיניות הממשלה לקליטת הפליטים מאוקראינה
    הפגנה מול ביתה של איילת שקד במחאה על מדיניות הממשלה לקליטת הפליטים מאוקראינה
    Israelis protest over Israel's unwillingness to admit more Ukrainian reugees
    (Photo: Tal Shimoni)
    When examining second and third generation immigrants in Europe, it's clear that while some of them are adapting and integrating, some remain outsiders.
    For instance, those who immigrated to Britain from the Indian subcontinent integrated well, and as of today, they are now the most educated ethnic group in the country. Some of the Muslims, however, who arrived from the same region, primarily Pakistan, opted to maintain some of the outdated values - by Western standards - and were less successful in integrating in their adoptive country.
    Israel is now facing similar dilemmas. Israel last week voted to approve the so-called citizenship law that is meant to minimize the immigration from countries that have "hostile elements". One must be crazy to agree to immigration from a place in which most of the population supports Hamas.
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    Children belonging to the Ethiopian Jewish community are pictured in a compound where several jewish families live, in the city of Gondar, Ethiopia
    Children belonging to the Ethiopian Jewish community are pictured in a compound where several jewish families live, in the city of Gondar, Ethiopia
    Children belonging to the Ethiopian Jewish community are pictured in a compound where several Jewish families live, in the city of Gondar, Ethiopia
    (Photo: AFP)
    There is a correlation between the newly-passed citizenship law to immigration from Ethiopia and Ukraine. For instance, many of those immigrating from Ethiopia in recent have not been eligible to come through the Israeli Law of Return due to being Christian. But they, nonetheless, managed to the arrive thanks to being tied legally to Jews in one way or another, which is something the citizenship law is meant to prevent.
    So, the more generous Israel becomes, the larger and more frequent the non-Jewish immigration waves will be, and for every ten thousand ineligible migrants who are allowed in, tens of thousands of their family members will seek to join them.
    Still, no Israeli government is willing to say that only those eligible for the Law of Return can make Aliyah.
    Regarding Ukraine, mass immigration is not to be worried about. Those coming here already passed through other countries on their way. It can be assumed that they would prefer to stay in Germany or France, rather than make their way to Israel. If they c in Israel, it's because they have family here. Israel needs to offer temporary asylum. There is no risk of overflow.
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    פליטים מאוקראינה בגבול פולין
    פליטים מאוקראינה בגבול פולין
    Ukrainian refugees on the Polish border
    (Photo: Reuters)
    When it comes to our domestic issues with diversity, Israel needs to do two things to try and create a solidarity among the people. First of all - equality for all Arab minority. Jews have been a minority in other countries for centuries, and what we hate the most, we shall not impose on others.
    Second, a conversion revolution that would allow hundreds of thousands of Israelis that came from Eastern Europe to go through rapid conversion to Judaism. They tied their faith to the Jewish nation, they will integrate. They serve here as soldiers, as engineers and doctors. This is a unique chance to break the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on conversions.
    Israel is a nation state, not an immigration state. If it's Canada's right to decide to be an immigration state, it's Israel's right not admit Muslims and Christians, who have many other states to immigrate to.
    There is only one Jewish state, that was established as a safe haven and national home to the Jewish people. The diversity didn't work in Yugoslavia, which dispersed into seven different entities with distinguished national identities, cultures, ethnicities, and religions. The Soviet Union also scattered into 15 entities, each claiming the right to self-determination.
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    הפגנה בנתב''ג נגד היחס לפליטים מאוקראינה
    הפגנה בנתב''ג נגד היחס לפליטים מאוקראינה
    Pro-Ukraine protest at Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Roi Rubinsten)
    Those who want to flood Israel with illegal immigrants and asylum seekers threaten its self-determination and push to create "diversity" with potentially detrimental long-term effects.
    It will not happen because of the few thousand refugees arriving from Ukraine. But, if we listen to the progressive parties and allow free immigration - of Palestinians, Ukrainians, and African asylum seeks - we're bound to lose our solidarity and come to become a conflicted and alienated society.
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