One of the authors of the letter of caution, which seeks to block the impending expulsion of the migrants, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, was Rabbi Marvin Hier, who accepted an invitation by US President Donald Trump to offer a prayer at his presidential inauguration.
Heir also lit a memorial torch on Mount Herzl and was one of the founders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance and of Moriah. He, like the rest of the letter’s signatories, is considered to be a strong advocate for Israel.
Abe Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League, also put his signature to the letter, as did renowned American attorney and Israel activist Alan Dershowitz, New York Rabbi Avi Weiss from the community’s liberal stream, and modern-Orthodox scholar Rabbi Irving (Yitzchak) Greenberg.
Dershowitz, a one-time supporters of President Barack Obama, was vocal in his support for Netanyahu against the Iran nuclear agreement, and attended his 2015 speech to the US Congress in a last-ditch effort to derail the efforts toward signing the agreement.
“We, a group of ardent Zionists, who have devoted our lives to defending the good name of the state of Israel and the Jewish people, write with urgent concern about the situation of the African asylum seekers,” said the letter.
“We fear that a mass expulsion could cause incalculable damage to the moral standing of Israel and of Jews around the world,” it continued. “We respectfully urge you, Mr. Prime Minister, to appoint Natan Sharansky to head a committee that would propose a humanitarian solution to the problem that also takes into account the concerns of the government of Israel.”
However, a response issued on behalf of Sharansky, the outgoing Jewish Agency Chairman, said that he was unaware of any such initiative regarding a committee.
“Mr. Sharansky was not a party to this initiative, has no knowledge of its details, and did not grant it his approval.”
On Thursday, Israel’s High Court issued a temporary injunction for the state, ordering it to halt the expulsion of asylum seekers from Israel until it submits a response to a petition made to the court against the expulsion. The state's reply, the justices ruled, must be submitted by March 26.
Last Friday, some 500 activists marched along the streets of south Tel Aviv in a latest display of solidarity with illegal African migrants and asylum seekers, who are set to be deported to Uganda or Rwanda or face imprisonment in Israel.
In January, Israel began notifying thousands of Africans who entered the country illegally that they have three months to leave or face incarceration. They have until the end of March to decide.
The Population and Immigration Authority called on migrants at the same time from Sudan and Eritrea to leave "to their country or to a third country," meaning Rwanda or Uganda. Those who leave by the end of March will be given $3,500, along with airfare and other incentives.