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A Conversation with Fatima

Ramat Gan, Israel — The Israeli cabinet approved a proposal requiring new immigrants to pledge loyalty to the “Jewish and democratic” state on October 10. The bill was greeted by hot and cold receptions from critics in the international community. The bill, which still faces a wider parliamentary vote, passed initially by a 22-8 margin – finding strong domestic opposition from the Labor Party and Israeli Arabs.

Perhaps I am naive, but I was a little chagrined by the amount of negative hoopla the news caused; I always saw Israel as a Jewish state and a democracy — this is what I love about little Israel. But in the unseasonably hot weather and proverbial prickly atmosphere, one should prepare them self to never feel too surprised in this land of mystery.

Fatima, an 18-year-old student of linguistics and English literature at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan said, “I don’t think it makes any change. Everyone here is supposed to say that they swear to the country.” Fatima, donning a lime green hijab and traditional silk black dress spoke over the mellow hum of copy machines amid an ethnically mixed handful of college students. “I don’t know what he [PM Netanyahu] said and what he meant – I don’t know his aim.” She stressed that the facts for her are freely explained on her Facebook page, she is a proud Palestinian.

“The Palestinians have long rejected that, [the Jewishness of Israel]saying Israel may use it as a pretext to deny Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war that created Israel the right to return to their former homes.” wrote Vita Bekker of The National. However, chief of the Fatah-ruling PA, Mahmoud Abbas claimed that Arabs in the “occupied territories” had already done that during the 1993 Oslo Accords. Recent research shows, the ratio of Palestinians in the territories who object to Israel being a Jewish state and those who don’t is almost cut in half – just slightly a larger percent for the latter.

But the law really applies to those who are thinking of immigrating to Israel. Andrea, 40, is a non-Jewish American woman married to an Israeli. She also studies at the university, of which she complains the tuition is too high. “I won’t make Aliyah if I have to swear to a Jewish country.” The two had to marry outside the country, “A rabbi would not recognize our marriage,” she said, “I feel my husband” placed in a “50% tax bracket” and a career military officer for fourteen years “is being discriminated against.”

Then, a week ago, Israeli PM Netanyahu instructed Justice Minister, Ya’akov Ne’eman to prepare a draft bill that would also require Jews to pledge allegiance to Israel “as a Jewish and democratic state”.

Standing outside the university synagogue, without a yamulke on his head, Rotem Nisan, a 25 year-old geography student at the same university as Fatima said, “This is a country of Jews. I have no problem with Muslims and Christians, but if you want residence and an ID, you must be Jewish. To tourists, the country is open.”

The day after we chatted in the Xerox room near the English language building at Bar Ilan University, Fatima sent me a message on Facebook; she had lots more to say:

“dear Scott,

I just read your article. You have such a nice way in writing. But when I said “I don’t know what he [PM Netanyahu] said and what he meant – I don’t know his aim.” I looked like a very unconscious girl which I am not. I don’t know if this is the right word but when I heard about this law I kinda felt a way of harassment from the government.. that’s why I said I don’t know his aim. If it comes to me, I would highly reject this law because it really against our own believes and thought. Who said that if I want to live in a country i should admit its nationality? so what? go to Canada and see how people leave peacefully and leaving all this political issue behind them, because they want real peace and they are not looking for any excuses to kick their non-Canadian out.”

For an 18-year-old in this country, Fatima’s English is quite good, perhaps better than the average Jewish Israeli 18-year-old. But the average Jewish Israeli 18-year-old would not be studying in the university at the age of 18. They would be serving in the army or doing another form of community service. The message continued:

“I live in Israel, which is for me and for every Palestinian , occupied Palestine, and I will never ever pledge loyalty to this country because it doesn’t reflect me.. Moreover, they should not forget that I was born here, it means that i’m a resident who gets all my absolute rights! and one of my rights in a “democratic country” is my freedom of speech and thinking. How
come they force me to do something I don’t believe in, in a democratic country!?”

In appreciation for giving her honest opinion and feeling so open with me, I responded to Fatima:

“Israel is still a new country. It is a democracy and I think it will always stay that way. Other places in the world aren’t the same, like the Islamic Republic of Iran or occupied Lebanon. But Canada and the United States are democracies which were founded by French, English, German, Dutch and colonizers from elsewhere – and only after much of the native population was displaced, sold off to slavery and killed. You should never feel unsafe or nervous because of your ethnicity. Hopefully we can be friends. And if we all become friends: Jews, Muslims and Christians, then G-D willing there will be peace. And enjoy reading Beowulf!”

Mad Lebs

There Goes the Neighborhood

What happens when you become too weak to kill innocent Israeli citizens? Kill innocent American citizens – that is the modus operandi of the Hezbollah, these days.

US Republican Congresswoman, Sue Myrick of North Carolina says that Hezbollah agents are coming to Latin America, learning Spanish and then working with drug cartels in the Mexico-US border region to obtain falsified entry passes for entrance to the US. She warned that the terrorist organization could start threatening the southern United States from Mexico just as it threatens northern Israel from Lebanon.

Well, I guess now those new US state immigration laws are beginning to make more sense.

Myrick, who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has called on Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security secretary to look into the matter.

Apparently, the Hezbollah has been operating drug trafficking rings in South America for some years now. The largest one operates along the Brazil-Argentina-Paraguay border.

Well, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has also befriended the terror group. Just a few years ago he invited Hezbollah to operate freely in his country.

Spy Games

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, whose military has become none other than the Hezbollah itself, President Michel Sleiman said that he would sign death penalties against spies for Israel.

The Lebanese Cabinet has stressed the need to speed up investigations into Israeli spy networks and follow them by rapid verdicts amid increasing pressures by domestic parties after the arrest of an employee at a mobile phone operator on suspicion of spying for the Mossad.

The Lebanese Cabinet met at the Grand Serail and was headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

According to the Constitution in Lebanon, death sentences issued by the judiciary require the joint signature of the president, the premier and the justice minister.
Sleiman also said that spy cells will be subject to strict punishment, stressing that they constituted a violation to UN Resolution 1701, which put an end to the 2006 summer war with Israel.

President Sleiman said:

“I trust verdicts issued by the military court and I will sign them…we should not go backwards; there was a national will in the past to issue lenient sentences … but after the liberation [of occupied Lebanese territories] in 2000, all spying acts and collaboration with Israel should be severely punished.”

Many of the Lebanese who were enrolled in the South Lebanon Army, which fought alongside Israeli forces south of Litani river, prior to the liberation of most of Lebanese occupied territories in 2000, were given lenient sentences when they surrendered to the judiciary following the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

But many Lebanese still reside in the Jewish Country for fear that upon their return, they would face life sentences or death penalties.

Beginning in April 2009, Lebanon embarked on a wave of arrests as part of a widespread espionage investigation in which dozens of people have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel. Over 20 people have been formally charged, including an army colonel, since.

Last week, a technician from the state-owned mobile phone firm Alfa, Charbel Qazzi, had been detained by the army on suspicion of spying for the Jewish Country. Qazzi was responsible for maintaining equipment that connects cellular network stations.

Well, for all of those arrested for spying, Hezbollah has called for the death penalty.

On the threat posed on Lebanon by Israel, Sleiman said:

“An Israeli aggression against Lebanon is possible but I do not fear it since the issue is not an easy one for Israel.”

Lebanon’s General Prosecutor Saeed Mirza ordered the arrest of three individuals last week, after authorities interrogated them on charges of libel, slander and defamation against the president on one Facebook social networking site.

Sleiman said:

“We should know how to use freedom because when it collides with public conduct and ethics, its practice becomes corrupt … the issue is not a political one but rather an issue of personal insults and slander.”

The real insult, Sleiman will find, is letting Hezbollah take over his country, poisoning it with hate-filled venom and strangling its chances for peace in the region.

An Immigration System Worth Crying Over

passportA few days ago, we received a letter from a reader who is a Russian immigrant, involving the immigration issues surrounding his non Jewish wife. We are posting it here not because we advocate the cause of non Jews immigrating to Israel, but rather because we advocate consistency in immigration policy, so people, when they come here from foreign countries, get actual information that makes sense and doesn’t strand them without health insurance or any means of normal living.

Meaning this: If you, State of Israel, allow the immigration of non Jewish spouses to Israel, then allow it fully and cut the double talk. If you don’t, then don’t, but say this unequivocally. But don’t lure them here under the pretense that everything will be fine and then unload a trap. It’s embarrassing for a modern State to act this way.

The Office of the Interior Ministry has been known to make people cry like children for its zoo-like cacophonous horror of primordial discord, and here’s yet another illustration of it. It’s a wonder we’re able to win wars with a public administration like this.

This is a story that is happening with my family right now, it is unbelievably ridiculous but very true.

I made Aliyah a few months ago from Russia. I am Jewish on both sides of my family and my wife is Russian. In July 2009 I received all my documents and Isaeli permanent residency status without any questions or problems whatsoever. My wife, on the other, hand came one month after me, once I prepared everything for her arrival. At the consulate we were told that she could not get her visa before August 8th 2009, since we were married on August 8th 2008 and one year must pass before she can become an Israeli citizen.

So, after August 8th, my wife went to the consulate in Moscow and submitted her passport. Prior to this we presented all documentation required by the consulate for approval of our status as immigrants. We were told everything is fine and to prepare our new passports for visas, which of course we did.

After arriving in Ben Gurion Airport on the 17th of August, my wife presented her visa to the representatives of the ministry at the airport. Everything was fine and she was let into the country. On the 23rd of August we went to the Ministry of Interior to get her Israeli I.D.. This is when the fun began.

We were told that she must go to the visa section at the Ministry in order for them to review something and she was not issued an I.D., the persons at the visa section gave us a list of documents which must be presented in addition to what was presented already to the consulate. For instance a marriage certificate, certificate of no criminal offenses, pictures to prove that we live together, letters from relatives and a lot of other bull. This was all presented to the consulate in Moscow and they were satisfied. Otherwise they would not have issued the visas.

We were sent to the visa section at the Ministry of Interior immediately after my wife was asked if she was Jewish and what religion did she follow. Of course she answered that she is not Jewish and she did not ascribe to any religion.

I find the whole situation insulting. How is it possible that you get a visa to immigrate to a country, spend money, time, and great effort and when you think everything is finally done, you are told that because your wife is Russian she has to present a bunch of documents which no one told us she would need to present once in Israel? Now they are proposing to issue my wife a temporary visa status. She is not eligible for health insurance, she cannot take language courses, she cannot receive absorption compensation, and she cannot even have a bank account in Israel.

This is the most idiotic thing I have had to deal with in my life. Why issue an immigration visa for permanent residency if then once the person is in the country they are told that it was a mistake?!

Welcome to the Jewish State my friend. When you’re with a people who haven’t had one for 2,000 years, just know that things can get a bit rusty. Just watch out for tetanus on the rust.

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