Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Israel's Interior Ministry Seeks to Annul Citizenship of 4 Arabs

Israel Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) is seeking to annul the citizenship of four Israeli-Arabs who have been living in "enemy" states who have been working against the State of Israel and allegedly have been involved in terrorist attacks.

The Citizenship Law, reports The Jerusalem Post,
authorized the minister to strip the citizenship of anyone who "committed an act involving breach of faith toward the State of Israel." However, the law was later amended to require the interior minister to petition a district court to revoke a person's citizenship if that person committed a breach of faith toward Israel. The person would also have to hold citizenship from another country.
In addition,
the amended version defines "breach of faith" as the commission of an act of terror or treason, or the obtainingcitizenship or residency rights in enemy countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen, as well as the Gaza Strip.
While left-wing groups criticized the action, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel praised the action. 

Attorney Yossi Fuchs, a Legal Forum representative, said “It can not be that an Israel Citizen would work against the security of the State and his privileges would still be preserved. Citizenship is a privilege and anyone, who raises his hand against the State and hurts its security gives-up his privilege of being its citizen.”

Tel Aviv Judges Orders $1.8 Mil. Seizure of PA Assets for Terror Victim Family

This won't make up for the family's loss, the fact that an organization legally held responsible for murder will continue to go about its merry way or the $800 million Obama will be sending the Palestinians, but its a good start.
Bereaved family gets seizure order against PA
Relatives of terror victims convince judge to issue NIS 7 million seizure order against Palestinian Authority
Vered Luvich
Published: 05.05.09, 16:52 / Israel News
A temporary seizure order for NIS 7 million (roughly 1.8$) was issued Tuesday by the Tel Aviv District Court against the Palestinian Authority. The order aims to ensure the payment of future compensation in a lawsuit filed by the relatives of Sharon and Yaniv Ben-Shalom, who were murdered in a shooting attack on the Modi'in-Jerusalem Highway in August 2001.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The IDF's "War on Beards"

Published in The Jewish Press on April 7, 2009.

An identifying mark of the Jew has been, and for many still is, his beard. The foundation for this is the commandment in the Torah: “You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shall you mar the corners of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27).

The Second Book of Samuel provides an early example of the importance of the beard. There, the Ammonite King shaves off half the beards of King David’s messengers to insult David. The messengers were so embarrassed that David instructed them to wait until their beards grew back before returning to Jerusalem.

Medieval Biblical commentator Rabbi David Kimhi notes that implicit in the story is the fact that the messengers’ other option – shaving off the other half of their beards – was too humiliating to contemplate.

The beard is also a sign of piousness and the wisdom that comes with age. The Hebrew word for beard and elder is derived from the same root letters of “Z-K-N” (זקן). In Jewish liturgy, the beard is a recurrent symbol when describing a pious or a wise man.

In modern times, many religious Jews would not shave off or even trim their beards, actions strictly forbidden by Hasidic and Kabbalistic teachings.

The Jew’s beard also made an easy target for anti-Semites. In 19th century Poland, then controlled by the Russian Empire, a government decree banned Jews from having beards and payot (side-locks). Many Hasidic Jews were heroically ready to face prison or exile rather than comply. Fortunately, a group of Jewish rabbis and community leaders convinced Polish and Russian authorities to annul the decree.

Despite the significance of a beard for many Jews, the IDF has initiated a “war on beards,” as a headline in the major Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Acharonot put it, announcing new regulations restricting the ability of soldiers to grow and keep beards.

Previously, the IDF placed no restrictions on a religious soldier’s ability to grow a beard. The old order (Directive 33.0118) states that “a soldier, observing a religious lifestyle, can grow a beard for religious reasons.”

Under the new rules, however, a soldier must obtain a recommendation from the Rabbi of his unit and then a permit from a Lieutenant Colonel.

If the soldier transfers to another unit he must renew his permit in the new unit. And, if the soldier shaves his beard or if he is tried for a disciplinary violation of the new regulations, he must wait a year before obtaining a new permit.

In the memorandum sent to all soldiers announcing the new regulations, Lt. Cl. Avishai Azulai explained that growing beards outside the regulations violates the “image of IDF soldiers in the eyes of the citizens of the state.”

These new guidelines place considerable obstacles in the path of a religious soldier wishing to observe what he considers central to his identity. They violate soldiers’ religious freedom. At the very least, they force the IDF to question soldiers’ religious beliefs and pass judgments on religious sincerity. How will the IDF pass such judgments? For example, if a soldier only recently became religious – how long must he wait to show his religious sincerity before growing a beard? If a soldier observes Shabbat and Kashrus, but not other mitzvot – is he sufficiently religious to grow a beard? What if a soldier is only traditional?

Having such judgments made by the IDF, in and of itself, requires state intrusion into a person’s belief system.

Further, there are no guidelines for the Lieutenant Colonel who issues the permit. He, sadly, may be hostile to or have little-to-no understanding of Judaism. As a result, soldiers in different battalions will face different and unfair requirements.

The requirements imposed by the directives are themselves no small obstacles, especially for young and impressionable teenagers. A soldier should not be forced to request official approval for and embarrassingly attempt to prove his religious sincerity to the IDF. As the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, an Israeli civil rights organization, wrote in a letter of protest to the Chief of the General Staff on March 2:
[A] soldier, especially a young or freshman soldier in a combat unit, does not easily approach an officer of the Lieutenant Colonel rank . . . for any purpose. . . . [T]here is a real concern that religious or traditional soldiers . . . will be afraid to obtain a permit to grow a beard under the stated conditions.
The new directives also provide no exception for soldiers who only refrain from shaving during specific times of the year as prescribed by Halakhah. Those soldiers will have to go through an arduous process several times a year, and a Lieutenant Colonel who does not understand or even disdains the Halakhah may simply reject such requests. The Legal Forum therefore requested that the new directives be clarified to include such exceptions.

The mandatory one year waiting period before applying to grow a beard after shaving a beard is itself a judgment on religious sincerity. Here, the IDF falsely concludes that someone who shaves their beard once must not have a sincere religious motivation for growing a beard after that, regardless of any other facts.

The mandatory one-year waiting period imposed for a violation of the directives, implies that the IDF will use prohibitions on religious practices as a method of punishment for disciplinary violations.

As a symbolic matter, intentionally or unintentionally, the regulations send a message of hostility to the Jewish character of IDF and the State.

The IDF, the primary arm of the state, has immense social, political and even religious relevance to Israeli and world Jewry. For world Jewry, the IDF is a Jewish military, unique in modern history, the last line of defense against another Holocaust, the reversal of the Jew’s historical position as the helpless victim, and heir to the Jewish military tradition of antiquities. For Israeli Jewry, the IDF is a right of passage, a social training ground, where many form social, business, and political connections that can endure a lifetime, and society’s protector against terrorism and war. The enactment of new anti-beard regulations send an official message of disparagement toward traditional religious practices symbolized by beards, which Lt. Col. Azulai implied are not in keeping with “the image of the IDF.”

In any case, Azulai’s implied assertion that beards violate the IDF’s image is plainly false. Half of the young combat officers are religious and 40% of all graduating officers in 2007 were religious. Recently, Operation Cast-Lead produced many pictures of religious soldiers sporting beards, kippot, and payot, in uniform, sometimes in combat and often while praying. The religious soldier – beard and all – is, in fact, fast becoming the real image of the IDF.

In addition, many religious soldiers were very recently forced to question their assumptions about the IDF due to the IDF’s participation in expelling 8,000 Jews from their homes and barring all Jews from part of the homeland as well as recent threats to disband Hesder units, which combine Army service with religious study. The new regulations can readily be viewed as insulting, if not as a direct assault on religious soldiers.

But any public relations problems posed by the new directives to the national-religious sector are dwarfed in comparison to the potential for damage with Israel’s growing Haredi community, a large portion of which views the State of Israel and the IDF as anti-religious institutions.

Practically 100% of the Haredi community, constituting 11.5% of each year’s enlistment, does not enlist for IDF service for religious reasons. In order to reverse this problem, in 1999, the IDF, in cooperation with a group of rabbis, created Nahal Haredi as a venue for young, nationalistically inclined Haredi men to serve in the IDF while adhering to the highest religious standards. From a small unit of 30 soldiers, Nahal Haredi has grown into a full battalion with close to 1,000 troops, already aiming to grow to a fully operative infantry brigade.

The new anti-beard regulations, however, could set back the public relations gains made with Nahal Haredi. They will only enforce Haredi perceptions and arguments that the IDF and the state are hostile to Judaism. Taken together with newly proposed reductions in exemptions for Haredim, the regulations could spark even greater Haredi resentment toward the IDF and the State.

Lastly, the regulations are unnecessarily overbroad and arbitrary. Purportedly, they were enacted in response to data showing a rise in soldiers who grew beards in violation of regulations. But if this is the case, then all that is really needed is improved enforcement of the old regulations, not onerous restrictions which impinge on religious freedom.

A better rule would be, as the Legal Forum has recommended, to simply accept “a soldier’s declaration that he grows a beard on a regular basis for religious purposes or that he grows a beard temporarily for religious purposes.” Absent evidence that the soldier is lying, an onus should never be placed on a newly drafted young Jewish soldier to justify his religious sincerity.

[For more information click here.] 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Adoption and the Law of Return

By Daniel Tauber
The Jewish Press
Wednesday, February 25 2009

It may not be a "basic law," Israel's set of semi-constitutional laws, but the Law of Return is probably the most fundamental law of the state. It certainly is the most Jewish and Zionist of all Israel's laws.

The Law of Return states that "[e]very Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh." It fulfills provisions of the 1922 Palestine Mandate approved by the League of Nations, which gave international recognition to Zionism and placed a legal obligation on the then-administering power of Palestine, Britain, to provide for close settlement of the Jews in Palestine.

It also fulfills provision of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, which holds that "the Jewish State would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew" and that "[t]he State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles."

The Law of Return captures the very weltanschauung of Zionism and the Jewish state. So it's no surprise that Ben-Gurion believed the Law of Return to be one of Israel's most important laws.

It is precisely because the Law of Return captures the essence of the State of Israel and the national interest of the Jewish people in the modern era that it is subject to so much controversy and attack, in and out of Israel's courts, by several groups: Israel's Christian friends, concerned about the status of messianic Jews whose missionary activity could threaten the Jewish character of the state; Israel's Arab enemies; and Israel's post-nationalist, post-Zionist academic elite who see this law, so central to the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in Israel after 2,000 years of persecution culminating in the Holocaust, as evil and racist.

The Law of Return became the subject of yet another legal controversy in Israeli courts in regards to the affects of adoption on the ability of an applicant to receive the benefits of automatic citizenship under the Law of Return.

According to Jewish law - the determining factor of Jewish identity for thousands of years - a person who is Jewish cannot become non-Jewish. The halachic definition was practically incorporated into the Law of Return by virtue of a 1970 amendment that reversed an Israeli Supreme Court decision ordering that a "subjective test" - a person's statement that he or she is Jewish - be used in determining Jewish identity.

The 1970 Amendment stated that "[f]or the purposes of this Law, 'Jew' means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and is not a member of another religion." This objective halachic definition is the one that Jews had used for thousands of years, with an understandably added stipulation against apostates.

This definition of a Jew does address the issue of adoption: It says a person is a Jew if he or she was "born to a Jewish mother" (emphasis added), specifically including people who were born to but not necessarily raised by Jewish parents.

So the case of an adopted Jew would be a no-brainer. Otherwise, Jewish children saved by Christian parents during the Holocaust - Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman, for example, who was raised as a Catholic by his rescuers - could face serious problems if they wanted to make aliyah under the Law of Return.

The problem is that the adopted person at issue in the current case, Regina Bernik, is not a Jew, since it is her biological father, not her mother, who is Jewish.

Under the Law of Return, however, "the rights of an oleh are also vested in a child and grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew." (This provision was most likely aimed at ensuring that a Jew who married a non-Jew would not be deterred from making aliyah or to cover the Holocaust scenario in which a person is persecuted because of his or her Jewish blood.)

After the Ministry of the Interior rejected Bernik’s request to for citizenship under the Law of Return, Bernik petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz argued to the court that while the effect of adoption on the Law of Return was up for interpretation, the biological relation of the petitioner to a Jew should be the determining factor.

According to Ynetnews.com, the court’s judgment is due soon.

An even more pressing problem than how adoption affects the Law of Return is that over the years the Israeli Supreme Court has been eroding the objective halachic definition of a Jew by widely interpreting the definition of "conversion" so that anyone who converts to Judaism under the auspices of just about anybody can be considered a Jew.

In the case of Pessaro (Goldstein) v. Minister for the Interior (1995), the court recognized a non-Orthodox conversion performed outside Israel as a valid conversion under the Law of Return and awarded the non-Orthodox convert automatic citizenship rights under the Law.

In Pessaro, the court cited the would-be immigrant's religious rights under the rubric of what the court termed the "freedom of the convert" (a concept which never before existed in Israeli law) as support for its ruling. The court thus awarded the benefits of citizenship (rights) - the very thing at stake in the case - to non-citizens, using circular reasoning and a fantastic tautology: it recognized the petitioner as a valid convert because of his rights due to him as a valid convert.

In reaching its decision, the court rejected the dissenting opinion of Judge Tzevi Tal, who noted that even in the United States immigration law is an area in which laws are constitutionally permitted to be discriminatory and therefore the rights of the would-be immigrant were irrelevant to the case. Tal further wrote that recognizing conversions performed by any Jewish group outside of Israel - regardless of whether the group followed halachic standards for conversion - would have the practical effect of allowing any group to issue immigration visas and citizenship to the State of Israel.

It is not clear how the court will rule on the adoption case, but one thing is clear: protecting Jewish identity does not seem be among the weightiest factors influencing the court’s judgment.

CORRECTION NOTICE: This article has been revised. It originally stated that the Attorney General had said that the effect of adoption of a person born to a Jewish mother on the person’s rights under the Law of Return was up for interpretation. As noted above, the Attorney General’s statement was addressed at the rights of a non-Jew under the Law of Return by virtue of that person’s relation to a Jew, such as a Jewish father. We apologize for the error.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fourth Circuit Rejects U.S. Appeal in AIPAC Case

In the espionage case against two former AIPAC employees, accused of passing classified information to other AIPAC staffers, foreign officials and the media, the Fourth Circuit rejected the U.S. Government's request to review the trial court's determination that two documents could be introduced into court by the defendants.

The Court held that the government's appeal was interlocutory;  that regarding one admitted document - the "Israel Briefing Document" - whose relevence was unclear, the Court could not "substitute our judgment for that of the trial court, which has been immersed in these proceedings for many months and has far more familiarity with the matter than we do;" and in regards to the other - the "FBI Report" the Court simply upheld the trial court's determination that another document was relevant. 

According to the JTA the "[o]bservers have predicted that the . . . decision could lead the Obama administration to reconsider whether to go ahead with the case."