Migrants from Ethiopia and Eritrea queue in line during a food distribution near the former "jungle" in Calais, France, August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Deporting illegal immigrants: Israel’s unresolved challenge


The challenge of having to deal with illegal immigration is an international challenge. It is also an Israeli challenge that Israel’s Supreme Court addressed yesterday in a ruling that was as misunderstood by the angry Israelis responding to it, as it was controversial. Generally speaking, Israel under Prime Minister Netanyahu did a superb job in stopping the main route of illegal infiltration from Africa via Egypt. A fence was erected, tougher means were adopted, and the fence essentially halted all illegal entrance through the Sinai Peninsula.

But one challenge lingers: dealing with those who already entered the country. A large community of illegal immigrants resides in southern Tel Aviv, and this community turned several neighborhoods into slums. The government attempts to erode their numbers by various means, but there are hurdles making this goal more difficult than expected.

One problem is that many of these immigrants come from countries to which they cannot return (Eritrea, Sudan), countries that are likely to persecute them. To overcome this challenge the Israel government signed an agreement with other countries (Rwanda, Uganda) that are willing to take in the immigrants, but there is a caveat: these countries will only take them in if they come out of their own free will. The government needs to convince the infiltrators to leave and cannot force them out.

A remedy for this problem was found using a variety of means: financial compensation for those willing to leave was one of them; arrest of those unwilling to leave was another one. The court, in its controversial ruling, limited the second tool to an extent that makes it completely inefficient. The country, the court ruled, can only detain these stubborn residents for two months. After two months, they must to be released.

The government responded to the ruling with expected, and somewhat justified, fury. Telling the immigrants that after two months they will be released takes the bite out of this means of persuasion. It is like telling the government that it has the right to limit the speed of cars but is forbidden from fining the drivers who exceed that limit.

Naturally, the court sees things differently. If the terms signed with other countries are that the immigrants will be leaving willingly, arrest violates these terms. In other words, arresting a person until he is willing to leave violates the meaning of free will. The court did not tell the state that it cannot deport illegal immigrants forcibly. It can. But to do this it will have to find a country willing to take in these deportees.

So, there are two institutions tricking one another here: The government is gaming the condition of free will by putting pressure on the immigrants to leave willingly. The court is gaming the policy of the government by limiting it in a way that makes it null.

What can the government do when the court ties its hands? The immediate response was to argue for new legislation.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and PM Netanyahu all said on Aug. 28 new legislation is the option they will pursue. Israel has a three-pronged approach to halting the flow of infiltrators, Netanyahu said. They include the fence at the border, the deportation agreements and implementation of the policy of deportation.

“In light of today’s developments, we will have to legislate new laws so we can enforce our policy of removing these illegal infiltrators from our country’s borders,” the PM said. Whether the court accepts such a move or declares it unconstitutional is another matter. Whether the countries’ willing to accept deported infiltrators accept this move or accept the court’s interpretation is also another matter.

The larger issue is the delicate balance that needs to be maintained between the interest of the country –- not to have illegal immigrants stay -– and the rights of the infiltrators –- not to suffer from inhuman treatment even though their act of entering the country was illegal.

It is natural that the government is more interested in the policies and less in the rights of illegal immigrants. It is the role of the court to moderate this tendency. Thus, the controversy and frustration of Israelis following the court’s ruling is a sign of a functioning system.

Palestinian sentenced to 18 months, deportation for U.S. immigration fraud


A Palestinian activist was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday for immigration fraud for failing to tell U.S. authorities that she had been imprisoned in Israel for a 1969 supermarket bombing that killed two people.

Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, 67, also will be deported after serving her sentence as a result of last year's conviction in a Detroit federal court of unlawful procurement of naturalization.

Before sentencing, Odeh had told U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain, “I'm not a terrorist. I'm not a bad woman.”

But Drain said the offense is about lying to federal immigration official and under oath, and denied defense claims that the prosecution was political.

“We in this country expect people to tell the truth about things, especially under oath,” Drain said.

Drain said Odeh's history does include some terrorist activities but also acknowledged her work in the United States in helping immigrant women in Chicago. She had faced up to 10 years in prison.

Odeh lived almost two decades in the United States and served as associate director of a Chicago-area community organization called the Arab American Action Network.

Federal prosecutors said she failed to reveal her criminal history when she immigrated from Jordan in 1995 and again when she was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2004.

Odeh and members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were convicted by an Israeli military court for the supermarket bombing and for placing a bomb at the British consulate in Jerusalem.

Defenders of Odeh filed dozens of letters in her support and also gathered outside the courtroom on Thursday.

Her supporters have protested the conviction, saying it was unfair that Odeh could not tell the jury she confessed to the supermarket bombing allegedly under torture by the Israeli military.

Odeh's attorneys had argued that she not be imprisoned at all, citing her age, poor health, and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This is a blow, of course, but we have to remember that the government wanted the judge to lock Rasmea up for half a decade or more,” said Muhammad Sankari of the national Rasmea Defense Committee, in a statement, using an alternative spelling of her first name.

Odeh will be free on bond and will return to Chicago while her attorneys appeal the verdict.

The Israel Law Center, which said it helped U.S. prosecutors in the case, said Odeh received a fair trial.

Reform rabbis nudge ICE on deportations


Reform rabbis are contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in an attempt to delay the deportation of undocumented workers.

Rabbis Organizing Rabbis partnered with immigration advocacy organizations to ask the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to exercise discretion when deciding whether or not to deport anyone, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center.

While “deportation is an important part of border enforcement, we have learned that too many innocent people are caught in the system,” said Rabbi Peter Berg of Atlanta. “The good news is that ICE legally has the right to use discretion about whom to deport and actually will exercise that discretion – if they hear from enough people.”

Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, more than 60 Reform rabbis called or wrote on behalf of Luis Lopez-Acabal, who is facing deportation back to Guatemala following his involvement in a traffic accident.

Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel in Paradise Valley, Ariz., met Lopez at the church where he has taken sanctuary. If deported, Lopez would have to leave behind his wife, a legal resident of the United States, and two young children including one with autism.

“We are called as a faith community to stand against injustice,” Linder said, according to the Religious Action Center release. “The family is a sacred institution that is being violated by tragic separation throughout the country, while desperately needed immigration reform is stalled on Capitol Hill. These families should not continue to be victims due to a lack of political resolve.”

Woman battling deportation cites judge’s Jewish ties in recusal request


A woman convicted in Israel in connection with a 1969 terrorist bombing filed a motion to recuse the judge presiding over her deportation case because of his Jewish community ties.

The motion filed this week and first reported by Politico suggests that Rasmieh Yousef Odeh will allege at trial that she was tortured and raped while in Israeli custody.

Odeh is facing charges that she failed to note her Israeli conviction when she applied to enter the United States in 1993 and then when she became a citizen in 2004.

“Clearly, one who has been a life-long supporter and promoter of Israel and has deep ties to the State of Israel spanning over 50 years, who no doubt believes that Israel is a great democracy and protector of human rights, cannot be ‘reasonably’ said to be impartial when these claims of torture and illegality are raised by a Palestinian defendant,” Michael Deutsch, a lawyer for Odeh, wrote in the motion.

Paul Borman, a U.S. District Court judge in Detroit, and his wife have donated at least $3 million to the Detroit Jewish federation, according to the motion.

Deutsch casts Borman’s involvement with the federation as purely pro-Israel, although it is unclear from the motion how much of his donations and activism were designated for Israel-related activities.

For instance, Deutsch cites Borman’s earning the title of “Builder of Israel,” apparently unaware that the term dates from the biblical Book of Ruth and often is a rubric for an array of Jewish community activities.

Borman also has been credited by the federation for being “instrumental in bringing hundreds of Detroiters to Israel,” including state lawmakers, according to the motion.

Israel jailed Odeh for life for her involvement in a number of Jerusalem bombings in 1969, including one at a supermarket that killed two Hebrew University students, Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe.

She was released in a prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1980 and immigrated to the United States from Jordan in 1995.

Odeh was arrested last October for failing to disclose her terror attack conviction in her immigration papers. Her trial date is Oct. 21.

Letter to Michael Oren regarding Eritrean deportations


 

A letter of an Eritrean Asylum Seeker Jailed for a Year in Saharonim:

 

“To achieve a solution or die”

A letter dated July 2nd written by an Eritrean asylum seeker who was forced to stop the hunger strike:

“I appreciate your caring in advance.

There were about 176 Eritrean in ward three.  We went on a hunger strike on Sunday 23-06-2013 in the morning and continued until 30-06-2013. On that period, many of us lost their conscious, or became dehydrated. No medical help was offered to all those people, except for few of us who were affected very badly. Speaking on my behalf, due to previous health problems, I was very badly affected by the hunger strike. I was almost in a critical stage. On Monday, 24-06-2013, we were visited by some officers from the immigration authority. Some courageous Eritreans told them:

“We were prosecuted and victimized in our country and we didn’t have democracy. We were not able to live in peace. Many among us were tortured and raped in Sinai. When we reached this democratic state of ISRAEL, we didn’t expect such harsh punishment in prison and we still don’t know which crime it is that makes us suffer for such a long time in this prison. We lost all hope and became frustrated by this situation so that we ask you to either provide us with a solution or send us to our country, no matter what will happen to us, even if we have to endure death penalty by the Eritrean regime”.

The immigration officer tried to calm us down and advised us to be patient. They asked us to eat food but we decided to continue the hunger strike till death, for eight days. 

On Sunday (30-06-2013) in the morning, while some of us were on beds, exhausted, and others went out to be counted, police officers tied their hand with plastic robber and took them away. We didn’t know where they took them, but we heard later, that 24 of them were taken to the Seventh Ward. The rest of us were taken to Ktsiyot prison. There we were told to go to the office one by one and we were forced to eat by threats to be taken to isolation cells.

Finally I want tell you the hunger strike was very difficult and dangerous for our life. I am a witness that everybody lost any hope and patience. Therefore we chose this difficult decision: to achieve a solution or die.

Brussels mayor apologizes for ‘42 deportations but ‘won’t pass judgment’


The mayor of Brussels has apologized to the Jewish community for the municipality's Holocaust-era “role” in deporting Jews, but added he would “not pass judgment.”

Speaking to a crowd of a few hundred people on Sunday at a ceremony at Brussels City Hall, Mayor Freddy Thielemans said, “I want to officially extend apologies in the name of the City of Brussels to the Jewish community.”

He also said, “It is not my place to pass judgment but I of course acknowledge the role the municipality and political and administrative authorities in the City of Brussels played in the deportation of Jews.”

If not for the registration of Jews by the Belgian city, the deportation of Jews from Brussels in 1942 “would have never had the same impact,” Thielemans said. Complicit municipal authorities were therefore “partially responsible” for the result, he added.

Eli Ringer, the honorary chairman of the Forum of Jewish Organizations, which represents Flemish Belgian Jews, told JTA that this was the first formal recognition of complicity by a Brussels mayor.

Last month, Thielemans revised the invitation to the ceremony after Jewish leaders accused him of “rewriting history.”

The invitation spoke of a ceremony in memory of “citizens of Brussels” who had been deported with “the participation of local authorities appointed by the occupying power during World War II.”

The Association for the Memory of the Shoah complained to the media that the deportees were not “Brussels citizens” but Jews from all over Belgium, and that the authorities had been elected and not appointed by the Nazis, who merely kept the authorities in place after the German army invaded Belgium in 1940.

Dr. Eric Picard, a spokesman for the association, called the text “revisionist,” according to the Belgian news agency Belga.

Joel Rubinfeld, co-chairman of the European Jewish Parliament, a new organization based in Brussels, told JTA that the mayor was “rewriting history.”

Israel moves to deport Ivory Coast migrants


Migrant workers from the Ivory Coast have two weeks to leave Israel before they begin being arrested and ultimately deported, Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai said.

In a message Thursday to the migrants, Yishai reportedly said, “You have two weeks to leave. Whoever does so will be eligible for a subsidy. Whoever does not will be thrown out.”

Migrants who choose to leave on their own will receive $500 per adult and $100 per child, according to a ministry statement, The Jerusalem Post reported.

There are up to 65,000 African migrants in the country, with those from the Ivory Coast numbering from a few hundred to about 2,000, according to the newspaper.

Earlier this week, 150 South Sudanese migrants were deported from Israel. The Interior Ministry offered them 1,000 euros, or about $800, for leaving voluntarily. A ministry spokesman said the discrepancy between that amount and what the Ivory Coast residents are receiving was unimportant, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara met in Israel earlier this month and agreed on a repatriation plan. The migrants had arrived in Israel without permission.

South Sudan officials to help coordinate deportation


Officials from South Sudan are set to arrive in Israel to help coordinate the deportation of up to 1,500 of its citizens.

At least 300 South Sudanese migrants reportedly have signed voluntary departure forms indicating their willingness to be repatriated to their home country, according to Israeli media reports.

More than 100 illegal migrants from South Sudan have been rounded up in immigration control sweeps this week.

Some 200 South Sudanese migrants are scheduled to fly out of Israel on Sunday, as well as another planeload in July after the families’ children have finished school.

Out of Israel, back to Africa


African migrants chosen for deportation from Israel were nervously awaiting a knock on the door or a tap on the shoulder on Tuesday as immigration officials rounded up hundreds for departure flights due to begin at the weekend.

“The people are very tense. It’s pretty traumatic,” said Jacob Berri, a spokesman for the South Sudanese community of migrants, the first to be repatriated under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency plan.

“There are children here who only speak Hebrew. They won’t even know the language where they’re going,” Berri said.

Africans were being stopped on the street and issued deportation orders, he added. “About 100 more have been arrested this morning.”

Many of the migrants have been working in hotels and restaurants, while others have been holding down manual jobs or working as contracted day labor. All of them were technically working illegally.

Israeli opinion is divided over plans to eventually deport some 60,000 African migrants deemed a social irritant and a threat to the Jewish character of the state. A columnist in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth called it “hysteria”. Another in the same paper said the methods may be “needlessly brutal” but it was necessary.

The first deportation flight is expected to leave Israel on Sunday for Juba, the capital of South Sudan, as part of what Israel calls Operation Returning Home.

Detentions began on Sunday in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, where Israeli television filmed weeping African women and men in handcuffs. Those detained were sent to the Saharonim detention facility in the Negev Desert, close to where they first entered Israel over the porous Sinai Desert border with Egypt.

The South Sudanese, whose country was established in 2011 after they fled civil war in Sudan five or six years ago, will be the first to be repatriated, under an agreement between South Sudan and Israel. They number only some 1,500.

“The next stage is the removal from Israel of all the infiltrators from Eritrea and Sudan, whose number comes close to 50,000 people,” said Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

It is legally questionable whether Israel can actually remove all of the migrants and some critics have said the government’s tough rhetoric is far removed from reality.

“At the moment, we are permitted only to deport from Israel the citizens of South Sudan and the Ivory Coast,” the minister was quoted as saying.

“I hear those who say these infiltrators cannot be sent back, but this is an important mission …saying “No” is tantamount to shelving the declaration of independence, the end of the Zionist dream,” said Yishai, who heads a religious party.

CASH LEAVING GRANT

South Sudanese who agree to deportation within five days will receive a grant of 1,000 euros. Those who do not are interned until they can be forcibly repatriated.

“We have arrested about 140 infiltrators up until last night, a main portion of whom are South Sudanese,” senior immigration official Yossi Edelstein told Israel Radio.

“There is also an impressive movement in the South Sudanese community of people coming to us to leave on their own free will. About 100 people have come forward to register…”

Israel, a country of 7.8 million, has almost completed a high fence along the border to deter more would-be migrants who are brought to the frontier by Bedouin people-smugglers.

Newspaper reports said Netanyahu had asked officials to examine whether a fence should now also be built along the border with southern Jordan, in the event that migrants try to cross the narrow Gulf of Aqaba and enter Israel from the Arab kingdom.

An Eilat hotel director said the expulsions were “a terrible shame”. “Most of them are educated people who fled from a bloody war in their homeland. They speak a number of languages, most of them are Christian, and they did their job in the best way possible,” David Blum of Isrotel was quoted as saying.

Thousands of Palestinians used to come into Israel daily from the West Bank and Gaza to do mostly minimum-wage jobs. But tight security provisions to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants ended that mutually beneficial arrangement years ago.

Netanyahu says legislation to stop the illegal hiring of Africans would now be strictly enforced.

Despite claims of rampant crime in sections of south Tel Aviv where most Africans live, a senior police commander, David Gez, was quoted as saying the level of crime among the migrants was relatively low.

Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Edited by Andrew Osborn

Israel rounds up African migrants for deportation


Israel said on Monday it had started rounding up African migrants in the first stage of a controversial “emergency plan” to intern and deport thousands deemed a threat to the Jewish character of the state.

Israel Radio reported that dozens of Africans, mainly from South Sudan, had already been detained in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, including mothers and children.

“This is only a small group of the infiltrators,” Interior Minister Eli Yishai said. “I’m not acting out of hatred of strangers but love of my people and to rescue the homeland.”

The goal is to repatriate all the estimated 60,000 African migrants, whose growing numbers are seen by many Israelis as a law and order issue and even a threat to the long-term viability of the Jewish state.

Illegal migration, and the pool of cheap labor it provides, is a common headache for developed economies. Israel is grappling with its own special ghosts as it tackles the problem.

For some in Israel, built by immigrants and refugees, internment and deportation are bad solutions that may damage the international image of the country needlessly.

They say rounding up members of a different racial group and holding them in camps for deportation may invite allusions to the Nazi Holocaust, however unfair such comparisons may be, and betrays Jewish values.

NOT CRIMINALS

About 500 Sudanese men held an orderly protest in Tel Aviv on Sunday against expulsion, the solution chosen by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after two months of heated debate over how to handle the flow of migrants.

“We are refugees, not criminals,” the Sudanese chanted, in a retort to allegations that Africans prey on Israeli citizens, following high-profile rape allegations.

Many Sudanese, including hundreds who escaped from conflict and humanitarian disaster in Darfur, have been in Israel for several years, living in legal limbo without formal refugee status, but peaceably, they say.

Now they are caught up in a wave of hostility towards blacks in general, focused on a poor area of south Tel Aviv where they congregate.

“We’re being called a cancer and an AIDS virus on the Israeli people, by politicians in the Knesset,” said protest organizer Jacob Berri. He accused government right-wingers of racist incitement and inflammatory language.

The number of migrants crossing into Israel over the Sinai desert border has accelerated since 2006. It ballooned last year when revolution distracted Egypt’s attention from policing Bedouin people-smugglers operating in the Sinai peninsula.

Israel has now built a high fence along the frontier.

“My policy with regard to the illegal infiltrators seeking work is clear,” Netanyahu said in a May 29 speech. “First of all, to stop their entry with the fence and at the same time to deport the infiltrators who are in Israel.”

He warns of Africans “flooding” and “swamping” Israel, threatening “the character of the country”. Emergency measures to reverse the influx will include “detention facilities with thousands of units”, Netanyahu said last week.

Berri said the South Sudanese number about 700. They know when they are not wanted and will leave, he said. But their refugee status must first be assured by the United Nations, and third-country resettlement programs established.

TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Israeli human rights and activist groups back the Africans. But right-wing and religious parties say that if they are not stopped today’s 60,000 will become 600,000 in a few years, in a population of 7.8 million.

Poor south Tel Aviv residents say affluent north Tel Aviv Jews can afford to be liberal, because the Africans are not in their back yard. An opinion poll last week showed 52 percent of Israelis agree that the Africans are “a cancer”.

“They’ve come here to rape and steal,” one Israeli woman shouted at a small but ugly anti-migrant demonstration earlier this month in south Tel Aviv. “We should burn them out, put poison in their food,” said an elderly man.

Netanyahu urges restraint. “We are a moral people and we will act accordingly. We denounce violence; we denounce invective. We respect human rights,” he said, but added: “Israel cannot accept “infiltrators from an entire continent”.

The term “infiltrators” is also used by authorities to describe armed Palestinian militants.

Voluntary deportees will get financial assistance.

“Whoever comes forward will get his grant … from the moment you come to immigration authorities and say you will pack up, from that moment you will be given an opportunity to pack up, and the grant of 1,000 euros,” Yishai said.

The first planeload is expected to leave Israel next week.

Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell, Dan Williams and Crispian Balmer; editing by Andrew Roche

Jerusalem court clears way for S. Sudanese migrants’ deportation


A Jerusalem court ruled that Israel could deport South Sudanese migrants who entered the country illegally.

Thursday’s decision in Jerusalem District Court was in response to an appeal by NGOs representing African migrants. The appeal was filed after Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai issued a decision to return the migrants.

Israel recognized South Sudan a day after it officially announced its independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011, and initiated formal ties three weeks later.

The decision paves the way for the deportation of about 1,500 South Sudanese who entered Israel illegally. Yishai said that he hoped the decision would be a precedent to allow the deportation of African nationals from other countries.

“This is not a war against infiltrators,” Yishai said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “This is a war for the preservation of the Zionist and Jewish dream in the land of Israel.”

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said last month that South Sudanese could be repatriated to their country now that it has achieved independence and is deemed safe by the foreign ministry. Each asylum application must be considered individually, he added.

The Jerusalem court said that the deportations could commence since the case had not proven that those South Sudanese to be deported would face “risk to life or exposure to serious damage.”

It is not known when the South Sudanese migrants will be deported.

‘Esther the Great’ leaves Israel


The long-running campaign in Israel to stop deportation of illegal foreign workers, a campaign that has zeroed in on the expulsion of children, is losing its adorable poster girl. After living in Tel Aviv with her father for nearly five years, and after being one of the stars of this year’s Oscar-winning documentary about the Tel Aviv multicultural school she attends, Esther Aekpehae, 13, and her dad were leaving for Nigeria on Oct. 4.

They were about a year too late to meet the Interior Ministry’s residency requirement for foreign workers wishing to remain in the country legally. And three months ago, Immanuel Aekpehae lost his job to a cheaper competitor. Without a work visa, he said, it will be hard to find another job, and while the immigration police haven’t hassled him yet, he figures it’s a matter of time before they arrest and deport him.

So, though they weren’t being deported, hard times and insecurity about the future led Immanuel to the Ministry of the Interior, which gave him and his daughter what it gives to all “illegals” being deported — a free plane ticket to their destination.  

On Oct. 3, in the family’s cramped studio apartment in a South Tel Aviv slum crowded with foreign workers and African refugees, Immanuel was on the phone with Channel 2 News. “They’re going to take us to the airport and accompany us to Nigeria. They want to do a documentary on us,” he said.

That morning, Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot had run a page-and-a-half spread on Esther’s imminent departure. “The movie is over,” the headline read. Asked how many other news organizations had called him for interviews, Immanuel responded,  “Whew, too many to count.”

After Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon’s “Strangers No More” won the Oscar for best short documentary in February, the news quickly followed that the film’s diminutive, pretty and self-described “dramatic” little girl with the corn-row hair was liable to be deported, and Esther became the face and voice of illegal foreign workers in this country.

“Esther ha’gdolah,” she was called by a leading Israeli activist for the cause. “Esther the Great.”

She spoke at Tel Aviv rallies to stop the deportations, and on TV news shows. Newspaper photographers were drawn to her; a full-page photo of her from a Yediot Aharonot story after the Oscar ceremony hangs on the wall of the family’s tenement apartment, near the electric piano, TV and the two mattresses on the floor.

It wasn’t just her pretty, animated face that made Esther such a compelling spokeswoman; she came across as very Israeli, looking straight into the camera, speaking good Hebrew and assertively making her case and that of other foreign workers’ children.  

“I’m an Israeli in every way,” she said earlier this year on TV. “There’s no way they’re going to deport me, and if they do, I’ll come back.” She wasn’t shy about reproaching the “heavy” in the deportation affair, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, for the “bad decisions” he was making.  

Following a cabinet decision in summer 2010, some 400 children of illegal foreign workers became vulnerable to deportation with their families. Since then, there have been no expulsions of school-age kids and their parents, but preschoolers and their parents have been steadily deported, either after coming in voluntarily or getting arrested. “Our immigration police have a work program to follow, and they’re following it,” Interior Ministry spokesman Roei Lachmanovich said.

The Aekpehaes are South Africans, and they arrived in Israel on a tourist visa from Johannesburg in early 2007. Immanuel brought his daughter to the Bialik-Rogosin School when they were hungry and living from place to place in South Tel Aviv. “She was a sad little girl when we first saw her. It was clear something bad had happened to her,” a teacher says in the documentary.

Esther’s mother had been shot to death in Johannesburg. Immanuel assumes the killer was an ex-partner to whom he owed money over a real estate deal that went bad. The man was arrested but released, and neighbors told Immanuel that the man intended to kill him and Esther, too. So like more than 300,000 other Asians, Africans and East Europeans in the last two decades, they came to Israel.

With the help of a generous landlord, liberal NGOs, the South Tel Aviv churches and “African grapevine,” and, above all, the staff at Bialik-Rogosin School, they made a life for themselves. Immanuel, 41, worked long hours at menial jobs. Esther joined Scouts, made friends, did very well in school, and the Oscar turned her into a local heroine.  

They were about a year too late to meet the“The people in Israel have been wonderful to us, so many of them accepted me and my daughter like family,” he said. It’s too dangerous to go back to South Africa, he said, so they’re going to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, where his mother and other relatives live. Recently remarried, Immanuel ’s wife will be waiting for them.

On Oct. 3, Esther’s last day in school, some teachers and administrators took her and her pals out for ice cream. “I’m a little bit excited about going away to meet my family,” she said in a telephone interview, “but really sad because I’m leaving my friends behind.” They promised each other to keep in touch.   

She also has mixed feelings about her time as a celebrity. “It was fun,” she said, “but sometimes people were waking me and my dad up in the middle of the night to talk to me.”

Esther’s parting words on the saga: “I know many, many kids who don’t have the right papers, and I think the Minister of Deportation or something, Eli Yishai, should give citizenship to all the children in Israel.”

Will she ever come back? Adorable and dramatic as always, she said: “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be able to visit. No one knows the future. Such is life.”

Justice Dept. board upholds deportation of accused Nazi


The deportation order for an accused Nazi from the Detroit area was upheld.

The U.S. Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals on Tuesday upheld a Detroit immigration judge’s Jan. 31 decision that John (Ivan) Kalymon, 90, should be removed from the United States due to his participation in lethal acts of Nazi-sponsored persecution of Jews during World War II.

Kalymon was ordered deported to Germany, Ukraine, Poland or any other country that will admit him.

Kalymon served voluntarily as an armed member of the Nazi-sponsored Ukrainian Auxiliary Police in German-occupied Lvov, Ukraine. He is accused of shooting and killing Jews during his service, which he hid on his U.S. citizenship application.

In 2004, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit seeking to revoke his U.S. citizenship, which he acquired in 1955 after emigrating from Germany six years earlier. A federal judge granted the request in 2007, finding that Kalymon had participated in the roundup and shooting of Jews during his time in the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police from 1941 to 1944.

“Ivan Kalymon was an integral part of the Nazi machinery of annihilation that ended the lives of more than 100,000 innocent men, women and children in Lvov,” said Eli Rosenbaum, director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy for the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecution Section.

The evidence against Kalymon included a seized Aug. 14, 1942 report, handwritten by Kalymon, in which he informed his Auxiliary Police superiors that he had personally shot to death one Jew and wounded another “during the Jewish operation” that day, according to the Justice Department. Other evidence included reports from Kalymon’s commander that Kalymon had fired his weapon during forcible roundups of Jews in which they were killed and wounded.

Israeli court delays deportation of migrant worker’s child


An Israeli court delayed the deportation of a 4-year-old girl born in Israel to a Filipino mother.

The Tel Aviv District Court ordered the stay Tuesday just moments before the girl and her mother were set to board an airplane to the mother’s home country. Also Tuesday, Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote a letter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai asking him to halt the deportation.

The court will hold a special hearing Thursday in the case.

The Israeli government says the child did not meet new criteria set out last year, but only enforced from March, to allow her to stay in the country. The criteria includes studying during the past school year in an Israeli state school; being enrolled for the next year in first grade or higher; being born in the country and speaking Hebrew; and residing in the country for five consecutive years.

According to the Interior Ministry, the child was not enrolled in a state preschool or kindergarten last year or for the coming year.

The girl’s father has been living in Israel legally for more than a decade with a permit, making his daughter a legal resident of Israel, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The father requested the stay in part because he was not granted an opportunity to say good-bye properly to his daughter.

ACRI says the attempted deportation is “the first time in Israel’s history that a child, born and raised in Israel, enrolled in kindergarten in Tel Aviv and integrated into Israel’s public education system has been deported by the Interior Ministry.”

Deportation order against Chicago man upheld


A U.S. appeals court upheld a deportation order against a Chicago man who was stripped of his citizenship for his role in a Nazi-operated Ukrainian police unit.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Monday upheld the 2007 deportation order against Osyp Firishchak, who immigrated to the United States in 1949 from what is now Ukraine and became a U.S. citizen five years later.

Firishchak, who was born in Trebuszany, was stripped of his citizenship in 2005 by a federal district court which ruled that he “was a participant in an organization that perpetrated some of the most horrific acts against human decency ever known in history.”

He concealed his service in the Nazi-sponsored Ukrainian Auxiliary Police service when he came to the United States. The Ukrainian Auxiliary Police assisted in the annihilation of more than 100,000 Jews in Nazi-occupied Lvov, Poland (now Ukraine), during World War II.

‘Son of Hamas’ facing deportation


The defenders of a man that Israel says infiltrated Hamas’ top echelons on its behalf are rallying against his deportation from the United States.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the eldest son of Hassan Yousef, a founder of the Palestinian terrorist group, was recruited by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, in 1997. Israeli agents have been quoted as saying that his information prevented multiple terrorist attacks.

Yousef has written of his experience in a recent book, “Son of Hamas,” and now promotes the book on the conservative and pro-Israel speaking circuits.

Yousef, who has converted to Christianity, has lived since 2007 in the United States, where he has applied for asylum.

Immigration authorities have turned down his request, apparently based on his acknowledgment in his book that he worked for Hamas—even though he was employed in order to spy for Israel.

A number of groups, including Emet, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, have rallied to his defense ahead of his first deportation hearing in San Diego, scheduled for June 30.

The Wall Street Journal took up his cause in a June 12 editorial.

“It would dishonor the U.S. to deport a convert in the war on terror because our immigration bureaucracy is too obtuse to make even life and death distinctions,” the Journal said.

Pico-Robertson named a Top Ten ‘hood, Court upholds SS guard’s deportation


Top 10 Jewish Neighborhoods Named

California had two neighborhoods listed among the top 10 Jewish neighborhoods in North America. North/West Berkeley and Pico-Robertson made the list compiled by Jewish Living magazine.

The magazine, in a story written by Lisa Alcalay Klug, said size and amenities were not the only criteria.

“We have identified neighborhoods across the continent that are growing, rebuilding, reinventing themselves, unifying their disparate parts and exploring our traditions in unconventional ways,” Klug wrote.

Other communities on the list are Aventura, Fla.; Boulder, Colo.; Lower Merion, Pa.; McGill Ghetto, Montreal; North Dallas, Texas; SoHo/TriBeCa in New York City; University City in St. Louis, Mo.; and West Seattle, Wash.

MIA’s Family Snubs Olmert

The family of a missing Israeli airman canceled a meeting with Ehud Olmert in protest of a likely prisoner swap with Hezbollah.

The Israeli prime minister was scheduled on Tuesday to visit relatives of Ron Arad, who bailed out over Lebanon in 1986 and disappeared into captivity, but the family called off the meeting. Political sources said Olmert planned to inform the Arads of his government’s offer to free Samir Kuntar, a jailed Lebanese terrorist, as part of an upcoming deal with Hezbollah in which it would repatriate two Israeli soldiers abducted in 2006. Kuntar was sentenced to life in prison for a 1979 cross-border attack in which three Israelis were killed, and has since become a Hezbollah hero.

The Arad family has long argued that Israel should insist the Lebanese terrorist group provide information on the missing airman’s whereabouts as a condition for Kuntar’s release. Hezbollah says it knows nothing about Arad.

Obama to Make Pre-election Israel Visit

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) reportedly plans to visit Israel before the U.S. presidential election in November.

The Democrat’s likely candidate announced this week that he will tour Iraq and Afghanistan ahead of his showdown with the Republican’s likely nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Citing sources in the Obama campaign, Yediot Achronot reported Tuesday that the candidate also will come to Israel for talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other top officials.

Obama is seen as anxious to burnish his national security credentials, especially given his rival’s rich military record.

More Indirect Israeli-Syrian Talks Set

Israeli and Syrian peace envoys will hold two rounds of indirect negotiations next month, their Turkish hosts said.

After two aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wrapped up a second mediated meeting with Syrian counterparts in Turkey this week, Ankara voiced satisfaction at the progress and said follow-ups had been scheduled.

“Yesterday and the day before, the negotiations went very successfully and more importantly the calendar was set for the next two meetings, which will be held in July,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told reporters. “I do not wish to elevate expectations because this is a very complicated matter, although compared to the Israeli-Palestinian issue it is not as complicated,” he said.

Jerusalem officials have voiced hope that the talks, launched last month, could soon be upgraded into face-to-face meetings between Israelis and Syrians. But Damascus has made clear it first wants concrete Israeli commitments on returning the Golan Heights under any future peace accord.

Young Innovators Convene in Jerusalem

Young Jewish leaders from around the world are meeting in Israel to network. The third annual Global Summit for Young Jewish Innovators opened in Jerusalem on Sunday, with 120 participants from 28 countries.

Over four days, the delegates will discuss their fields of expertise as well as ways to harness their talents to bring Israel and the Diaspora closer together. The summit is an innovative project of the Center for Leadership Initiatives (CLI), in partnership with Taglit-Birthright Israel. CLI was founded by American Jewish philanthropist Lynn Schusterman.

Court Upholds SS Guard’s Deportation

Josias Kumpf, 83, of Racine, Wis., failed in his appeal to the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals to overturn an immigration judge’s 2007 deportation order, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday in a release.

Kumpf served as an SS guard at the Sachsenhausen and Trawniki camps in Germany and Poland. He has acknowledged participating in “Operation Harvest Festival” in November 1943 in eastern Poland, during which 42,000 Jewish adults and children were murdered over three days. His job was to shoot to kill any prisoners attempting escape.

He has said he never actively participated in murder and that German authorities forced him into SS service when he was 17. However, in stripping him of his U.S. citizenship, American judges have ruled that Kumpf violated rules that ban naturalization for individuals who “personally advocated or assisted persecution.”

Kumpf, born in Serbia, immigrated to the United States from Austria in 1956 and was naturalized in 1964. He could be deported to Germany, Serbia or Austria. It is not yet clear whether Kumpf planned to appeal the decision.

Doctors Quit Over Orthodox Patient

Two more doctors have quit working at Grace Hospital in Winnipeg rather than obey a court order to treat 84-year-old Samuel Golubchuk, a Jewish man on life support.

One of the doctors publicly stated his refusal to “torture” Golubchuk by keeping him alive. Golubchuk’s Orthodox family has cited Jewish law in their decision to keep him alive, arguing that removing him from life support would be tantamount to murder.

In February, a judge ordered the hospital to continue treating Golubchuk, who has been on a feeding tube and ventilator since November, until a hearing to decide his fate was held. The case is set for court in mid-September.

Reform Movement Digitizes Torah

The Reform movement has digitized the Torah as downloadable sound files. Cantor Alane Katzew, director of Music Programming at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), headed the 22-month project, which will enable people to download all 5,845 verses in the Torah to their digital music players.

Twenty-three chanters, most of them Reform cantors and cantorial students from the New York area, chant all the Torah and Haftorah portions using the same cantillation and tone, to provide listeners with a standardized version of Torah trope, or chanting.

The project was completed June 6, two days before Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the giving of the Torah at Sinai.

This is the first time the Reform movement has tried to standardize Torah trope, Katzew said, adding that within a few months, the project will be available for downloading on the URJ Web site.

— Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Briefs: Muggings mar Shabbat shalom in Pico-Robertson, ‘L.A. Eight’ case dropped


Orthodox Rabbi, 2 Others Mugged

For the first time since a rash of muggings in Pico-Robertson around Shavuot, three Orthodox Jews, including Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City, were held up at gunpoint on Oct. 26 as they walked home from Shabbat services.

“It’s a great neighborhood, and I don’t want people to get worked up over this,” said Muskin, who was not hurt and had nothing stolen in the attack. “The police are on top of this, and we are going to try to improve the homeowners association patrol.”

Police have made no arrests and have only general descriptions of the suspects — Hispanic, early 20s. As they have in the past, authorities advise observant Jews to walk in large groups on well-lighted thoroughfares, to stay away from bushes, buildings and alleys and to be aware of their surroundings.

Though they don’t carry money on Shabbat, Orthodox Jews have long been targeted because they often walk alone at night and often wear jewelry. Last May, many of the 30 people robbed during one week were walking to and from shul, sparking community meetings and warnings through e-mails.

The attacks evoked fears of a time in the early 1990s when muggings were frequent, including a violent robbery of Rabbi Jack Simcha Cohen, the then-president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. Many Jews started carrying a gun to services.

“There was a time several years ago when people were afraid to walk outside,” said Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, Orthodox Union West Coast director of community and synagogue services. “But thankfully it hasn’t come to that, and God willing it won’t.”

— Brad Greenberg, Staff Writer

Government Drops ‘L.A. Eight’ Case

The U.S. government dropped deportation proceedings against two people accused of assisting terrorists. They are the last two of eight people, called the “L.A. Eight,” accused in 1987 of abetting Palestinian terrorists.

The Board of Immigration Appeals on Oct. 30 dismissed charges remaining against Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, the last of the “L.A. Eight” jailed in 1987 for supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), primarily through the distribution of the PFLP’s publication, Al Hadaf, which was freely available in public libraries.

Throughout the years, the government used many tactics and laws against the eight –seven Palestinians and a Kenyan married to one of the Palestinians — including their alleged affiliations with communists and terrorists. The case came to a head in January, when a Los Angeles-based immigration judge, Bruce Einhorn, blasted the government’s case as “an embarrassment to the rule of law.” The Department of Homeland Security settled the case after the court vacated findings of prosecutorial misconduct.

The wrong Zionist response to refugees


It’s hard to escape the impression that the Olmert government is being humane to the refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region for appearance’s sake only. I say this because the government is being amazingly cruel to the refugees from southern Sudan, who are far more numerous than the Darfurians, and who escaped a genocide that took many, many more lives than the one going on in Darfur.

The genocide in Darfur is just better known. The genocide in Darfur has also been taken up as a cause by American Jewish organizations. If Israel expelled the few hundred refugees here from Darfur, it would be a public relations catastrophe. But if Israel expels the 1,000 or so refugees here from southern Sudan, who cares?

Like the Darfurians, the refugees from southern Sudan saw their villages burned and their families slaughtered by Arab terrorosts. Like the Darfurians, they escaped north to Egypt, where they endured years of anti-black racism, brutality and feudal exploitation before crossing Sinai and straggling over the border into Israel.

Some don’t make it; they get shot to death by Egyptian soldiers in Sinai or, if they give themselves up, get beaten viciously.

The refugees began arriving here in 2004 and, until now, the government has refrained from sending them back to Egypt because Egypt didn’t want them, and because Egypt might deport them back to Sudan, where they faced death at the hands of the government or its genocidal marauders.

But now everything’s changed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has agreed to take back the Sudanese refugees and pledged not to deport them back home. So the Israeli government is going to take Mubarak up on his offer.

“For the first few days, the Egyptians will give us a big welcome, and then, when no one’s paying attention anymore, the security forces will do whatever they want to us and no one will know. We’ll either be killed or put in jail for the rest of our lives,” says “George,” a young southern Sudanese survivor who spent nearly a year in Israeli prisons before being allowed to work in the Eilat hotels.

There are hundreds of Sudanese refugees working there with him, all technically under house arrest.

“Everybody is really worried,” he says.

Egypt treats black Africans like garbage, like slaves, and shoots them when they try to escape. Now Egypt is considered by Israel a fit destination for these black Africans, all of whom have been through a holocaust of their own.

I’m waiting for the Israel lobby in the United States to tell Olmert he can’t do this. I’m also waiting for the pro-Israel evangelical Christian organizations to pressure Olmert to change his mind. Of the nearly 1,200 Sudanese refugees here, about 700 are Christians, according to Sigal Rozen, head of Hotline for Migrant Workers, the main Israeli NGO helping these people.

All, or virtually all, of the 700 Christians — “George” being one of them — are from southern Sudan, not Darfur, so they’re on the list of deportees. Israel, which gets the most extraordinary support from the multiracial world of evangelical Christianity, is now going to send 700 Christians back to a Muslim country that persecuted them because they’re black, and that might even send them back to another Muslim country that committed genocide against them because they’re black and Christian.

There’s no debate that something has to be done to stop the increasing flow of refugees, Sudanese and others, crossing the border into Israel. We obviously can’t have an “open door” policy — there are millions of Sudanese refugees living miserably in Egypt.

But the question is: Can we afford to take in more than the estimated 200-400 who originate in Darfur, and I think the answer is yes. I think we can afford to take in at least a few-thousand Sudanese refugees – southerners and Darfurians, Christians and Muslims. The Israeli hotel operators in Eilat say they’re the finest people, hard-working and extremely eager to improve their education, which was stunted by the genocide(s) in their homeland. These people risked their lives to come to this country, they’re grateful as can be to Israel for taking them in, and in the Israeli-Arab conflict, they’re about as pro-Israel (and anti-Arab) as anyone anywhere.

But I know I’m in a very small minority on this issue. Israelis think this country should only be for Jews, that Israel should worry about Jewish refugees only, except for maybe a few Vietnamese boat people and Darfurians. Otherwise, the overwhelming consensus is that there are too many non-Jews in this country already, the demographic bogeyman is going to get us, and besides, these Sudanese will never be more than the wretched of the Israeli earth, they’ll never be accepted, they’re better off somewhere else.

This is a distortion of Zionism, this is turning the ideology of a Jewish state into the ideology of a Jewish separatist state. The Law of Return says any Jew can become an Israeli citizen, but Israelis think it also says that no non-Jew can become an Israeli citizen, and the Law of Return says no such thing. If the Sudanese could never hope to be accepted in Israel, never allowed to become more than menial laborers on the furthest margins of society, whose fault is that — theirs or ours? Instead of “protecting” them from our xenophobia, why don’t we just become less xenophobic?

If Israel goes ahead and sends 1,000 southern Sudanese refugees back to live under the Pharaoh, after what they went through in Sudan, then once and for all we Jews ought to get off our high horse about how “the world stood silent” when we needed help.

Is a delay of justice a denial of justice?


It is not every day that a former regional president of the Anti-Defamation League rides to the rescue of alleged Palestinian terrorists. Yet that is precisely what happened on
Jan. 30, when Los Angeles immigration judge Bruce J. Einhorn, in a stinging rebuke to the federal government, terminated deportation proceedings against two men who were arrested more than 20 years ago because of their alleged ties to a Palestinian terrorist organization.

Unless appealed, Einhorn’s decision will finally bring an end to the government’s decades-long campaign to deport Khader M. Hamide and Michel I. Shehadeh — two men who have been lawful, permanent residents of the United States for more than 30 years and whose children are U.S. citizens. Their case has reached every level of federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

The government has been seeking to deport Hamide and Shehadeh since January 1987, based on their alleged support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a radical offshoot of the Palestine Liberation Organization that has taken credit for airline hijackings and car bombings in the Middle East. The two men, along with six others who became known as the L.A. 8, have all denied membership in the PFLP, while steadfastly maintaining that they were being persecuted for lawful political activities — distributing newspapers, participating in demonstrations, assisting Palestinians with human rights and medical needs and raising money for hospitals, youth clubs and day-care centers.

Such activities would clearly be constitutionally protected if undertaken by U.S. citizens. The government has never alleged that any of the L.A. 8 were connected to the PFLP’s terrorist activities.

Of the other six members of the group, one became a citizen, three obtained permanent residency status, one is seeking permanent residency status and the sixth returned to Bethlehem.

Since the outset of its case, the government has argued that lawful, permanent residents such as Hamide and Shehadeh were not entitled to the same constitutional free speech rights as those of U.S. citizens. In doing so, the government initially invoked the now-repealed McCarran-Walter Act that had been used during the McCarthy era to deport immigrants who embraced communism.

The government also asserted that providing humanitarian aid to an organization that both sides agreed had “engaged in terrorist activities” from 1984 to 1986 was the kind of “material support” that warranted deportation. Finally, government lawyers twice persuaded Congress to change federal laws and to apply them retroactively in order to allow for the deportation of those whose activities were lawful at the time they occurred.

Prior to Einhorn’s decision last month, the immigrants had won a number of important rulings, including a 1998 federal appeals court opinion that the Constitution does not permit “guilt by association” and that their deportation could not proceed unless the government demonstrated that the men intended to support the “illegal group goals of the PFLP.”

Einhorn’s January ruling terminating these deportation proceedings arose from the government’s persistent refusal to disclose “any potentially exculpatory evidence” in its possession — a violation of the judge’s June 2005 pretrial order.

In his 11-page opinion, Einhorn wrote: “The repeated actions of the government in not complying with the court’s orders have prevented respondents [Hamide and Shehadeh] from obtaining fair hearings and closure in their cases. The attenuation of these proceedings is a festering wound on the body of these respondents and an embarrassment to the rule of law.”

Unless such a “gross failure” has consequences, Einhorn colorfully observed that “an immigration judge is reduced to the status of a Blanche DuBois, who must rely on the kindness of strangers. Such status would gut the statutory and regulatory scheme of deportation proceedings.”

Einhorn, who previously served for more than a decade in the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, where he worked to identify and prosecute Nazi war criminals who resided illegally in the United States, was obviously perplexed by the government’s misconduct.

“A reasonable argument could be made,” he wrote, “that if Hamide and Shehadeh have engaged in terrorist activity, particularly in the context of today’s world, then the government would be prepared to move heaven and earth — not to mention some mounds of paper — to complete the trial and deportation of these respondents.”

Einhorn concluded that the government’s “protracted failure” constituted a violation of the immigrants’ constitutional due process rights.
The only immigration matter in all of U.S. history that has lasted longer than the L.A. 8 case was the deportation proceedings against Carlos Marcello, a reputed New Orleans crime boss, which started in 1953 and lasted 30 years.

Marcello was briefly deported but died a free man in Louisiana in 1993. It remains possible that the case against Hamide and Shehadeh could drag on still further.

Einhorn’s decision to terminate these deportation proceedings is undoubtedly correct — both legally and morally — and should not be appealed. It is long past time for the federal government to abandon its decades-long persecution of these immigrants and its concurrent legislative and judicial efforts to exempt lawful U.S. residents from the protection of the Constitution. As Einhorn himself observed, the rule of law is tested not by its ability to protect “those we love” but by whether it protects “those we loathe.”

Douglas Mirell, a Los Angeles attorney, is a founder and first vice president of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, www.pjalliance.org.

Israelis Sue Over Sept. 11 Arrests


Paul Kurzberg, an Israeli from Pardess Hanna, was in the office of his New Jersey moving company on Sept. 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

Like many Israeli movers in the New York area, Kurzberg, who was in his late 20s, was not legally authorized to work in the United States. But on Sept. 11, that thought was distant from his mind as he and his friends piled into a company van after the second plane hit the World Trade Center to find a better vantage point to photograph the historic terrorist attack.

It proved to be a critical mistake.

Caught in a traffic jam near the George Washington Bridge, which connects northern New Jersey to Manhattan, the Israelis hailed a police officer to ask directions to Brooklyn. Police pulled the five Israelis from the vehicle, drew their guns and ordered the men to lie on the ground, according to the Israelis’ account.

It was the beginning of a nearly two-month ordeal, the Israelis said, that landed them first in a local jail and then in solitary confinement in a Brooklyn prison, subjected them to physical and verbal abuse and ended in their deportation to Israel.

Now, four of the Israelis are suing, demanding justice and compensation in a lawsuit filed Monday against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and a host of wardens, police officers and corrections officers involved in their arrest and imprisonment.

"The infamous arrest of these young Israelis on Sept. 11 has been used by anti-Semites worldwide as ‘proof’ of Israel’s involvement in the World Trade Center attack," said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the Israeli lawyer representing the four Israeli plaintiffs.

"Our clients are seeking compensation for the harm they suffered in the Metropolitan Detention Center by prison officials," she said. "In addition, the lawsuit will serve as an important public forum to debunk the lie that Israel or the Mossad was behind the Sept. 11 attacks."

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, alleges that the Israelis were arrested without probable cause, subjected to harsh and unreasonable conditions, penalized for trying to observe Jewish traditions, denied the opportunity to post bond, despite the fact that they posed no danger or threat of flight, and were held far longer than necessary.

Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment, saying, "Our response would be filed in court." A Bureau of Prisons spokesman also did not respond to a request for comment.

"I was in the hole for a month or so," Kurzberg, 30, said in an telephone interview from Israel. "To be in solitary for one month, you start thinking about lots of things, especially because you know you didn’t do nothing and why did they put you here."

Kurzberg’s comrades, including his brother, Silvan, Yaron Shmuel and Omer Gavriel Marmari, also are part of the suit.

The fifth Israeli imprisoned has expressed interest in the lawsuit but, as of its filing, hadn’t yet joined it, Darshan-Leitner said.

The group’s American lawyer, Robert Tolchin, a New York litigator, said the four waited to sue until now, shortly before the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations, because the political environment in the United States only recently began to support such lawsuits. Until now, he said, "the climate for litigation was not conducive."

The plaintiffs are not seeking a specific sum in damages.

Among their allegations, the Israelis claim they were denied use of prayer books for Yom Kippur, were harassed by guards who blamed them for the World Trade Center attack and were not given kosher food.

One says he had his eyeglasses taken away and could not see properly for two months. Another said he was thrown into a cell with an Algerian Muslim. The plaintiffs also spent more than a month in solitary confinement.

The way they were treated is not what America stands for," Tolchin said. "These people were arrested for things that people don’t generally get arrested for. Their only violation was that they were working with improper immigration status.

Tolchin said the case likely could take years to make its way through the courts. In a similar case filed in 2002 by a group of Muslims, a judge has yet to rule on a motion by the defense to dismiss the case. Only if the judge doesn’t throw out the suit can the Muslim plaintiffs begin to make their case.

World Briefs


Israel: U.S. Didn’t Help

Israel denied a newspaper report that the CIA helped Israel track down a smuggled arms shipment. “This operation was purely blue and white,” said a spokeswoman for the Israeli military, referring to the colors of Israel’s flag. Citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, The Washington Times newspaper reported Tuesday that Israel asked the CIA to locate the ship carrying the arms. The report said U.S. officials, using high-tech intelligence-gathering equipment, were able to identify the ship.

Israel Declines to Join War Crimes Court

Israel will not join a planned international war crimes court because the treaty establishing the court defines the settlements as a war crime, Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit said Monday. The Barak government signed the treaty but did not ratify it, and the current government will keep to this decision due to the court’s “political” nature, Sheetrit said.

Assassin’s Brother Barred

Israel’s Defense Ministry barred the brother of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin from serving in a special combat unit for fervently Orthodox Jews. Sagiv Amir, 19, has appealed the decision, saying it punishes him for his brother’s crime and effectively bars him from military service because his religious practices make it impossible for him to enlist in a regular unit. Amir was 13 when his brother, Yigal, shot Rabin dead at a 1995 peace rally in Tel Aviv.

Israel, China Discuss Deal

Israeli officials arrived in Beijing for talks on the canceled sale of an airborne radar system to China. Beijing is seeking compensation for Israel’s cancellation of a deal, worth $250 million, to purchase planes equipped with the Phalcon system. Israel canceled the arms sale in July 2000, following objections from U.S. officials, who feared the sale would enhance China’s threatening position against Taiwan and could be used to track U.S. aircraft in the case of a military conflict there.

U.S. Seeks Deportation

The U.S. Justice Department is seeking to deport an Illinois man for allegedly participating in the persecution and murder of Jews during World War II. According to a complaint filed Monday, Peter John Bernes, alias Petras Bernotavicius, was a deputy to Werner Loew, a Nazi-appointed mayor and police commander assigned to Kupiskis, Lithuania. Bernes helped remove condemned prisoners from jail so they could be taken to nearby killing sites, the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations charged. During the summer of 1941, more than 1,000 Jewish men, women and children — about one-fourth of Kupiski’s population — were murdered by men allegedly under Loew’s command.

Schools Linked to Terrorism

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) claims some charter schools in California have links to terrorist organizations. The ADL wrote to the California State Superintendent of Education urging the state to suspend its funding and investigate the activities of Gateway Academy charter schools because of alleged links to the Muslims of the Americas, which the ADL calls a virulently anti-Semitic and homophobic group. Muslims of the Americas has been accused of serving as a corporate front for Al-Fuqra, a militant Islamic group. ADL also charges the school has violated the First Amendment by teaching religion in the state-funded school.

Member of ‘Iran 10’ Freed

An Iranian Jew convicted of spying for Israel was freed from jail after serving his three-year sentence, according to an Iranian official. Faramarz Kashi, a Hebrew teacher, is the second of 10 Iranian Jews convicted of the spying charges in July 2000 to be released, the official added Wednesday. Ramin Nemati Zadeh, released in March of last year, was the first to be freed, the official said. Thirteen Iranian Jews were arrested in 1999 and accused of spying for Israel. Following a closed-door trial that began in April 2000, three were acquitted and 10 others found guilty.

AJCongress to Be Sued

A former regional director of the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) plans to file an age- and gender-discrimination lawsuit against the group. Sheila Decter, 63, was fired in November from her position as the group’s New England regional director. Decter already has filed a complaint on the issue with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, according to the Forward newspaper. Jack Rosen, the president of the AJCongress, told the Forward there is “no basis” for Decter’s complaint.

Religious Freedom Day

President Bush recalled George Washington´s promise to the Jewish community to protect religious freedom. Proclaiming that Wednesday will be Religious Freedom Day 2002, Bush noted that the first U.S. president promised the Jewish community at Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., that the new country would protect the rights of people of all faiths. Bush called on Americans to use the day, set aside annually, to celebrate America´s commitment to freedom of religion.

Reconstructionists’ New Pres

Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz has been chosen to head the Reconstructionist movement’s seminary. Ehrenkrantz, the immediate past president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the spiritual leader of Bnai Keshet in Montclair, N.J., will start this summer. He replaces Rabbi David Teutsch, who has been the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College’s (RRC) president since 1993. Ehrenkrantz will be the first RRC president who is a graduate of the school. The movement, which was founded in the 1930s, is based in Philadelphia and has 100 synagogues in North America.

Senators: Extend Deadline

Two U.S. senators called for an extension for survivors to file for Holocaust-era insurance restitution. Sens. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) say Holocaust survivors are having trouble documenting their claims or have given up on the restitution process because they believe insurers deny or stall payments of claims. The senators requested the deadline extension in a letter sent Jan. 9 to Lawrence Eagleburger, chairman of the International Commission on Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims.

Orthodox Students for Israel

A group of American Jewish students is being trained to promote travel to Israel. In a program called Operation Torah Shield II, 200 students from Yeshiva University in New York are in Israel this week touring the country and participating in training sessions led by the Ministry of Tourism. Upon their return to the United States, the students will take additional courses sponsored by the ministry.

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