CCAR Statement on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Reversal on African Asylum Seekers

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Central Conference of American Rabbis condemns Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reversal of a commitment he had made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an agreement that would have humanely resolved the plight of thousands of asylum seekers in Israel from Eritrea, Sudan, and other African countries. Equal numbers of these refugees were to have been permitted to remain in Israel and resettled safely in other western countries.

The fate of African asylum seekers in Israel is once again uncertain.  While Jews in Israel and around the world celebrate Passover, our festival of freedom, Israel’s Prime Minister and his coalition partners seem to have forgotten that we are commanded to heed the misery of the stranger, having ourselves been strangers in Egypt and in virtually all the lands to which our people has been dispersed.

In reversing his own commitment, the Prime Minister has attempted to deflect blame by groundlessly accusing the New Israel Fund (NIF) of meddling in the matter and calling for a parliamentary inquiry of NIF that would be more witch hunt than investigation. Our colleague, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, has rightly called the Prime Minister’s move against NIF “McCarthyism.”

The CCAR commends Israelis who have taken to the streets by the tens of thousands to protest the government’s treatment of the asylum seekers. We stand in solidarity with the sanctuary movement that has arisen in Israel — and particularly with the Reform rabbis, members of the CCAR and MARAM, who are among its leaders.

As Passover draws towards its conclusion, we recall the words of Emma Lazarus: “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” This Passover, sadly, our celebration of freedom is diminished.

Rabbi David E. Stern                           Rabbi Steven A. Fox
President                                             Chief Executive

Central Conference of American Rabbis