What is the Law of Return and why does it exist?
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Is the Israeli law of return racist?
The State of Israel was established with the goal of providing a homeland for every Jew in which they could live as free and equal citizens without fear of discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs or ethnic background. The need for a homeland for the Jewish people was apparent after centuries of unequal treatment and persecution. It was recognized by the international community in 1922, when the League of Nations adopted the Mandate to Administer Palestine and in 1947, when the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan).
The Law of Return (1950), which states "every Jew has the right to immigrate to the country," thereby fulfilled both the will of the international community and the goal of the Zionist movement.
As the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel says, the Jewish state was to be founded by virtue of the "natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign state." The Declaration also stated that the "State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles."
To apply the Law of Return to non-Jews or to persons without a Jewish relative would be illogical and stand in contrast to the primary purpose of establishing the only Jewish state in the world.
The Law of Return established the right of every Jew to settle in Israel, providing a refuge for any Jew fleeing persecution. According to the law, every Jew is entitled to return to his or her historical homeland and be naturalized in it. The Law of Return allows Jews the right to return to their homeland, much as many states, including Western European democracies, grant to those who have ethnic or historical ties to their countries.
In contrast to some claims, the Law of Return cannot be considered discriminatory. It does not prevent persons of non-Jewish origin from being naturalized in Israel; this possibility is available under other Israeli laws, much as in other Western democracies. The Law of Entry to Israel (1952) and the Law of Citizenship (1952) are naturalization laws similar to those that exist in other Western democracies.
Similarly, the question of the Palestinian refugees has no connection to the Law of Return. While this issue must be resolved in the framework of a peace agreement, it has no relationship to the right of Jews to return to the only Jewish State in the world.
These texts are taken from material published by the Israel Ministry of Foreign affairs. with additional comments and hyperlinked materials. They were apparently published in connection with the Annapolis peace conference of 2007, but they have extensive applicability beyond it. They explain fundamentals of Israeli policy as well as the meaning of Zionism and history of the conflict.
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs text is at Israel, the Conflict and Peace. Original text is copyright by Ami Isseroff and Zionism-Israel Center.
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