The Middle Eastern country’s concern with the European conflict may go beyond humanitarian motives.
Israel has made numerous statements these past few weeks welcoming Ukrainian Jews “home” to Israel, should they seek to emigrate. Unlike the Ukrainians with Temporary Protection Status (TPS) in the EU — which, as the name suggests, offers temporary protection — all Jews can claim citizenship with no questions under the Law of Return, even if they’ve never visited.
“This is an important moment, a moment we were destined for and for which the State of Israel was established,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said two weeks into the conflict in Ukraine. Tel Aviv has stated that it is expecting up to 100,000 Jews to arrive from Ukraine — and even Russia — in the coming months.
“The great mission is to open the doors, to open the hearts, to receive our brothers and sisters fleeing a difficult war. Make sure that [they will have a reception that] will soften even a little the trauma they are experiencing, an inconceivable trauma — to uproot yourself within hours or days and move to a far and different country,” Bennett continued.
Despite the talks of humanitarianism amidst trauma, however, Israel announced that only 5,000 new non-Jewish Ukrainians would be able to come to Israel as refugees, while an existing 20,000 would be allowed to remain during the conflict.
This positioning exposes Israel's discriminatory motivations and hints at a policy of opening borders to a population — not necessarily because they are in need — but rather as a means to alter the national demographic.
It's a perfect opportunity for Tel Aviv to use Ukrainian refugees as a means to earn demographic dividends, knowing that the global sympathy for Ukrainians could overshadow such a politically-motivated resettlement plan.
Unwittingly or not, President Zelenskyy, as well as other members of his staff, have carried the water for Israel by iterating on several occasions that Ukraine is like Israel, defending itself against "total destruction." It is unclear what the point of this rhetoric is — whether it is to garner sympathy from Western audiences or an attempt to distort all the international law and human rights violations that Israel conducts on a daily basis.
Executing the resettlement goal
The United Nations recently announced that an estimated 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled the violence in their country since its commencement on February 24, adding that within the first ten days of the conflict, some two million people were displaced.
The majority of these individuals have been seeking refuge, primarily in neighbouring European Union countries. In fact, Ukrainians and residents of Ukraine have the right to TPS and thus are granted a renewable residency term of between one to three years and allowed access to healthcare, education, and housing.
The European Commission has even allocated 500 million euros — a quarter of its entire humanitarian budget — to the Ukrainian crisis, so the support is both available and easily accessible.
Since the start of the crisis, media outlets and certain politicians alike have continuously spewed racist rhetoric against refugees of differing origins, while the rhetoric on Ukrainians has been constant and wholeheartedly supportive.
This then begs the question, why does Israel, a country in the Middle East, one that is both currently and constantly violating international human rights, chime in and vouch for support for Ukrainians, especially when a large bulk of the international refugee “problem” is centred in the Middle East region?
To highlight both the conscious construction and dedication to this project, two key observations can be made. First, the announcement of the World Zionist Organization dedicating 1,000 new units to Ukrainian Jews, now becoming Israeli. These units are located in the occupied Golan Heights as well as in the occupied Naqab region. The Golan Heights is still being contested by Syria as sovereign Syrian territory. This claim has been validated by numerous international organisations including the United Nations.
Second, Israel has set up, through the Jewish Agency for Israel, an organisation that supports and funds Jewish immigration and settlement in Israel and Occupied Palestine, several stations on the Ukrainian borders for Ukrainian Jews, and has provided direct flights to Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. In one week alone, the agency raised $15 million.
To elaborate, Ukrainian Jews have essentially been called to come “home.” This statement in itself is contradictory as Ukrainians have been confronted with violence in their home country and are waiting for this to settle to be able to return. Israel, unlike the EU, however, does not see it like that. This injustice is not just observed by comparing the treatment of said refugees with that of the indigenous Palestinians but also when considering the migration and mistreatment of Ethiopian Jews.
This plan, while apparently created in support of those faced with a humanitarian crisis, seems to be just another method to “up” the number of Jews in Israel. Israelis would do well to remember that these are people fleeing a conflict zone and may not be as eager to erase their nationality and culture to claim demographic dominance in a land they have most likely never even visited before.
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