This month, thousands of African migrants to Israel, many seeking asylum, marched in Tel Aviv to demand more rights and protections from the Israeli government. In an email interview, Dov Waxman, associate professor of political science at Baruch College and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), as well as the co-director of the Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development at Northeastern University, explained Israel’s immigration policy.
WPR: What is the state of Israel's overall immigration policy, particularly with regard to political refugees?
Dov Waxman: Israel’s immigration policy fundamentally distinguishes between Jews, non-Jews and Palestinians. As a self-declared “Jewish state,” Israel has always encouraged and welcomed Jewish immigrants—including those with Jewish ancestry, even if they are not considered Jewish according to Orthodox religious law—offering them financial incentives and automatically granting them citizenship. Unless they are married to Jews, it is very difficult for non-Jews to become Israeli citizens, and even then they face a host of bureaucratic obstacles, although they can come as guest workers and receive residency permits. It is almost impossible for Palestinians to move to Israel, even if they marry Israeli citizens. A law first passed in 2003 prohibits family reunification for Israeli citizens married to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.