Jewish groups urge Israel not to deport African refugees


WASHINGTON (JTA) — An array of U.S. Jewish groups urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt plans to deport tens of thousands of African refugees, offering to assist in their care.

“We are concerned that if you move forward with these plans the lives of thousands of individuals will be put in jeopardy, and the name of the Jewish State and the Jewish People will be irreparably stained,” said the letter sent Wednesday by 25 groups including HIAS, the leading Jewish immigration advocacy group; the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; the National Council of Jewish Women; the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly; the New Israel Fund; and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

“As a people who were once refugees, and were once strangers in a strange land, we believe we have a special obligation toward refugees, whatever their religion or race,” said the letter, whose signatories spanned every religious stream, including Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Humanist.

Israel’s government reportedly is considering legislation that would allow for the deportation of some 40,000 refugees, most of them from Sudan and Eritrea, without the consent of the refugee. The legislation would defy an Israeli High Court ruling banning deportation without the consent of the refugee.

The signatories said they “commit ourselves and offer our hand in support in any way that we can help in coping with the challenges of the refugee crisis. Please do not deport these individuals who have sought refuge among the Jewish People, but rather let us work together in addressing the burdens and challenges of our moral obligations.”

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