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The New Arab

Israel refuses to recognise Jewish Ugandan community

Migrants protest with verse from the Bible: Thou shalt not oppress a stranger [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 June, 2018

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Israel has come under fire for its 'racist policies' after the interior ministry denied a Ugandan Jew from immigrating to the Jewish state.

Israel has ruled that it will not recognise the Ugandan Jewish community, according to a newspaper report released Thursday.

The request of a Ugandan Jew, Kibitz Yosef, to immigrate to Israel was denied by the Tel Aviv's interior ministry, reported Haaretz.

According to the report, Yosef who is staying at a kibbutz in southern Israel, was told by the ministry to leave the country by 14 June.

A representative informed Haaretz that the decision represented Israel's stance on the Ugandan Jewish community, not just the applicant in question.

The ministry said Yosef could challenge its decision in the High Court of Justice.

The Abayudaya, another word for the Ugandan Jewish community, numbers around 2,000 with roots extending to the early 20th century when a local leader converted to Judaism after reading the Bible.

Most of the community converted under the auspices of US conservative rabbis and so are not recognised as Jewish by Israel's mainly ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate.

The Abayudaya have struggled to migrate to Israel, despite the Jewish Agency recognising the community in 2016.

Israel was accused of racism after a visa application was refused for a member of the community who wished to study at a yeshiva.

Jewish converts in the US may face additional hardships towards having their conversion recognised after the Chief Rabbinate published a list of draft criteria this week.

The Chief Rabbinate controls marriage, divorce, conversion and burial in the state, however, it does not have the authority over who can immigrate to the country.

This is not the first time Israel's right-wing government has been accused of racist policies.

Israel is moving towards expelling nearly tens of thousands of Africans in a migrant relocation plan that has been described by the UN as "incoherent and unsafe".

A sharp shift to the right in Israeli politics has given rise to an increasingly vocal push to isolate African asylum seekers and ultimately return them to their homelands.

Darfur and Eritrea, being the majority, are both riddled by instability, long running conflicts and political oppression.

Nationalist anti-immigration protests regularly turn violent with African migrants being beaten and their properties or shops ransacked.

Demonstrators have chanted slogans such as: "Stop talking, start expelling" and "Blacks out!", while other protesters have derided the "bleeding-heart leftists" working to help them.

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