Once again, Israel feels justified in playing the humanitarian card, with only the Palestinians pointing to its selectivity in opening its doors to refugees. In February, the Jerusalem Post reported that 10,000 Jewish Ukrainian refugees would enter Israel. The move was confirmed by Israel’s Ministry of Immigration, which stated: “The Ministry of Immigration and Reception is prepared for the emergency immigration of Ukrainian Jews, and given the escalation in Ukraine, the ministry, headed by Minister Tamano-Shata, is preparing all sectors to to support and welcome any Jew who wishes to immigrate to Israel.”
“We call on the Jews of Ukraine to emigrate to Israel – to your homeland,” the ministry said.
Not only has Israel stolen land from the Palestinian people through the Nakba ethnic cleansing, ongoing colonial expansion and apartheid policies, it is now inviting Ukrainian Jews to join in its colonial violence against the Palestinian people. Israel’s goal is not humanity, it is the maintenance of a demographic majority, and the current wave of refugees is being exploited by the Israeli government, which has been clear enough to distinguish between Ukrainian refugees and Jewish-Ukrainian refugees. Only the latter are welcome in Israel with full rights. As Home Secretary Ayelet Shaked announced this week, 25,000 non-Jewish Ukrainians will be allowed to remain in Israel as refugees, thereby distinguishing between Ukrainians while at the same time hindering Palestinians’ right to return to their land.
The acting chairman of the Jewish Agency, Yaakov Hagoel, described the arrival of the Ukrainian Jews as “an important contribution to the development of the State of Israel, which welcomes you today with open arms and brotherly love.” A political admission completely stripped of the humanitarian slant that does not obscure Israel’s intention to colonize. This means that Jewish Ukrainian refugees who have chosen Israel must be recognized as settlers – active participants in the Zionist colonial project with rights that go beyond those of Palestinians living under colonial apartheid.
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Meanwhile, the international community has remained silent for decades of hypocrisy about the Palestinians’ right of return – intentionally inherently flawed to prevent Palestinians from ever claiming their place in historic Palestine.
Palestinians have been forced into permanent refugee status by Israel and the United Nations (UN), which created the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, in order to include the forcibly displaced Palestinians in the projected humanitarian paradigm. As the world frenzy over Ukrainian refugees, Palestinians have insisted on their right to return to their land for decades, and the international community’s only response has been to draft a flawed, non-binding resolution purporting to support that right while she maintained Israel’s colonial project should take precedence.
Given Israel’s involvement in the issue of Ukrainian refugees and future Jewish Ukrainian settlers, the international community should have played a role in reminding Israel of its obligations and forcing it to comply. The Palestinians’ political right to return to their land is legitimate and should take precedence. The whole world has offered refuge to Ukraine, but Israel’s offer has nothing to do with humanitarian issues, everything to do with keeping the Palestinians out.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect Middle East Monitor’s editorial policies.