If anyone doubted Israel has a problem with race, a small blurb in the Jerusalem Post should, properly viewed, open your eyes. The previous government promised more than one year ago to bring 600 Falash Mura to Israel each month, double the number slotted. It did not keep its promise. What has the new government, Ariel Sharon's heirs, done? It had codified the broken promise:
The ministerial committee for Falash Mura issues, headed by Interior Minister Roni Bar On, decided on Tuesday not to expand the quota of Ethiopian immigrants to above 300 persons as part of the 2007 budget.
The decision was made in spite of a decision by the previous government of Ariel Sharon to double the number of monthly Falash Mura immigrants.
This despite promises to North American Jewry, which committed itself to raising a large portion of the needed funds, and did so, keeping its promise.
One can disagree with the ruling of the chief rabbinate mandating Falash Mura aliya. Indeed, factions in Israel's Ethiopian Jewish community have done just that. But to lie, cheat and steal to keep more poor blacks out of Israel – which is what the government is in effect doing – is reprehensible.
In the bad days leading up to Operation Moses, Israel regularly set Ethiopian Jewish immigration quotas, and then did its best to make sure fewer than the limited number were actually saved. (And this was after years of refusal to admit any Ethiopian Jewish refugees. This disgusting policy was only occasionally deviated from, and those deviations involved the threat of immediate public scandal if a particular small group of black Jewish refugees who had found their way to freedom was not admitted.)
Israel can protest that race and class have nothing to do with its decision, and it certainly will do so. But the government has continually bemoaned the cost of absorbing Ethiopians, and has at the same time resisted efforts to improve that absorption – improvements that would make Ethiopian aliya more cost effective and more successful for the immigrants themselves.
Further, the decision to again restrict Ethiopian aliya was a budgetary one. One can hardly imagine a similar decision being made with regard to Russian, French or Argentinean Jewry, all of whom come from first world countries and have white skin.
UPDATE: The JTA reports:
The government decided several years ago to increase the number allowed into Israel each month, from 300 to 600.
However, the decision was never implemented, and the committee said the move should be postponed further because of financial considerations.
The recommendation comes as Israel’s High Court of Justice is set to hear a petition next week on the government’s failure to expedite the aliyah.
UPDATE 2: Ha'aretz reports (and this appears to be what the JTA incompetently ripped):
The ministerial immigration committee decided Tuesday to recommend the government postpone an earlier decision to double the monthly number of Falashmura Ethiopian immigrants allowed into Israel.
The decision would have raised the quota of Falashmura permitted to immigrate to Israel from 300 to 600.
The decision will be postponed until the debates on the 2007 state budget.
The decision, made by committee chairman Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, ran contrary to the opinions of the other ministers taking part in the debate on the matter.
Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim, Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai and Culture Minister Ophir Pines-Paz were of the opinion it was time to implement the January 2005 decision made by the previous government that determined the rate of immigration would be doubled starting June 2005.
The High Court of Justice is slated to debate next week a petition field by volunteer organizations against the government for failing to implement the decision to double the immigration rate.
A representative from the state prosecution said she disagreed with the decision by the ministerial committee and said it would be difficult to defend it in the High Court.
At the start of the ministerial committee meeting, a Finance Ministry representative said there is currently no money to double the rate of Ethiopian immigration.
Boim responded by saying the decision could be funded from reserve sources.
Pines-Paz said it was an outrage that a government decision made 18 months ago has not been implemented due to opposition from the professional level.
Bar-On initially proposed a compromise deal that would increase the Falashmura immigration quota to 450, out of a fear that the High Court would force the government to implement the January 2005 decision.
By the end of the meeting, however, Bar-On decided to accept the treasury's position and postpone the increase in immigration from Ethiopia.