Ramla Conference on Immigration Policy in Israel
ARDC representatives recently attended the “Ramla Conference – Between Israel and the Nations”, which was held on April 15, 2012. It was organized by the Komemiyut movement, Ramla Municipality, the Ministry of Education, and Garin Torani. This year’s conference theme was “Immigration Policy – Is the Jewish Majority in Danger?” The debate dealt with various “threats” to the Jewish majority in Israel, and, within them, different groups such as non-Jewish immigrants, migrant workers, Palestinians and refugees.
The majority of the speakers represented right-wing political parties and organizations, and included National Religious academics, rabbis, Knesset members, and Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai. Conference organizers stated that NGOs assisting refugees, as well as left-wing Knesset members, were invited to attend, but they refused the invitation. As it was, two representatives from the ARDC and one each from the UNHCR and Hotline for Migrant Workers were present in the audience numbering approximately 100 people.
Most of the speakers, some publicly known to hold extreme racist views, spoke of the dangers of the “takeover” of asylum seekers in Israeli cities, the threat they pose to Jewish assimilation, crime in their communities, “theft” of jobs from Israelis, and the demographic threat asylum seekers pose to the Jewish character of Israel. Calls were made to differentiate between the phenomenon of immigration and the immigrants’ rights to humane treatment and “mercy” from the Jewish majority.
The ARDC was present at the conference in order to hear and learn about others’ perceptions that conflict our own, and to present our ideas to those in attendance. We had many conversations with attendees and we called attention to inaccuracies presented from the stage. ARDC believes it is important to be present in any discussion on asylum seekers, even if the views expressed contradict our own values. We will continue to avoid convincing the convinced, but rather try to appeal to a wider audience and to understand their views in order to try and change them, even if only slightly.