The dreams of Nazi racialists appear alive and well in Likudist Israel.
Several days ago, Maariv reported (Hebrew) that the Israel-advocacy youth program, Birthright, had required a young Russian woman who intended to join a Birthright trip to Israel to undergo a DNA test to prove she was Jewish. When Masha Yakirson, a resident of St. Petersburg, revealed her birth status, the group would not allow her to join without such an test. She, naturally, felt insulted. Her father replied on her behalf:
This is a racist policy. It’s impossible to demand such a thing. My daughter was raised in a Jewish home and educated as a Jew her entire life.
Responsibility for accrediting those seeking to participate in Birthright trips or those making aliyah falls to an NGO named Netiv, which has created the policy demanding genetic testing. This conveniently allows both the government and Birthright to wash its hands of the matter (though the Netiv representative does have the official government title of “consul”). Aliya is an official government authorization. So compelling such tests becomes an official government demand by default. Meaning, the State of Israel is a willing collaborator in racial profiling of the sort one might’ve expected from certain other countries in a prior century.
Taglit tried to undo some of the damage by explaining that Yakirson had at first been rejected outright by Netiv. But a sympathetic Birthright official suggested that she take the DNA test as a way to prove her Jewish bona fides to Netiv. That certainly makes it all right.
The PMO offered this exculpatory response:
“We’re not talking about a test to determine Jewishness. We’re talking about a test to determine a family bond that entitles [the child to] aliyah.”
Well, why didn’t you say so? That makes all the difference!
In the process of investigating this issue, the Prime Minister’s office confirmed that the Interior Ministry too demands DNA tests for Jews who are born out-of-wedlock. Any child coming to Israel over the age of 3 who has “questionable parentage” must undergo the test.
Applicants for citizenship must prove they have at least one Jewish parent. In cases of “mamzerim,” the government errs on the side of caution in requiring the DNA test. So that it doesn’t allow any goyische blood to enter the nation’s blood stream. Col. Jack Mandrake, the character in Dr. Strangelove who rants about the enemy defiling his “precious bodily fluids,” would feel right at home with this logic.
In a related matter, the Interior Ministry also demanded that a Palestinian woman who was a citizen of Israel, but living in Gaza, take a DNA test in order to prove that she was the sister of woman she sought to visit in Israel. The woman in Gaza had her Israeli citizenship papers, but the Sherlock Holmeses officiating in the Ministry determined this wasn’t good enough. After word got out in the media, the government thought better of this lame-brained scheme and relented.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.