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Yedioth: Soviet Jews were cheated into immigrating to Israel

The idea that Soviet Jews would be able to emigrate to the West was unacceptable to Israel. So the state carried out a covert operation in the early nineties to get them to Israel instead

At the end of the 1980s, Israel found itself facing a problem: the Soviet Union was about to collapse, and its multitude of Jews about to become free. But, alas, Israel held no interest for them, and they wanted to emigrate to welfare countries. Embarrassingly enough, Jewish organizations did their best to aid the “noshrim” (roughly, “those who fall by the wayside”), as they were called in Israel due to their efforts to avoid their Zionist-mandated fate. In a successful covert operation, Israel closed the options to the emigrants, and forced most of them to reach it.

This is the fascinating expose published yesterday in “7 Yamim”, Yediot’s weekly magazine supplement. Yasha Kadmi, who would become the Chief of Nativ, the clandestine organization infiltrating the Soviet bloc, published a book in which he explains how the system worked. Kadmi, who at the time wrote a secret memo saying that if Soviet Jews would be allowed freedom of choice they will not choose Israel, received official sanction from then prime minister, Yizhak Shamir, for the operation.

It went like this: The goal was to prevent Russian Jews from reaching Vienna, from which they could make it to the US as refugees. So Kadmi gathered Jews wishing to emigrate to Moscow, and met with them after 17:00, the time the Austrian embassy stopped working. He then gave them a plane ticket to either Romania or Hungary, which they had to use immediately, preferably that night. Kadmi has already made a deal with the two dictatorships, who would in turn make certain no Soviet Jew had the option of boarding a plane to anywhere but Israel. Often, they didn’t even have the chance to leave the airport. Such deals with the Romanian despot Nicolae Ceausescu – “dear departed Ceausescu, peace be upon him”, as he is described by Kadmi – were common; throughout the 1970s and 1980s he literally sold Jews to Israel. “7 Yamim” summed it thus: “No [Austrian] embassy? No way to reach Vienna. No way to rwach Vienna? No America. So what’s left? What Kadmi gives”.

Kadmi’s conscience’s bothers him a bit, but he is still certain that’s how things should have turned out. Which is not surprising, given he is a Zionist. The Zionist movement always put itself and its interests before those of the Jewish people. In the 1930s, it did everything possible to derail the 1938 Avian Conference, which tried to find place for desperate Jews trying to escape Hitler; the Zionist leaders were very worried, lest those Jews find some other place to live in, aside from Palestine. When the despot of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, wanted to allow 100,000 European Jews to emigrate to the Republic, the Jewish Agency did everything possible to torpedo the plan. Ben Gurion’s macabre saying of the Second World War – that if he had to choose between saving a million Jew children by sending them to Britain or half that number, by sending them to Palestine, he would choose the latter – is well known.

The most infamous incident of this sort, unfortunately not well known enough, is that of the Patria. This was a ship into which the British herded Jewish refugees from the Nazis, intending to deport them. With the blessing of Moshe Sharet, later to become prime minister, the Hagana placed an explosive device on the ship. On 25 September, 1940, 216 Jews who managed to escape Hitler’s hell were done to death by the Zionists. Later, the perpetrators would claim they misjudged the amount of explosive they used; given that the explosion blew away the entire steel frame on one side, this was some misjudgment, if that’s what it really was. When one of Mapai’s members dared to publicly come out against the attack, writing “it is unacceptable for Jews to sanctify the name by killing other Jews. What right have we to drown women, men, old people and young, whose permission we did not ask, and make a sacrifice of them?”, he was slapped in public by Ben Gurion’s son, Amos. Few people remember the Patria today.

Then came the turn of the communities of the Middle Eastern Jews, some of them older than the Second Temple, to pay the price for the creation of Zionism, in which most of them had very little interest. It may be that those communities could not survive the creation of Israel, which became an enemy of their countries; but certainly the Zionist movement gave them a not so subtle shove, in case they didn’t get the hint and leave.

So now we know that Soviet Jewry also fell victim to the lust of Zionism for cannon fodder. But times have changed; perhaps this time, someone will rise up and sue Nativ, the Jewish Agency, and the government for this huge deception.

One may hope.

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    1. Danny

      It is well known that the Mossad was directly involved in coercing Middle Eastern Jews to immigrate to Israel in the 1950’s. Iraqi Jews especially were threatened by an invisible hand that aimed to make them fear their neighbors and the state by staging mock attacks against the Jewish communities there. I am constantly amazed at the gall of zionist organizations working in North America today, trying to convince young impressionable Jews to emigrate to Israel (calling it “aliya”, as if it’s a spiritual transcendence rather than the real comedown in quality of life that it is). Israel’s obsession with demographics is surpassed only by its obsession with real-estate and we can plainly see where the bulk of its efforts go: bringing more and more people to Israel and settling them in remote places to be a human shield against Arab encroachment, instead of trying to make life better for the people who already live in Israel. This is a state that has not matured since the 1950’s.

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    2. Waleed

      Dont tell me its shocking ? What do you expect from a state that was established over a continous genocide ? integrity ? they dig , corrupt , gain and watch …you can find them everywhere , what what they need is money which gives influence , brains (which they do have) , idiots (present) and time.

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    3. David

      I happen to know some Iraqi Jews and they tell of horror stories under Sadam. One older gentleman who had managed to leave Iraq was watching the US invade Iraq on TV and was shouting, fist raised “Kill him now!”. So it is a little more complex than the usual “Mossad” story.

      Also there are many Russian Jews all over Europe, especially Germany and the UK who obviously made it no problem. So a little more nuance is in order me thinks. Some Russian Jews are now Israeli-German-Russian.
      And that these people would not just receive tickets no-strings-attached is a touch naive. When an operation of this magnitude is launched one may expect certain caveats. I mean it wasn’t called , “Free flights anywhere for Jews only ” . The groundwork and incredible deals that must have gone on with a deeply cancerous USSR are lost in this SHOCKER! story. Dealing with a deeply inhumane system such as the Soviets one needs to be flexible.
      BTW, Iranian Jews who left/leave under the Mullahs must sign papers promising that they not emigrate to Israel. They also must “sell” all their possessions to some sick corrupt Islamist in Tehran and pay massive “taxes” ( hello Middle Ages? ) which in effect leave them with only a fraction of what their houses etc are worth.

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    4. Leonid Levin

      I remember those days in the late 1980’s very vividly. The vast majority of us, Soviet Jews, dreamed of emmigrating to the US. A small ideologically motivated minority wanted to go to Israel. I remember many friends leaving for the US, and I remember none going to Israel. Then something changed in the US immigration laws for the Jews, so that one could only get a refugee status if one had close relatives already in the US. It seemed weird to me: it meant that without close relatives in the US you’re not a refugee. So then people started moving to Israel.

      I remember how much effort Sokhnut (the Jewish Agency) was putting into youth programmes (youth camps, events, etc.) to revive their Jewish identity and to convince them to go to Israel. The funny thing is that many of the youth leaders, trained by the Sokhnut, eventually went to the US and not to Israel.

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    5. annie

      danny, bringing more and more people to Israel and settling them in remote places to be a human shield against Arab encroachment, instead of trying to make life better for…

      there is no arab encroachment, the arabs were already there. they are brought in to encroach on more palestinian land to prevent a palestinian state. they are used to for more zionist expansion. words matter!


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    6. annie

      sorry i will try that again w/quotes instead of html tags and try to be clearer.

      danny, “bringing more and more people to Israel and settling them in remote places to be a human shield against Arab encroachment, instead of trying to make life better for…”

      there is no ‘arab encroachment’, the palestinians have been on the land all along. immigrants (settlers) are brought in to encroach on more and more palestinian land to prevent a palestinian state. settlers are used for more zionist expansion.

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    7. Jon Adams

      You mean if the US opened up immigration for Jews that would be a problem for Israel?

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    8. Jon, absolutely. For starters, I think many Israelis will emigrate, leaving behind only those who lack the skills to do so. Over the years, some 900,000 Israelis (the official number is secret) have left Israel for greener pastures. That’s about 14% of the current population.

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    9. Although I dislike this site for its tunnel-visioned, self righteous and parallel reality approach in general (with a very few exceptions, of course) and Yossi’s poorly writ articles in particular, I have to admit that there is some factual truth about this text. Because I myself have fallen a victim of this fraud (among others, together with my sister in law, the much hated by her compatriots human rights activist Vera Reider and her son Dimi – one of a few sane +972 contributors and the second generation Zionist fraud victim). Back in 1989, on our long dreamed way out of the USSR, we stopped in Santa Marinella, not far from Rome. This serene resort village was swarming with Russian Jews, desperately hoping to be finally transported to the US. Yet due to the changes in their immigration policy, the Americans refused the entry visa (which also suggested the refugee status) to most of the applicants. The rumors were that Itzhak Shamir stroke a secret deal with Bush, and I have a good reason (a document, which I read lately but cannot quote) to think that there was some true about it.
      There, we met a bunch of Russian-Israeli oldtimers, who, together with Sohnut emissaries, came to convince the new emigrants to go to Israel, instead of the USA. Some of them were nice human beings, like artist Sasha Okun or writer David Markish, some were pathetic, like poet Alexander Volovik, but it was the future Knesset member Sofa Landver, who was starring at outdoors night shows – gathering of Russian Jews; her eyes shining, her schtetl face turning deep red, she screamed: “Jews! You are going from Galut to Galut! Blind people, you are chasing dollars, while your historic homeland is awaiting for you!” This was followed by a shaky home video, demonstrating happy new immigrants in their empty Ashdod (or was it Ashqelon?) rented apartments (paid for one year by Sohnut) and their full refrigerators. The 20 first seduced, that is.
      My family was quite pro-Israeli from the very beginning, but I head New York in my mind. Yet meeting Russian Israeli intellectuals, I thought – these are people of my circle, and if Israel is good for them, it will probably be good for me, too.
      Have I ever regretted my decision? More than once. Have I fulfilled my potential in this country? In many ways, positively yes.
      Guys, granted, Sohnut people are mostly crooks, but in the Old Country we were taught that there is such a thing as historical processes, tendencies, etc. So maybe this is a bit more complicated, that a fiendish Zionist connection, eh? And BTW, Yossi, for you personally Russian Alya is a blessing, whom else would you blame in racism, if not the Russians?

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    10. Ben Israel

      A big source of aliyah disenchantment in the past was the original structure of the Jewish Agency (“sochnut”) which was an inseparable part of the early decrepit, corrupt, ineffecient, suffocating socialist system the MAPAI-MAPAM-GENERAL ZIONIST establishment created in the 1940’s-50’s. People who made aliyah with the view that Israel was some sort of socialist paradise were led to think the state would take care of them, i.e. give them a job, find a place to live, give them furniture and other basic needs free or at nominal cost. The Agency itself was a dumping ground for people in order to “make work” for people and little interest was shown by the heads of the Agency in whether the workers were really helping the olim. Those who came and were seeking socialism often found they were given crummy, dead-end jobs at very low wages and they were frequently sent to the periphery of the country where rents were very low. That way the ruling MAPAI party could say “see, there is no unemployment in Israel”!
      Other olim who had intiative and wanted to help build up Israel in a capitalist, free market sense had these urges beaten out of them by the corrupt Histadrut system of labor unions which encouraged feather-bedding, gold-bricking and out and out ineffieciency, even if it drove the company that was set up by the enterprising oleh out of business, because the MAPAI-MAPAM-HISTRADRUT mafia viewed capitalism as evil, even if it meant having a growing economy and good jobs at good pay. Control by the political center was more important. Of course, there were many people, who in spite of these impediments did have a successful aliyah. We came to Israel just as things were beginning to change and we were able to avoid a lot of the problems many olim had.

      The mass aliyah from the USSR began in 1990 just as this system was really beginning to break down and the economy was opening up. No doubt many got swept up by people who were still part of the old system, but many Russian olim showed a lot of initiative and were able to move ahead in a relatively short amount of time. Polls show that the large majorirty of Russian olim view their aliyah as successful. No doubt many of those who couldn’t make it have left, but that is a minority, as I understand it. I live in a middle-class neighborhood in a suburb of Tel Aviv with many Russian neighbors and they seem to be making it and their children are well-integrated into Israeli society.

      Today, where almost all Jews who live outside Israel (i.e. in the Exile) live in free, democratic societies, each person who wants to live in Israel has to find his own reason. The socialist ideology that drew a lot of people in the 1960’s and 1970’s (e.g. Bernard Avishai) is dead, so few “progressives” would want to live in Israel, although I have encoutered Far-Left/”progressives” who have come in order to further the struggle for purification of the world.
      Most people who come today view being Jewish as their motiviation…i.e. living a more fully Jewish life. Frankly, the standard of living in Israel is lower than in the US and Western Europe so if one views his goal in life as making as much money as possible, or professing the main values of his life as being compatible with the secularst, materialist, consumerist values of the West, they will not be able to find their place in Israel very easily. Olmert, in his election campaign in 2006 said he would make Israel a “fun place to live”. Obviously, there are places that are more fun to live in.

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    11. Leonid Levin

      Ben, c’mon, what are you talking about? “No doubt many of those who couldn’t make it have left.” Most of those who left could make it, could find a job and decent living elsewhere. It’s often people with less options and less self-confidence who couldn’t leave. You, coming from the US, may have to find a reason to live in Israel. But many Russian-Jewish Israelis don’t have a choice.

      From my experience, Israel is a much more materialist, consumerist and americanized society than Western Europe, but admittedly less secularist. Yet for me personally, the major issue is that I don’t wish to live in a society that almost whole-heartedly supports systematic killings, harassment, humiliation and robbery of its neighbors, where the decent people who stand up for Palestinian rights are seen as self-haters and traitors.

      It’s not just about a “fun place to live”, it’s about a place where one feels free, respected and protected by law and social security, and can therefore show forth trust, friendliness and understanding towards others, however different they may be in race, ethnicity, social class, etc.

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    12. Dannecker

      What is needed is a UN mandate to assist former Russian Jews to return back to Russia. The zionist inspired propaganda also stimulated an illegitimate exodus of Jews from Iraq and Egypt, thus impoverishing those countries. Perhaps the UN could require those of Egyptian and Iraqi origin to go back to their host countries and foster economic development as well

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    13. annie

      this comment is wrt to Leonid “Then something changed in the US immigration laws for the Jews, so that one could only get a refugee status if one had close relatives already in the US. It seemed weird to me: it meant that without close relatives in the US you’re not a refugee. So then people started moving to Israel.”

      in 1974 the US passed the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. jackson was a huge friend of israel’s and facilitated whatever the lobby wanted. somehow this law translated into easier emigration from russia but eventually to israel instead of the US. the law said the U.S. would not trade with Russia unless it allowed unlimited Jewish emigration and then we close it off from our end. there was a fix probably coordinated w/israel.

      if you live in israel and want to emigrate here i would advise just coming and blending, why not? we like jews here. i would recommend coming to the SF bay area, it is a very friendly place. just merge and make connections and then overstay your visa. i’ve never heard of an israeli being kicked out. i can’t speak for the east coast. the east coast is more ethnic conscious, we blend more in the west. there are plenty of opportunities to be jewish-centric if that is your focus but non jews can be quite engaging and the up side of the west coast is there are so many gorgeous ethnicities out here and in general we really like eachother. as far as i know the jewish americans in the bay area seem to like it. they don’t seem like they are going anywhere. why would they its an awesome place to live.

      a major plus factor over israel is the only people we are massively oppressing are on the other side of the world as opposed to the other side of the wall. when i’m lying on the beach here i don’t have to consider a few miles away there’s a decades old occupation. try it, you might like it. plus, the children of our christian religious fanatics aren’t filling 50% of our kindergartens, their parents work so we do not have to support them and the country is not 90% rightwing…although it is almost entirely zionist. but hey, that zionism oppresses people on the other side of the world for the most part.

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    14. Peter D

      Of course Shamir and Bush reached an agreement about not allowing most Soviet Jews to immigrate! My own family would have come to the US had the US immigration laws not been changed. The Russian alya was always accused of being the “sausage alya” – materialistic and not idealistic. It is mostly true – most people were coming to Israel not because of Zionist ideals but because prospects in Russia were bleak (and quite a bit of herd mentality.) The fact that Russian community is turning into supporters of worst of the nationalistic mindset in Israel is kind of ironic in that respect.

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    15. Leonid Levin

      @Annie, thanks for your generous offer 🙂 I already found a place to live for myself and my family in a nice little country in the west of Europe. My experience here is much in line with your experience in the Bay Area. We live in a lower-to-middle middle class neighbourhood, which I enjoy very much. The government policy here has been specifically to let people of various social layers to mix with each other. Less well-off people can rent subsidized homes (and those are really nice houses with backyards) in the neighbourhoods, where the more well-off can buy expensive houses. So there is a mix of natives, Turks, Moroccans, Indians, Spaniards, Carribeans, Poles, etc. There are minor tensions, like youngsters hanging out late, footballs flying around or some people failing to clean up after themselves, but, in my experience, this has nothing to do with ethnic origin and I guess this happens everywhere. People are generally content up here and get along pretty well with each other.

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    16. annie

      sounds very nice leonid.

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    17. annie

      peter, i always imagined it was a rightwing conspiracy to overwhelm the left leaners in israel by importing a million lieberman types to tip the scales. ok that is not fair because of course there are some lefty russian israelis, i probably let my imagination run away w/me a tad. dimi reider has written about this community a little.

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    18. This operation wasn’t even secret. Foreign Minister Levy flew to Germany to try and persuade them not to accept Jewish immigrants. Begin flew to the USA to do the same with Reagan.

      There were many articles, copies of which I have in the London Jewish Chronicle (when it was still a semi-decent newspaper) of Zionist attempts to stop Hias, the aid agency, not to give help to what was termed ‘drop outs’.

      The Zionists argument was that the USSR only let Jews out if they went to Israel and this was breaking their ‘agreement’. The desires and wishes of Jews were always secondary to the needs of the Jewish state.

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