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.