400,000 immigrants from Russia to Israel are not Jews

Saleh Naami in Gaza, Sunday 26 Dec 2010

Controversy is sparked as the Jewish identity of some Russian immigrants to Israel is questioned

More than 400,000 people that immigrated to Israel in the late 1990s from the countries of the former Soviet Union were not Jews, Israeli media has reported.

According to the financial daily The Marker, the immigrants came to Israel for economic reasons. "If they had the chance to go to a more civilized state they would have gone definitely," stated Israeli finance minister advisor Avi Simhon.

"More than 400,000 immigrants who were never Jewish came to Israel, but who may have had one grandparent who was once Jewish. They came here because they received immigrants' benefits and we agreed to take them in," he said.

Simhon is under fire from top Israeli officials because of his comments, especially leaders of "Yisrael Beiteinu" which represents Russian Jews that emigrated to Israel during the 1990s. 

These sort of statements usually trigger dipsutes within the Israeli community as it questions the Jewish origin of immigrants. Shortly after Simhon made his statements, Ze'ev Elkin, Knesset member, called for the sacking of Simhon.

Recently the Israeli minister of immigration said that 9000 scientists emigrated from former Soviet Union states to Israel and were working on technology projects.   


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