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Israeli anti-zionist seeking asylum in Britain ‘harassed’ outside court

AN ANTI-ZIONIST Jewish student who fled Israel in 2017 was harassed and intimidated outside a court today where an appeal on his asylum claim was due to be heard. 

The 21-year-old rabbinical student, who has been granted an anonymity order, claimed asylum in Britain after receiving a letter requiring him to report for military service in Israel. 

An immigration appeals court in Manchester had been due to hear an appeal against the Home Office’s rejection of his asylum claim last year, but the hearing was adjourned after the court failed to find a Yiddish interpreter. It will resume later in the year. 

The student, who refuses to speak Hebrew for political and personal reasons, is among a small minority of anti-zionist Orthodox Jews who believe that Jews should not return en masse to Palestine until the coming of the messiah. 

His lawyers are fighting his deportation on the basis that he would be in danger of prosecution and imprisonment if returned to Israel because of his anti-zionist beliefs and refusal to join the country’s army. 

They also argue that he would be at risk of being “complicit in the crime of apartheid” if conscripted into the army. He would rather die than join the Israeli military, they added. 

Barrister Franck Magennis, who is instructing the case, said a positive result could set an important precedent for not only anti-zionist Israeli Jews but also Palestinian asylum-seekers. 

While Palestinians have been granted refugee status in Britain, such claims have focused on issues within Palestinian society, such as persecution by Hamas, rather than oppression by Israel’s apartheid regime, he said. 

“What this case establishes is that it is absurd to try and determine a claim for asylum or international protection without considering the question of apartheid,” Mr Maggenis told the Morning Star. 

“That’s been true for a long time, but it’s especially absurd in light of recent reports from B’tselem and Human Rights Watch, which confirm that Israel is governed by an apartheid regime.”

While trying to enter the court today, the student was harassed and intimidated by a pro-Israel supporter who tried to film him, campaigners said. 

“When we realised what was happening, we put up a wall of Palestinian flags around the conscientious objector to protect his identity,” said a spokesman for Manchester Palestine Action, which had been holding a solidarity demonstration outside the court. 

“If this is happening on the safe streets of Manchester, imagine what would happen if he was deported to Israel.”

The 21-year-old has already faced arrest and abuse in Israel over his political beliefs. In 2015 he was “pushed down onto the floor and dragged by the handcuffs" and “spat at and hit with a stick” by Israeli police during an anti-Zionist protest and while in custody, his lawyers said.  

The Home Office rejected his initial asylum claim on the basis he would be exempt from army service on mental health grounds. However there’s a dispute over whether he would qualify for an exemption in regards to his medical history.

Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, who wrote a report used as evidence in the case, also argues that the student is far more likely to be treated as a deserter than qualify for a “rarely” granted exemption to military service.

Those found guilty of desertion can be jailed for up to 15 years, Mr Pappe wrote.

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