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Spheres of Migration: Political, Economic and Universal Imperatives in Israel’s Migration Regime

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image of Middle East Law and Governance

This article seeks to describe the piecemeal process of creation of what may, arguably, be a new immigration regime in Israel. In order to do so, we focus on three distinct waves of non-Jewish entry to Israel. The first is the day-labor entry of Palestinian workers from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) since 1967; the second is the entry of migrant workers from various countries, primarily since 1993; and the third is the entry of asylum-seekers, primarily from Africa, since 2007. Each of these waves was carved out by the state as a distinct sphere of migration, a narrow exception to Israel’s general Jewish Settler Regime, which is based on a different functional imperative. The entry of Palestinians is justified primarily by a political imperative – the political relationship between Israel and the Palestinians under occupation. The entry of migrant workers is, first and foremost, seen as the result of economic imperatives – a way to supply cheap labor to cater to the needs of the domestic labor market and fulfill the economic needs of the state. The entry of asylum-seekers (and their rights upon entry) rests primarily on a universal humanitarian imperative led by the state’s moral and convention-based responsibility toward those who are in dire need, and particularly in need of a safe territorial haven.


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