Michael Freund is a very sincere guy and his organization Shavei Israel has traveled around the world seeking out lost Jews. But the lost Jews he seeks are rarely Jews. They are on occasion may have a Jewish many times Great-Grandfather somewhere down the line, but that does not make them Jewish.
Now Michael Freund is outraged because the conversion of the so-called Bnei Menashe has been aborted by the government. "This is an immoral decision, motivated by ignorance and based on post-Zionist and racist considerations," Freund said.
This is as stupid a comment as was ever uttered by someone on the right. It's worse than Post-Zionist to import thousands of non-Jews to Israel and convert them. It's Post-Jewish. It's what the Jewish Agency did and thanks to them we now have Neo-Nazi attacks taking place inside Israel itself. As for racist-- the only possible racism as applied by Jews can be to converts. Jews cannot be racist to other Jews because Jews are a single race. We are not Christians or Buddihists or Muslims, we are not a "faith", we are a "people of faith."
"Amazingly enough, though, Sheetrit himself was born in the town of Ksar Souk, Morocco in 1948 and made aliya at the age of 9. He undoubtedly endured various types of discrimination as he was growing up here, as many veteran Israelis looked down on Sephardic immigrants from Morocco. It is therefore all the more astonishing that he would now adopt the very same prejudices about the Bnei Menashe that were hurled against him and his fellow Moroccan immigrants, merely because of their complexion or national origin," Michael Freund writes in his Jerusalem Post column.
This an astonishingly Post-Jewish statement. Freund is seemingly unable to understand that the issue is not some phantom idea of complexion or national origin, but Jewishness. Aliyah is not premised on bringing third worlders to Israel who might agree to convert. It's premised on restoring the Jewish people to Israel.
Shavei Israel has made it its specialty to travel the third world and find people there who picked up some distorted custom from some missionary and promptly label them Jews. Many people in the third world reached by Christian missionaries routinely internalize the story of Israel as their own story. This is fairly natural because Christianity is based around the Jews, yet provides them with no modern context of who Jews are. This is so commonplace that even Europeans have done it and continue to do it. British Israelism was based around this premise. So is the entire Mormon religion that currently fields a leading Presidential candidate. Even racist ideologies such as the Black Hebrews or Aryan Christians have emerged believing themselves to be "the true Jews".
It is apparent that just because a group of people believe they are Jews and practice some fragments of Jewish custom is not evidence that they are Jewish. Otherwise all of Christianity, which after all practices fragments of Jewish customs and believes itself grafted into the Jewish people, would be Jewish. That is the end result of this kind of absurdity.
In some cases Shavei Israel may actually find the descendants of Spanish or Portuguese Jews. In Latin America though these descendants tend to be too far afield to seriously even describe them as Jews. The irony is that there are "Lost Jews" that can be found right in Israel and the United States and Europe. Jews who were born Jews but simply don't live Jewish lives. Those are the "Lost Jews" we should be focusing on, rather than beating the jungle and importing Indian tribes to Israel.
Centuries ago the Jesuits made a concerted effort to find the "Lost Tribes" usually in America and Asia. They turned up much the same results as Shavei Israel and in some cases Shavei Israel is literally following in their footsteps.
There is a fundamental difference between Aliyah for Jews and Aliyah for any third worlder with some fragment of Jewish customs and a desire to move to Israel. There is a fundamental difference between real individual conversion which expresses an individual commitment and the mass conversion of whatever tribes, Shavei Israel finds. The latter is far more suggestive of the Idumeans than anything else. And that is why Freud is Fundamentally Wrong. Let's focus our energies on our brothers and sisters who actively need to be returned to Judaism. Considering that more Jews today are non-religious than religious, that should above all else be our priority.