Israel Begins Deporting Black Hebrews
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Israel has started deporting members of the U.S.-based Black Hebrew sect, a police spokesman said today.
Authorities refused to provide any details regarding the latest deportations, including the date or how many people were involved.
The Supreme Court ruled last week that 46 members have been living in the country illegally, and upheld an earlier decision to deport them.
Interior Ministry spokesman Yitzhak Agassi said right after the court ruling that the expulsions could begin immediately. But he has repeatedly declined to release information on when they would start.
Agassi said many more Black Hebrew members were living in the country illegally and their deportations also could be ordered.
Kobi Bachar, chief spokesman for Israel’s central police office, told The Associated Press those sent out of the country were not among the group of 46 ″but individuals who were ordered deported some time ago.″ He would not elaborate.
″When we do deport the others ... they will be deported quietly and with as little fuss as possible,″ Bachar said.
Israel has deported between 30 to 40 members of the sect since 1984 for living here illegally, and has denied entry to other groups of Black Hebrews. Israel delayed action against sect members for years, fearing repercussions from black African nations and from black Americans. Last April, four U.S. Democratic congressmen accused Israel of discrimination against the group.
U.S. policy calls for accepting U.S. citizens who have been deported, but America does not accept non-citizens and stateless persons. Some Black Hebrews have renounced their citizenship in an effort to avoid deportation, and the United States would be unlikely to allow them in the country if they arrived under those conditions.
The Black Hebrews, led by a former Chicago bus driver who now calls himself Ben-Ami Carter, ″The Prince of Peace,″ claim they are descended from the biblical Children of Israel.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1972 they are not Jewish and so are not entitled to automatic Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return which allows all Jews to hold Israeli citizenship.
The Black Hebrews have also come under fire in the United States. In Washington, nine members were convicted last month in a multimillion-dollar fraud.
About 2,000 Black Hebrews live in the southern Israeli towns of Dimona and Arad. Their autonomous lifestyle has led to complaints from Israeli officials that the sect members are trying to create a state within a state.
Bachar said the Black Hebrew communities were quiet, despite threats by members of the sect to protest the deportations.
In Dimona, however, an AP photographer was asked to leave the area. A man in his early 20s told the photographer, ″The situation for us at present is extremely intense and difficult. People don’t want to be photographed now.″
The Black Hebrew quarter in Dimona comprises about 40 wooden huts enclosed by thorny bushes on the edge of the Negev desert. The huts are surrounded by neatly tended flower beds.