New Article: Gerver, Testing Repatriation Contracts for Unconscionability: The Case of Refugees in Israel

Gerver, Mollie. “Testing Repatriation Contracts for Unconscionability: The Case of Refugees in Israel.” International Journal of Refugee Law 26.2 (2014): 198-222.





When an individual signs a contract for voluntary repatriation through a private or public body, there may be a need to draw upon principles of contract law and to test contracts for unconscionability. In the case of asylum seekers and refugees, there may be procedural unconscionability when consent is only the result of fear of deportation or imprisonment, and substantive unconscionability when conditions after return include no access to basic necessities or persecution. At the same time, many asylum seekers and refugees do wish to return, despite conditions in the country of origin or because of conditions in the host country. Ethical issues regarding consent are therefore central. Yet, it is unclear how one would ensure consent under such conditions. While it may be possible to apply principles of paternalism and hypothetical consent in such cases, this may undermine the rights of those who wish to repatriate, and remove an option they otherwise would not have.

This article argues that Parfit’s Principle of Consent (CP) and Rights Principle (RP) may address these concerns and applies these principles to test for the unconscionability of two policies of repatriation of refugees and failed asylum seekers in Israel back to countries in Africa between 2009 and 2013. One policy was implemented by an NGO that repatriated failed asylum seekers to countries deemed safe, although returnees had no legal status to stay in Israel and were therefore at risk of deportation. A second NGO returned individuals to South Sudan, even though this was considered dangerous, but only returned South Sudanese who had the legal status to stay in Israel, as this was considered criteria for true voluntariness in the decision to return. By attempting to apply CP and RP in a test for unconscionability, this article addresses both the ethical dilemmas of repatriation of failed asylum seekers and refugees, as well as possible ways in which contracts, more generally, can be tested for unconscionability.


Cite: Yaron et al., Analysis of Israel’s Policy Towards African Asylum-Seekers

Yaron, Hadas, Nurit Hashimshony-Yaffe and John Campbell. “‘Infiltrators’ or Refugees? An Analysis of Israel’s Policy Towards African Asylum-Seekers.” International Migration (Early View: Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue).





This article adopts a genealogical approach in examining Israeli immigration policy by focusing on the situation confronting African asylum seekers who have been forced back into Egypt, detained and deported but who have not had their asylum claims properly assessed. Based on immigration policies formulated at the time of Israeli independence, whose principle objective was to secure a Jewish majority state, we argue that Israel’s treatment of African asylum seekers as ‘infiltrators’/economic migrants stems from an insistence on maintaining immigration as a sovereign issue formally isolated from other policy domains. Such an approach is not only in violation of Israel’s commitment to the Refugee Convention, it directly contributes to policies which are ineffective and unduly harsh.

Conference: “The Stranger at Our Gates”, Transdisciplinary Conference at JTS

In our Community 2010

Please Join Us for

“The Stranger at Our Gates” 
A Transdisciplinary Conference on Political and Religious Issues of Identity

Nancy Berlinger, The Hastings Center
Michael Gottsegen, Brown University
Jenny Labendz, Barnard College
Oliver Leaman, University of Kentucky
Ranen Omer-Sherman, University of Miami
Maeera Schreiber, University of Utah

Monday, April 23, 2012
9:00 a.m.–7:30 p.m.
The Jewish Theological Seminary
3080 Broadway (at 122nd Street), New York City

Registration for the all-day conference is $25 (free for graduate students); this includes breakfast, lunch, and coffee. The conference concludes with the Jack and Lewis Rudin Lecture, a public panel entitled “‘The Stranger at Our Gates’: Jewish Perspectives on Exclusion and Inclusion in Contemporary America,” at 6:00 p.m. Registration for the conference automatically includes the evening panel.

To register or for further information, please contact Ute Steyer at Space is limited.
Please note: If you are interested in attending the Jack and Lewis Rudin Lecture only, it is free, but reservations are required. RSVP online at or call (212) 280-6093 (this does not include registration for the all-day conference).

Please arrive at least 15 minutes early to allow sufficient time for check-in, and have photo ID available.
This event is cosponsored by the Center for Pastoral Education at JTS, and the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies of The Jewish Theological Seminary. The Center for Pastoral Education is generously funded by the Charles H. Revson Foundation and the Booth Ferris Foundation.

Globalization has increased mobility and international collaboration, and facilitated the creation of transnational entities such as the European Union. However, national identities have become more impenetrable at the same time. In the United States, there has been steadily increasing concern with questions of identity and citizenship. The dichotomy between “citizens” and “aliens” (whether “documented” or not) is ever apparent in debates about immigration policy, especially in arguments about access to public services such as education and health care.
There are two basic questions: What normative principles define the rights of entry and access? What principles inform (or should inform) the criteria for membership and group identity? Since policy decisions in these areas often are moral decisions rooted in religious or quasi-religious arguments, it is important to examine how the public debate is informed by underlying religious premises: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have much to say about the politics of inclusion and exclusion.
This transdisciplinary conference devoted to issues of identity will focus on the contribution of the Jewish experience to the debate about those issues. Jews have played the roles of both “self” and “other” in various times and places from the biblical period to the present. While Jewish law is protective of the rights of “strangers,” these nevertheless may be met with suspicion, and regarded as a threat to ethnic/religious identity and group solidarity.
The papers presented will explore questions of identity and otherness from various fields of Jewish studies, including Contemporary Israeli Literature, Philosophy, and Talmud and Rabbinics:

9:00 a.m. Breakfast and Opening Remarks by Professor Arnold M. Eisen, chancellor, JTS
9:15 a.m. “Recognizing the Other as Us: Undocumented Immigrants and Access to Health Care”—Dr. Nancy Berlinger, deputy director and research scholar, The Hastings Center
10:15 a.m. “How Comparable Are Jews and Muslims as ‘the Other’?: Is the Jewish Experience a Paradigm of Integration and Persecution of the Other?”—Dr. Oliver Leaman, professor of Philosophy and Zantker Professor of Judaic Studies, University of Kentucky
11:15 a.m. “Levinas and the Stranger at the Gates: The Ethics of Asylum in Israel and the United States. Balancing Ethical Responsibilities between the Other and the ‘Third’ Part”—Dr. Michael Gottsegen, visiting assistant professor of Judaic Studies and Hirschfeld Presidential Fellow in Comparative Studies, Brown University

12:15 p.m. Lunch

1:15 p.m. “Ancient Rabbinic Models of Learning with Non-Jews: The Role of the Gentile in the Rabbinic Discourse”—Dr. Jenny Labendz, term assistant professor of Religion, Barnard College
2:15 p.m. “Addressing Others, Acquiring Selves: The Buberian Poetics of Admiel Kosman and Liberation from Confines of Identity in Modern Israeli Literature”—Dr. Maeera Shreiber, associate professor of English and affiliated associate professor at the Middle East Center, University of Utah
3:15 p.m. “Mr. Mani and The Liberated Bride: Jews as ‘Other’ and Arabs in A. B. Yehoshua”—Dr. Ranen Omer-Sherman, professor of English and Jewish Studies, University of Miami
4:15 p.m. Concluding Remarks by Ute Steyer, research and program manager, Center for Pastoral Education, JTS
6:00 p.m. The Jack and Lewis Rudin Lecture
“‘The Stranger at Our Gates’: Jewish Perspectives on Exclusion and Inclusion in Contemporary America”


SaulSaul J. Berman, JD, associate professor of Jewish Studies, Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University;
                           adjunct professor of Law, Columbia Law School

SuzanneSuzanne Last Stone, JD, University Professor of Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, professor of Law,
                            and director of the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law,
                            Yeshiva University

Burt 2Burton L. Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies, Louis Stein Director of the Louis
                           Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies, and director of the Milstein Center for Interreligious
                           Dialogue, JTS


justus bairdJustus Baird, director of the Center for Multifaith Education,  Auburn Theological Seminary

The Jack and Lewis Rudin Lectures provide the opportunity for eminent academics, religious leaders, intellectuals, and public figures to discuss topics of interest with the JTS community and the public at large.

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