Thursday, July 19, 2018

Israeli law finds new ways to keep out Palestinians


By Sophie Crowe - February 08, 2012
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [Israeli law] [Racism]

Photo by Dylan collins

Israel’s racist legislation deepens

AKKA-The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, conceived as temporary legislation in 2003, prevents the unification of Israeli citizens with spouses that are from the occupied Palestinian territories. It denies Palestinians from these areas, as well as nationals of Arab “enemy” countries, from ever receiving Israeli citizenship or permanent residency status.

A petition in the Supreme Court against the law, submitted by Adalah – a rights group for Palestinians in Israel – and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) was rejected on 11 January. The majority of justices, 6 to 5, voted to preserve the law.

The Interior Minister, according to the law, may grant citizenship only to those Palestinians deemed to have contributed to Israel’s security and who can prove their identification with the state.

When the law was being drafted in 2002 its proponents cited security as their chief motive – Palestinians had used marriage to Israelis in order to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel, they argued.

The couple met in Jenin, in the northern West Bank, and have lived in the coastal “mixed city” of Akka, where Taiseer was born, since 2006.

The temporary order of 2003 forced many Palestinians living illegally in Israel with their spouses to return immediately to the West Bank. Most attempts to re-enter legally failed, explained Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer with Adalah.

After a 2005 petition, the law was amended to allow men over 35 and women over 25 to apply for reunification, though there is no guarantee of success Zaher said.

The order has since been renewed 12 times, rousing the concern of most rights groups across Israel.

“The majority opinion has stamped its approval on a racist law,” ACRI’s Dan Yakir and Oded Feller stated regarding the petition’s failure, “one that will harm the very texture of the lives of families whose only sin is the Palestinian blood that runs in their veins.”

Taiseer and Lana Khatib and their two children are one such family. The couple met in Jenin, in the northern West Bank, and have lived in the coastal “mixed city” of Akka, where Taiseer was born, since 2006.

After marrying in 2005 it was not easy for them to be together immediately. Lana was given temporary permits to enter Israel only in order to visit Taiseer’s mother, who was recovering from a stroke at the time.

It was 2006 by the time she got a temporary permit – that must be renewed annually – to join her husband in Akka.

Lana, like thousands of others, lives in Israel without rights or social security. With only temporary status, she cannot work, take out health insurance or obtain a driving license. “There are no rights for me here. I just live for my husband and my kids,” she said.

“I don’t want to take my kids to Jenin. Akka is my home,” she added. “Taiseer’s future is here. What can he do in Jenin – nothing.”

Though Lana has been allowed to stay in Israel another year, the future is uncertain. The process of applying for temporary permits and the limitation on her life there will surely continue.


Security equals demography

The rationale of the law’s exponents is a rehashing of the security argument, whereby national security should come at the expense of human rights for the Palestinian population, both in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The law’s numerous critics protest that it treats all Palestinians as potential terrorists, which is really a mask for Israel’s demographic fear. The law, they say, is another means of keeping down the number of Palestinians in Israel.

“Between 1994 and 2008, 130,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza entered Israel for the purposes of family reunification. Out of these, 54 were detained for involvement in security breaches, of whom only five have been arrested and indicted,” Zaher pointed out.

These numbers undermine the government’s argument that Palestinians want to exploit family reunification to carry out terrorist attacks, she argued.

Mainstream leaders in Israel regularly refer to the Palestinian population as a demographic time bomb, an issue defended as the bedrock of the Zionist enterprise.

It was the Interior Minister, Eli Yishai of the ultra Orthodox Shas party, who first invented the rule of preventing married couples from being together when one was from the Palestinian territories.

Yishai has long been engaged in finding ways to limit Israel’s non-Jewish (namely Palestinian) population. In 2002 Haaretz reported he was brainstorming ideas on how to limit the number of non-Jews getting citizenship by marrying Israelis.

One justice posited that while Palestinians should not be denied their right to family unification it was not Israel’s responsibility to grant them this liberty. This logic parallels the argument – espoused by certain corners of the Israeli establishment – that Palestinians can get their rights in one of the 22 Arab states.

The Palestinian community views the legislation as a legal means of transferring them from the state. Ziad al-Hammouri of the Jerusalem Centre for Social and Economic Rights argued that the court’s decision to uphold the law portends the “silent deportation” of an estimated 100,000 Palestinians that have applied for family reunification since 1993.

Sharhar Shoham of the rights group Physicians for Human Rights, pointed to the immediate reality of those targeted by the law, who “will continue to live without any civil status or social rights.”

For Zaher, the law is another attempt to classify and divide Palestinians living in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

Ultimately, the Citizenship Law is part of the ever louder wave of legislation in recent years aimed at crippling Palestinian life in Israel, in terms of identity, freedom of expression and – on a more basic level – the right to live where one chooses and buy state land.

“Our situation is the effect of the Nakhba,” Taiseer Khatib reflected. “1948 is not over yet. It will be over when Israel is 99.99 percent Jewish. Netanyahu is lying in my name, telling the world that Palestinians in Israel are the only Arabs to live under democratic rule.”
 




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