Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Discriminatory Israeli laws fragment Palestinian lives

By Felix Black - April 29, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [Palestinian citizens of Israel] [Racism] [Love under Aparthied] [Israeli Citizenship Law]

On Monday 22 April, Israel ratified the extension of the “Citizenship and Entry into Israel” law for the thirteenth time since 2003. 

The law breaks multiple international conventions, has been dubbed “racist” by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and denies Palestinians the basic human right of leading a dignified family life under one roof. It states that the Israeli Ministry of Interior “shall not grant the inhabitant of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza strip citizenship on the basis of the Citizenship Law, nor on the basis of Entry into Israel Law, and the area commander shall not grant a Judea, Samaria or Gaza Strip resident a permit to stay in Israel on the basis of security legislation.”

To simplify, if a Palestinian living in the West Bank or Gaza strip wants to marry a Palestinian living in Israel, they are not permitted to do so by the Israeli state.

To protest the extension, tens of people gathered outside the office of the Israeli government in Jerusalem on Sunday, 21 April in Part Two of the Love in the Time of Apartheid campaign. A Palestinian bride sat outside the office with an empty chair next to her symbolizing the absence of the groom, with people chanting and brandishing signs remonstrating the injustice of the law with slogans like “Israel is in our bedroom” and “In sickness and in health till Israel do us apart.”

In place since 2003, the law was created as a “security measure” against Palestinians who were using marriage as a “weapon” to gain access into Israel to conduct suicide bombing campaigns during the second intifada. The unlikeliness of this justification and the continued usage of the law marks it as another mechanism to uphold the system of apartheid in Palestine, separating Palestinians from their homeland and segregating friends and families from each other. Although it was originally drafted as temporary, it has been extended every year since.

At the time of the passing of the law, thousands of Palestinian spouses living inside Israel were applying for family reunification permits in an attempt to gain citizenship. As the law was passed, these people became illegal immigrants and were forced on a mass exodus into the West Bank and Gaza. The law also includes a clause stopping Palestinian children from being granted citizenship if they wish to live with their Palestinian parent with Israeli citizenship.  

This law touches us all in the same way. It shows that it is part of one systematic occupation and apartheid that all Palestinians should fight regardless of their location

Chief Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Ereket recently spoke out against the law by saying it is “attempting to distort the Palestinian social fabric.”

In effect it bans family unification where one spouse is an Israeli citizen and the other is a resident of the West Bank and Gaza. Almost all of those affected are Palestinian families. The Ministry of Interior is only entitled to grant citizenship on the provison that the person in question “identifies with the State of Israel.” Such a decision is of course taken on the basis of the “Jewishness” of the person, and their active residence in “Judea and Samaria.” In other words, if you are Jewish and living in the West Bank, the law does not apply to you.

To resist its repeated extension, Palestinians from all the West Bank have initiated the Love in the Time of Apartheid campaign. The first action was taken at the beginning of March, when a couple attempted in a symbolic act to get married at Hizma checkpoint, a vital road link between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

As Najwan Berekdar, spokesperson for the Love in the Time of Apartheid campaign states, “Our campaign may be specifically targeting this law, but it generally comes to challenge and reject the racist Israeli policies towards Palestinians.” 

“What makes this law different to others is that despite this law being one of 60 discriminatory laws against Palestinians living in Israel, it relates to Palestinians everywhere,” he continued. “So while people in the West Bank are fighting the settlements, checkpoints and the [Apartheid] wall, and we [Palestinian citizens of Israel] are fighting discrimination, land confiscation and housing demolitions, this law touches us all in the same way. It shows that it is part of one systematic occupation and apartheid that all Palestinians should fight regardless of their location.”

The discriminatory essence of the Jewish state

Citizenship is a question left unanswered in all nation-states around the world. Its very existence permits freedom and liberty to some, but not all. The British Citizenship Test in the UK or the Naturalization Self Test in the US are prominent examples of racist regulations that safeguard subjective notions of identity, and attempt to hide reservations of Islamophobia and general prejudices against “the Other.” Yet the very basis of a constitutional democracy attempts to highlight the citizen over the identity of the nation, and efforts are made to achieve that end if, at some points, it may seem to be going in the opposite direction.

However ever since its formation in 1948, Israel has supplanted the notions of equality and fraternity in favour of creating a Jewish-only state, based on the preference of one race over another. When it comes down to it, Israel uses the Holocaust rhetoric to justify a societal genocide of Palestinians.

Adaleh, the Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel based in Haifa, has recently released a "Discriminatory Laws Database" to monitor racist Israeli laws. It details more than 50 Israeli laws that actively discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Some of the laws also violate the rights of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza as well as Palestinian refugees elsewhere. Hassan Jabareen, founder and General Director of Adaleh, highlights specific laws that further force Palestinians into a sub-class.

The Admissions Committee Law, enacted in 2011, legalizes the establishment of admissions committees in the Naqab desert and the Galilee. These committees control the granting of permissions for housing units and plots of land, and therefore have almost full discretion over who can live in their village or town. For instance, the law allows the committees to reject applicants deemed “unsuitable to the social life of the community... or the social and cultural fabric of the town.” It also permits them to adopt specific criteria for residency, and restrict entire groups completely, especially if particular towns deem themselves as having a specific “Zionist vision.”

In an interview with Mondoweiss, Hassan states how “for the first time, the issue of Palestine under occupation wasn’t a serious matter” for the previous government, and their rhetoric showed less concern for external issues like the West Bank and settlement expansion. Rather, the government re-focussed its Orwellian lens onto the “1948 problem” and the existence of Palestinian citizens of Israel and their defamatory resistance to the essence of citizenship in Israel. 

Current discourse amongst top Israeli politicians has eliminated most Palestinians. They simply do not exist within Zionist rhetoric. This has already been transferred to the masses through various means, especially the lack of historically accurate education and the general redefinition of what it means to have equal laws. As Israeli historian Ilan Pappe recently wrote, “It is only a matter of power and opportunity before the vision becomes reality” and the incremental ethnic cleansing of Palestine becomes genocidal. 

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