Israel’s High Court has rejected a legal challenge to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (2003, amended 2007), in a 6-5 decision on Wednesday.
The law places severe restrictions on the ability of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live with spouses from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as from so-called “enemy states” (defined as Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq). The judges’ majority support for the state’s position affects thousands of couples, who had pinned their hopes on this appeal.
While the official justification for the almost decade-old law has typically been about ‘security’ (with the claim that family unification allows ‘terrorists’ to enter Israel), what is interesting about this High Court ruling and the response to it is just how explicitly the law is justified in terms of ‘demographics’.
In the ruling, Justice Asher Grunis wrote that “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide”, a term often used in the context of allowing a return of Palestinian refugees. Today, that language was repeated by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, warning about the need to protect the Jewish majority. MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) also praised the High Court’s decision in terms of ethnic separation:
The High Court decision articulates the rationale of separation between the (two) peoples and the need to maintain a Jewish majority and the (Jewish) character of the state.
A similar reaction has been voiced by the extreme right in the Knesset, like National Union MK Yaakov Katz:
A fantastic miracle took place last night in the High Court when by a happenstance majority the State of Israel was saved from being flooded by 2-3 million Arab refugees.
Adalah, in a press release, commented:
The Supreme Court approved a law the likes of which do not exist in any democratic state in the world, depriving citizens from maintaining a family life in Israel only on the basis of the ethnicity or national belonging of their spouse. The ruling proves how much the situation regarding the civil rights of the Arab minority in Israel is declining into a highly dangerous and unprecedented situation.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) also slammed the decision, stating that “the majority opinion has stamped its approval on a racist law, one [that] will harm the very texture of the lives of families whose only sin is the Palestinian blood that runs in their veins”.