Knesset Enacts Racist Law

“Don’t put bounderies to love”

On 27 July 2005, the Knesset amended the Nationality Law. The amendment restricts the family unification of Israeli citizens and residents (including residents of East Jerusalem) and Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. The law does not apply to Israelis who apply for a legal status for their foreign spouse who does not live in the Occupied Territories . The amendment is a new version of a temporary order that was enacted as an amendment to the Nationality Law and took effect in 2003.

In December 2004, the High Court of Justice postponed decision on petitions that were filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and by Adalah against the temporary order, after the state promised to change the temporary order. The changes made do not alter the racist and discriminatory character of the amendment, which severely infringes the right to family life of residents and citizens who are married to residents of the Occupied Territories. Many of these Israeli residents and citizens are compelled to live separate from their spouse. Couples who decide to reside together in Israel or in East Jerusalem in violation of the law, are unable to live a normal life and are in constant fear. If they decide to live in the Occupied Territories, the spouse holding an Israeli identity card violates the military commander’s order prohibiting Israelis to enter areas under Palestinian security control.

Previous versions of the temporary order completely prohibited family unification. The new amendment relaxes the prohibition, and enables Palestinian males over 35 and Palestinian women over 25 to request a status in Israel for their spouse. However, the amendment contains a provision that permits denial of permission to stay in Israel (including East Jerusalem) or to file a request to obtain a status in Israel, regardless of age, if the Shabak (General Security Service) believes that a member of the extended family is a security threat. The GSS determination is arbitrary, cannot be appealed, and the grounds for the determination are kept secret. This provision constitutes collective punishment, which is prohibited by international law.

The amendment to the temporary order facilitates the registration of children. Previously, children born in the Occupied Territories to parents who reside in East Jerusalem were not registered in Israel’s population registry. As a result, children had to leave their family and go to live in the Occupied Territories , or remain illegally in Israel. The new amendment states that children up to age 14 whose custodial parent is living legally in Israel can be registered in the population registry.

The state justifies the law on security grounds, contending that the entry of residents of the Occupied Territories, as such, and their free movement inside the country after they obtain a lawful status in the state, endanger Israeli citizens. However, the state has only provided a small number of cases of persons “who were involved in suicide attacks in one way or another.” Such contentions fail to justify punishing hundreds of thousands of persons. Statements made by Israeli officials indicate that, in fact, demographics lay at the foundation of the temporary order.

Allowing Israelis to live with their heart’s desire inside the country – unless the object of their affections is a resident of the Occupied Territories – is racist and violates the principle of equality.

Related Links

  • Forbidden Families: Family Unification and Child Registration in East Jerusalem, B’Tselem/Hamoked (27 January 2004)
  • BY TOPIC: Apartheid
  • BY TOPIC: Palestinians in Israel