Supreme Court of Israel orders State to respond to petitions challenging ban on family unification law

During the Apartheid era in South Africa, marriage or any love realationship between members of different racial groups was forbidden. In all public institutions and offices, in public transport and on public toilets, racial segregation was in force.

At a hearing on 9 November 2003, the Supreme Court of Israel issued an order nisi compelling the state to explain why the new ban on family unification law, which prohibits the granting of any residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from the Occupied Territories who are married to Israeli citizens, should not be declared null and void.

The Supreme Court also issued injunctions preventing the deportation of three Palestinian spouses married to Palestinian citizens of Israel, until the Court delivers a final judgment on the petitions. An enlarged panel of 13 Supreme Court justices will consider the petitions and supplemental arguments to be submitted within one month by the petitioners and the state, and will deliver the final decision. Chief Justice Aharon Barak, Justice Dalia Dorner, and Justice Yaacov Turkel issued these interim orders.

These interim rulings were delivered in response to seven petitions pending before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the new law enacted by the Knesset on 31 July 2003, and titled the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) - 2003. The petitions were filed by Adalah, in its own name and on behalf of Arab Members of Knesset (MKs), the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens in Israel, and individual families; the Meretz political party; the Association for Civil Rights in Israel; and by private lawyers on behalf of individual families against the Minister of Interior and the Attorney General. In an earlier ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ request for an injunction to freeze the implementation of the new law pending the outcome of the case.

As set forth in the petition filed on 4 August 2003, Adalah’s main argument against the new law is that it violates the constitutionally protected rights of equality, personal liberty to maintain a family life, privacy, and dignity. The law limits the ability of Israeli citizens’, namely Palestinian citizens of Israel, the citizens who marry Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, to exercise these rights based solely on the ethnicity of their spouses. Thus, the law does not merely discriminate on the basis of nationality or ethnicity; it is clearly racist. Adalah further argued that security concerns, used by the government to justify the need for the new law, cannot justify such sweeping measures. As the state did not provide evidence to support such claims, Adalah emphasized that its conclusion that three million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza all constitute a danger to the state, is racist and cannot be defended.

Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen, Advocate and Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn appeared before the Supreme Court at the hearing. Adalah Attorney Morad El-Sana, who is a petitioner in the case with his wife Abeer El-Sana, also argued before the Court concerning the request for an injunction. The El-Sana family is one of the many newly married couples, whose lives are dramatically affected by the new law. One of the injunctions issued by the Supreme Court two days ago prevents the deportation of Abeer El-Sana, until a final decision is delivered on the case.

Related Links:

  • Special Report: Family Unification, Adalah.