She was born five years ago, to an Israeli father and a mother who's an Ethiopian citizen. The mother complained of her husband’s violence toward her and moved to a shelter for battered women, where she stayed for a year (with her daughter). After that, the couple divorced and the court awarded her custody of their child.
Unfortunately for mother and daughter, all this took place before the mother’s final legal residency status in Israel had been granted, which left the two at the mercy of Israeli bureaucracy and, later, at the mercy of the judicial system.
The bureaucrats and the court did not show mercy. Judge David Mintz, who will soon become a Supreme Court justice, ruled that the fact the girl is Israeli and her mother suffered violence at her husband's hands were not enough to grant the child legal status in Israel. The judge added that since the husband himself had asked for his ex-wife and daughter to be deported to Ethiopia, that is what will happen.
How heartless must a person be to reward a violent Israeli citizen, while deporting his battered ex-wife and Israeli daughter? Even the fact that the mother has another month-old baby from an Israeli partner didn’t make the judge think it would be preferable if she stayed in Israel with her two small children.
Judge Mintz noted that Israel’s willingness to grant residency status to an Israeli citizen’s foreign partner was intended to protect the family unit – and since in this case there is no family unit to protect, he does not see fit to allow the mother to stay.
It turns out that, according to the Israeli court, a family unit is only one consisting of a father, mother and child, and the fact the father is suspected of violence is meaningless.
The bureaucratic system is not interested in feelings, nor is it interested in dry facts. This case involves a child who is an Israeli citizen; Israel is committed to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that children’s citizenship must be respected. Also, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority regulations call to show consideration to children of foreign citizens who have suffered violence at the hands of their parents’ Israeli spouses.
This case was published a day after a similar one came to light, in which the authorities refused to grant Israeli citizenship to a three-year-old boy with AIDS whose Israeli mother had died. The Population Authority refused to grant him citizenship, thus also denying him the right to health insurance – even though he is entitled to citizenship by virtue of being the son of an Israeli, by virtue of the Law of Return and by virtue of being Jewish.
Soon, Jewish Israelis will be reading the Passover Haggadah, which deals, among other things, with the brutal treatment Israelites were subjected to when they were foreigners in Egypt. Those responsible for the Israeli bureaucratic apparatus would do well to internalize the message and display the appropriate measure of compassion toward foreigners and the weak, even more so when it comes to children.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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