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The hearing in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee last week on the issue of revoking the citizenship of accessories to terrorism was a more disgraceful and worrying display than usual in the current Knesset. With regard to the Knesset members themselves, there is no need to elaborate on the subject. Their harsh rhetoric, which reflects an undemocratic and racist world-view, is embarrassing. The legislation, too, which seeks to undercut the fundamental right of citizenship, is contrary to the United Nations convention (which Israel signed but has not ratified ) limiting statelessness. The Knesset bill is clearly directed solely at Israel's Arab citizens and should be roundly condemned.

At the hearing itself, however, special emphasis was attached to the remarks of one of those invited to the hearing, the Shin Bet security service's legal adviser. Revocation of citizenship, he said, can serve as a deterrent factor, and therefore the Shin Bet supports such a measure.

Regulations permit a representative of the Shin Bet to be summoned to Knesset committee hearings, just as any other state employee would be. But that doesn't require him to express a stance on a bill which relates to infringement on a fundamental civil right.

And the stance is also worrying on its merits. Even if revoking citizenship could deter potential terrorists, deterrence cannot serve as a justification for everything. The essential balance between maintaining the security of the state and human rights must not be violated. Other aggressive steps, too, such as home demolitions and eviction of relatives of terrorists have been presented as essential means to combat terror, until doubts were raised over their efficacy and their use was discontinued.

Even if the Shin Bet sent its representative in good faith, the committee - particularly chairman David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ), who doesn't bother to hide his intention to make Arab Israelis second-class citizens - expressed dangerous sentiments.

It would be better for the Shin Bet to avoid involvement in legislation of a clearly political nature and cast itself as a government institution dedicated to maintaining state security rather than joining in on a Yisrael Beiteinu campaign.