Israeli Parliament Must Allow Palestinian Families to Reunite

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Haaretz Editorial
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A protest against the citizenship law outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, in 2004.
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Every year, the Knesset convenes in order to extend for an additional year the emergency order that allows the state to prevent Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who are married to Israeli citizens from living with their spouses in Israel.

The emergency order was passed as a temporary amendment to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law in 2003, during the second intifada, and is renewed each year through a Knesset vote. This year, the ban expires July 6.

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Ostensibly, the amendment is a security measure. During the second intifada, military authorities convinced lawmakers that Palestinians who received Israeli IDs in the wake of family unification carried out suicide attacks. Security needs won out over civil rights, and the rest is history.

That was 18 years ago. The security considerations, which seemingly remain intact, now serve to conceal demographic considerations – that is, preserving Israel’s Jewish majority. That is the true motive for continuing to extend the emergency order. Were it only a security issue, constitutionally sound alternatives that do not violate the rights of Arab citizens of Israel could be found, such as requiring security screening for every candidate for Israeli residence on account of family reunification.

But under the cover of security considerations, the emergency order makes it possible to block Palestinian immigration while causing grievous injury to the civil rights of Arabs. Defense Minister Benny Gantz did not even attempt to hide this. “The law is vital to protecting the security of the state and its Jewish and democratic character,” he wrote in a letter to opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, in a bid to speak to his Jewish heart and win his support for the measure.

This happened after the coalition, realizing that the United Arab List opposed the extension, started counting on the votes of Likud and Religious Zionism. Logic told them that the parties would not miss the opportunity to discriminate against Israel’s Arab citizens and protect Jewish supremacy. But opposition lawmakers plan to oppose the extension in order to embarrass the new government. It isn’t clear why there aren’t more opponents to this discriminatory measure, apart from the United Arab List and Meretz lawmakers Esawi Freige and Mossi Raz.

How is it that parties that champion human rights and equality are willing to lend a hand to Jewish ultranationalist legislation that so flagrantly discriminates on ethnic grounds? Coalition considerations presumably outweigh considerations of civil and human rights. Last year, Knesset legal advisers called on the previous government to replace the controversial emergency regulation with a permanent law. However, any version of this law justifies describing Israel as an apartheid state, with one law for Jews and another for Arabs. This order must be repealed.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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