When the High Court of Justice upheld the constitutionality (in 2006 and again in January ) of the Citizenship Law clause prohibiting residency permits in Israel for Palestinians from the territories, even if they have an Israeli domestic partner, it based its ruling on the state's justification for the clause. That justification ostensibly stems from security concerns: The state said that in 54 cases since 2001, Palestinians who where involved in terror, or their parents, were legal residents in Israel.
In its ruling the High Court cited laws in other countries that limit the right of citizens of enemy countries to enter them. But in the case of Israel and the territories, this limitation is unilateral. Israelis can settle in the territories, dispossessing the local population, but in a discussion of the right of an Israeli citizen who married a Palestinian to live with that person in Israel, the territories suddenly become a sort of enemy country, over a border that is forbidden to cross.
The unilateral nature of the justification to limit the entry of Palestinians into Israel for purported security reasons is underscored by the violence of Israelis toward Palestinians. On Saturday a settler shot and wounded a Palestinian after settlers had set fire to Palestinian wheat fields. A few days earlier, settlers were caught on camera firing at Palestinians while Israel Defense Forces soldiers stood by.
There are many other instances of settler violence toward Palestinians, some of which are what are known as "price tag" incidents, including stone-throwing, incursions into Palestinian villages and arson.
Only in a minority of the cases of violence against Palestinians were indictments served. (According to statistics provided by the human rights group B'Tselem, since 2000 Israeli civilians have killed 50 Palestinians in the territories, in addition to perpetrating many other non-fatal instances of violence. ) And even if convicted, the assailants were let off with light sentences.
The human rights group Yesh Din has pointed out failures to enforce the law in the case of settler violence, including IDF soldiers' inattention to crimes against Palestinians, the creation of physical and bureaucratic obstacles for Palestinians seeking to file criminal complaints, and faults in the investigation of complaints.
Also, settlers have usurped private Palestinian lands; in more than 30 settlements there has been extensive construction on private Palestinian land.
The inevitable conclusion is this: If Palestinians are prohibited from entering Israel because they are a security risk to Israelis - in my view, such a sweeping prohibition is wrong - Israelis should be prohibited from entering the territories because they are a security risk to Palestinians.
From certain points of view, the security risk to Palestinians from Israelis is more serious than that to Israelis from Palestinians. Even if Palestinians manage sometimes to hurt Israelis, sometimes in serious terror attacks, when it comes to Palestinian violence against Israelis the police and the army are there to protect the Israeli population. The authorities put on trial and severely punish Palestinians who use violence.
But when violence is perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians, the Palestinians are given no protection by the authorities ruling the region - that is, by Israel.
If the Citizenship Law is truly security-oriented, and its purpose is to protect the population from people who might attack it - logically it should be applied in the opposite direction. Israelis - in light of their proven tendency to steal Palestinian lands and act violently toward Palestinians - should be prohibited from entering the territories.
The failure to apply this logic shows that according to the dominant understanding in Israel, the concept of "security" is for Israelis only. At most, Palestinians have rights, which, in the name of the supremacy accorded to security, can be taken away from them.
Perhaps we should begin thinking of the Palestinians, too, as being entitled to security. Then we will see how the Israeli presence in the territories denies it to them.
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