Controversial immigration law upheld in Israel

JERUSALEM, May 14 (JTA) — Israeli Arabs are upset after Israel’s top court upheld a controversial law that prevents Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from living in Israel. By a vote of 6-5, the High Court of Justice on Sunday rejected petitions filed against the Citizenship and Entry Law. While acknowledging that the law violates the human rights of the thousands of Israeli Arabs married to Palestinians, the High Court said national security must take precedence. At least one of the Palestinian suicide bombers to have struck since 2000 was a resident of Israel through marriage, and Israeli Jews are all the more suspicious of Palestinians since they voted in a Hamas government earlier this year. “The Palestinian Authority is an enemy government, a government that wants to destroy the country and is unwilling to recognize Israel,” wrote Justice Mishael Cheshin. But Israeli Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the country’s population, voiced their opposition to the decision. “On this day, the High Court effectively approved the most racist legislation in the State of Israel: legislation which bars the unification of families on the basis of national belonging: Arab-Palestinian,” Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, said in a statement. Adalah likened the ruling, which means that many Israeli Arabs will either have to live apart from their Palestinian spouses or move to the West Bank or Gaza Strip, to South Africa under apartheid. Israeli officials have long rejected such comparisons as false, given the open conflict with the Palestinians and other constitutional rights generally enjoyed by Israeli Arabs. First passed in 2002 at the height of the terrorist attacks, the Citizenship and Entry Law all but banned residency rights for the Palestinian spouses of Israelis. An amended version in 2003, when the High Court petitions were first filed, loosened the law to allow eligibility for female candidates older than 25, and men older than 35 — ages at which Palestinians are statistically far less likely to take up arms. Then-Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said national security justifies the law. But she also cited growing fear of an influx of Palestinians seeking the better life on offer in Israel, some of them through fictitious marriages with Israeli Arabs. “There is nothing wrong with looking to safeguard Israel’s Jewish majority by law,” she said at the time. Her successor, Haim Ramon, said Sunday that he would seek to enshrine the Citizenship and Entry Law in Israel’s Basic Laws. “The High Court ruling appears to apply to a certain population sector, but I intend to make a law that will apply to everyone,” he told Army Radio. “Under the law, a citizen of a hostile country won’t be able to adopt Israeli citizenship, except under certain circumstances that the state will determine.”

NEXT STORY