Knesset approves citizenship law


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Knesset approved a law that would permit revoking citizenship rights of Israelis convicted of terrorism, espionage or treason.

The law, which passed late Monday night by a vote of 37 to 11, is opposed by many Arab-Israeli groups and Israeli human rights groups on the grounds that it is designed to delegitimize Arab-Israeli citizens.

Under the law, a dual citizen could be stripped of his Israeli citizenship entirely; other Israelis would be granted some form of resident status. Someone convicted of terrorism would lose his or her right to all state allowances, including welfare.

The bill was introduced by the Yisrael Beiteinu, the nationalist party of Israeli Foriegn Minister Avigdor Lieberman and fulfills his campaign promise of “No loyalty, no citizenship.”

The new law "is not meant to promote national security, as is being claimed," said Oded Feller, an attorney with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, "but rather it wishes to deliver a humiliating and discriminatory message, according to which the citizenship of Israel’s Arab citizens is not self evident but conditioned."

The Knesset also voted Monday to strip former Israeli Arab lawmaker Azmi Bishara of his parliamentary benefits, including his pension. Bishara fled Israel in 2007 after being accused of treason for allegedly giving Hezbollah information on strategic locations in Israel to be attacked with rockets during the 2006 Lebanon War.

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