Israel Has Revoked Citizenship of Hundreds of Negev Arab-Bedouin

Israel’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority has been revoking the citizenship of apparently hundreds of Arab-Bedouin residents of the Negev, claiming that it was awarded to them “in error.” According to Haaretz, “Judging by the increasing number of complaints piling up in recent months, this appears to be a widespread phenomenon among the Negev’s Bedouin residents. Hundreds if not thousands of them are losing their citizenship due to ‘erroneous registration.’ This is the explanation they receive from the Interior Ministry, with no further details.”

Communist lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash − Join List) has received many appeals in recent months from people who have been stripped of their Israeli citizenship. Attorney Sausan Zahar from the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel recently appealed to Interior Minister Arye Dery and to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, asking them to cancel this policy.

According to her petition, these sweeping citizenship cancellations have been going on since at least 2010. When Bedouin citizens come to Interior Ministry offices in Be’er Sheva to take care of routine matters such as changing their address, obtaining a birth certificate or registering names, the Population Authority examines their status, as well as that of their parents and grandparents, going back to the early days of the state.

Adalah’s petition to the interior minister shows that individuals who have been citizens for 20, 30 or even 40 years, some of whom served in the army, who voted and paid their taxes, had clerks cancel their status with a keystroke. As permanent residents, they can vote in local elections but cannot run for office, vote in national elections or run for the Knesset. They receive social benefits such as medical insurance and national insurance payments, but cannot receive Israeli passports. If they are out of the country for prolonged periods, they can also lose their permanent residency, and unlike citizens, they cannot automatically transfer their status to their children.

Among those who remain without Israeli citizenship are people born in Israel to parents who are Israeli citizens. There are families in which one child is a citizen while another is a permanent resident. Some of those affected were stripped of their citizenship when they tried to renew their passports to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca, a mandatory tenet of Islam and something they cannot now do.

Complete report in Ha’aretz (English)