MK Barakeh: “High Court Gives Stamp of Approval to Racist Law”

“It is a dark day for the protection of human and civil rights in Israel. The Israeli High Court stamped its approval on a racist law,” Hadash chairman and leading Communist Party of Israel member, MK Muhammad Barakeh said.  According to Barakeh, the ruling proved a wave of racism was sweeping through Israeli institutions. “This law, which differentiates between people in a repulsive, racist fashion, sets standards for an individual’s personal life and denies Arabs their right to choose their life partner,” he said.

Israel’s High Court rejected on Wednesday petitions against the Citizenship Law, which prevents Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from receiving Israeli citizenship or residency. Six judges voted to reject the petitions, while five voted to accept them.

Rally in Tel Aviv against racist laws, November 2010

Rally in Tel Aviv against racist laws, November 2010 (Photo: Al Ittihad)

Judges Eliezer Rivlin, Asher Grunis, Miriam Naor, Elyakim Rubinstein, Hanan Meltzer and Neal Handel ruled that the petition must be denied. In their ruling they wrote that they recognize the right for family reunification as derived from the right to dignity but ruled that it does not necessarily warrant implementation inside Israel.  The justices of the dissenting opinion were Supreme Court Dorit Beinish, Edmond Levy, Edna Arbel, Salim Jubran and Esther Hayut.  In July 2003, the Knesset passed the “Citizenship Law” which aims to limit the reunification of families of Palestinians from the occupied territories and Arab-Palestinians in Israel.  The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law was first passed as a “temporary order”, and has since been extended several times. The law places restrictions on the automatic granting of Israeli citizenship and residency permits to spouses of Israeli citizens. Spouses who are inhabitants of the West Bank are ineligible.

The law states that the interior minister is entitled to grant citizenship only if the West Bank applicant has made s strong enough case that he identifies with the State of Israel and that he or his family members have cooperated with Israel or made a contribution to Israel’s security.  Petitions filed against the law shortly thereafter were denied in 2005.  A year later, the High Court of Justice denied the petition again in a 6:5 vote. Several petitions on the matter were filed in May 2007 by the Civil Rights Association and Knesset Member Zahava Gal-On (Meretz).

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, responded to the High Court rejection of its petition saying that the court approved a law “the likes of which does not exist in any democratic nation in the world.” The organization slammed the law as “forbidding citizens to have a family life in Israel solely on the basis of the ethnic background of one of the spouses.” The statement added: “This ruling proves to what extent the civil rights of the Arab minority in Israel have deteriorated to an unprecedented an extremely dangerous level.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) also leveled sharp criticism Thursday against the decision. The court, two ACRI attorneys wrote in a statement, “has failed to uphold basic human rights in the face of the tyranny of the Knesset majority.”