Adalah Briefs Foreign Embassies in Israel on Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Ban on Family Unification Law

On 22 May 2006, Adalah held an informational briefing at the office of the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Tel Aviv for representatives of foreign embassies on the Supreme Court of Israel's recent ruling to dismiss petitions challenging the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) – 2003. The briefing was attended by embassy representatives from the United States, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Portugal, Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and the Delegation of the European Commission to the State of Israel.

Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn began by discussing the petition submitted to the Court by Adalah challenging the law on the grounds that it violates the rights of equality and to family life of Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel. The discussion of the petition included details on how the law and its amendments disrupts and destroys the lives of thousands of families.

Adalah also used this opportunity to provide participants with an in-depth analysis of the Supreme Court's ruling, highlighting the principal minority and majority decisions written by Chief Justice Aharon Barak and Deputy Chief Justice Mishael Cheshin. Adalah emphasized the strikingly different approaches taken by the Court on whether or not to declare the law void.

Attorney Kohn presented Justice Barak's opinion in which he determined that the law is both unconstitutional and disproportionate, and stated that:

Democracy does not behave this way. Democracy does not impose a sweeping prohibition, dividing its citizens from their spouses and making it impossible for them to conduct family life; democracy does not impose a sweeping prohibition that leave its citizens with the option to live in the state without the spouse or leave the state in order to conduct family life; democracy does not impose a sweeping prohibition that separates parents from their children… It is in such difficult periods that the strength of democracy is revealed… it is in this difficult situation that Israel is currently facing that Israeli democracy is being tested.

Attorney Kohn then presented Justice Cheshin's opinion which upheld the law and justified the use of collective punishment:

Some argue that the sweeping prohibition in the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law constitutes a collective violation against all of the Arab population in Israel for the crimes of the few, who previously resided in the region [the Occupied Palestinian Territories] and today reside in Israel. We shall agree of course that collective infringement has a harsh and harmful result and a democratic state should refrain from so doing. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that sometimes we cannot refrain from it. From time to time the harm of the few is so bad and harsh that it could justify collective prohibitions; particularly so where we cannot identify and locate those few who wish to harm and that the harm that they might cause is very hard and severe.

Adalah also presented the rulings of the nine other Justices, the majority of whom found the law to be unconstitutional and disproportionate. However, as Attorney Kohn explained, only five of the Justices also decided that the law should therefore be declared void.

Following the presentation, Adalah answered questions, including ones addressing the relationship between the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law and the government's proposals for immigration-related legislation to be enacted as a Basic Law. Adalah also discussed the next steps it plans to take regarding the law, which include making an appeal to foreign governments to call for the annulment of this racist law and for Israel to ensure that any new legislation will meet the standards of international human rights law and will respects the rights to equality and to family life of all of its citizens.