Adalah and ACRI to Attorney General: Illegal to revoke Israeli citizenship of Palestinian prisoners

Adalah and ACRI: The right to citizenship is a basic right recognized in Israeli and international law; the revocation of citizenship requires extraordinary authority that is characteristic of oppressive totalitarian regimes.

On 24 April 2014, Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) sent a letter to Attorney General (AG) Yehuda Weinstein demanding that he refrain from approving a policy of revoking the citizenship Palestinian political prisoners classified as “security prisoners” by Israel who are citizens of Israel. The letter was written following a press release regarding a recent meeting between the AG and the Prime Minister's Office, in which the AG discussed the possibility of withdrawing the citizenship of 14 Palestinian prisoners who hold Israeli citizenship. These prisoners were deliberately discussed as they were to be released with other Palestinian prisoners as part of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

Adalah Attorney Hassan Jabareen and ACRI Attorney Oded Feller highlighted in the letter that, in 1996, the Israeli Supreme Court considered and rejected a request to withdraw the citizenship of Yigal Amir, the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. At that time, the Supreme Court acknowledged that while it is possible to condemn and reject the killing in other ways, a person’s citizenship cannot be revoked. The letter also argued that the previous AG, Menachem Mazuz, expressed his legal opinion in a 2006 letter to the Minister of the Interior, which noted that the validity of withdrawing a person’s citizenship on the basis of a "breach of trust" requires extraordinary authority that does not exist in most countries.

Adalah and ACRI argued in the letter that the revoking citizenship and expelling citizens from the state for “breach of trust”, is a characteristic of oppressive totalitarian regimes. The right to citizenship is a basic right that is recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and has since been updated with international obligations to ensure the right of citizenship and protection. Furthermore, Israel has recently committed to reduce the phenomenon of statelessness, and to formulate specific policies in this regard.

The letter also emphasized, “The right to citizenship is a right that must be equally protected…We once again stand in front of an extreme and repressive use of power in order to withdraw the citizenship of Arab citizens of Israel. The abuse of power is used to affirm a position that is humiliating and discriminatory, and does not implicitly recognize the citizenship of Arabs in Israel.”