pr 08-06-04

16  March 2009

Supreme Court to Decide Soon on Whether the Citizenship Law, which Discriminates on the Basis of Nationality and Violates the Right to Family Life, is Compatible with Israel's Basic Laws

On Sunday, 15 March 2009, the Supreme Court of Israel held a hearing on petitions filed by human rights organizations demanding that the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law – 2003 and its recent amendments be struck down as unconstitutional. The hearing was attended by a wide range of human rights lawyers and activists and Palestinian families harmed by this sweeping law. The Citizenship Law, which was first enacted in 2003, bans family unification between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in addition to anyone from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, defined by the law as "enemy states".

The expanded panel of seven justices who heard the case includes three justices who have previously expressed support for the cancellation of the law. (See H.C. 7052/03, Adalah, et. al., v. Minister of Interior, et. al., decision delivered 14 May 2006). Three other justices sitting on the case are squarely against the court’s intervention to strike it down. The seventh justice, Edmund Levi, wrote in the court’s decision of May 2006 that the law grossly violates constitutional rights, but that the Knesset should be afforded the opportunity to amend it. The law is officially classified as a “temporary order.”

During the hearing, an attorney from the Attorney General’s Office acknowledged that the law causes harm to thousands of innocent Palestinians who “do not constitute a security threat,” but justified the law on the ground that Israel’s security apparatus is unable to determine which Palestinians who have status in Israel pose a security threat, and which do not. In response, Dan Yakir, the Legal Advisor to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) argued that despite the difficulties described by the Attorney General’s Office, the Israeli security apparatus has previously approved the entry of 20,000 Palestinian workers into Israel; thus, it is apparent that where economic interests are at stake, the security services have been able to conduct checks to assess the extent of the “danger” posed by Palestinian residents.

Attorney Hassan Jabareen, the General Director of Adalah, and Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher argued that the Citizenship Law is the most racist law in the Israeli book of laws, and that it has no parallel in any democratic state in the world. “The Citizenship Law lays siege to and restricts the Arab minority in Israel: one the one hand, members of the Arab minority cannot live as a family in their country with whom they choose, and on the other hand, they are liable to lose their citizenship in case they decide to live with their spouses in states classified as enemy states,” argued Adalah.

Ms. Jenny Qiawar, a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel from Nazareth, also addressed the court. She spoke of the great distress that has resulted from her marriage to a Palestinian from the OPT to whom the state has yet to grant any status. While her husband has obtained a very temporary permit to stay in Israel, he is not allowed to work, drive a car or obtain health insurance. This case demonstrates that the law is not wholly based on security concerns, as the state claims.

Attorney Yotam Ben Hilel from HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual argued that the law also discriminates against the children of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Unlike the children of Israeli citizens, Palestinian children of East Jerusalem residents over the age of fourteen receive the same permits to stay in Israel that are issued to tourists. These permits do not allow the children to obtain health insurance, for example, and deprive them of other social rights.

In the run-up to the court hearing, on 8 March 2009, Adalah submitted three expert opinions to the court written by specialists in international and constitutional law to supports its legal arguments in the case.

Case Citation: H.C. 830/07, Adalah v. The Minister of the Interior, et al.

The expert opinion prepared by the Open Society Justice Initiative

The expert opinion prepared by Dr. Helene Lambert and Prof. Rebecca Wallace

The expert opinion prepared by Attorney Anton Katz

Adalah’s petition to the Supreme Court (Hebrew)

The State's Response (Hebrew)




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