Lifting ban on Palestinian spouses is "national suicide": Israel court

Updated 2.21pm: Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected constitutional challenges to a law that makes it more difficult for Palestinians to get permission to live with their Israeli spouses inside Israel.

Israel’s parliament approved a law in 2003 that severely limits the ability of Palestinians to gain Israeli citizenship through marriage to an Israeli national.

Civil rights organizations and Arab rights advocates filed the appeal in 2007.

The ruling was passed with a narrow majority, with six judges voting in favor of maintaining the law late Wednesday, while five were against.

“Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide,” Justice Asher Grunis writes in the majority position.

Israeli rights groups and parliamentarians criticized the court ruling that prevents Palestinians married to Arab Israelis from obtaining Israeli citizenship or residency.

In contrast, the ruling was welcomed from Israel’s rightwing.

“It is a dark day for the protection of human rights and for the Israeli High Court,” attorneys Dan Yakir and Oded Feller from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said in a statement.
ACRI was one of three rights groups that had appealed to the High Court over a law preventing the Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens from obtaining either Israeli citizenship or residency.
At present, Palestinian men over 35 and women over 25 married to Israeli citizens can only obtain short-term permits to be in Israel.

They have limited permission to work, but the permits must be regularly reviewed and they get no social benefits.

Arab MP Jamal Zahalka, of the Balad party, said the court “had failed the test of justice.”
“This decision will encourage the racist groups in the Knesset (parliament) to enact more anti-Arab, anti-democratic and anti-human rights laws,” he warned.

“The court’s ruling pours oil on the fire of racism burning in the Knesset and removes any fear that the Supreme Court will repeal laws on grounds of unconstitutionality,” he added.
Mohammed Barakeh, an Arab MP with the Hadash party, said 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.
Arab citizens form roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population, not including approximately 4 million Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.

Arab and Jewish populations are relatively even when considering the entire territory of mandate Palestine, adding to Israeli anxieties of a demographic time bomb.
Israel’s staunchly right-wing government is determined to retain the Jewish character of the state, much to the detriment of Arab citizens within the country, and millions of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

A further 4 million Palestinians reside in refugee camps in neighboring states, descendants of the great exodus following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Hamas and several members of Fatah still insist on the right of return of Palestinian refugees, which would result in a clear Arab majority.

Israel objects to the right of return, fearing an Arab majority would undermine the Jewish character of the state.

Arab citizens within Israel are often subject to discrimination, with the latest Supreme Court decision further adding to their restrictions.

Palestinian Israelis still retain links to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, with marriages still common between Palestinians throughout their native land.

Arabs in Israel are remnants of a Palestinian population that were either expelled or fled their homes during Israel’s violent creation.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, AP)

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