File image of a session of the Israeli Knesset. (Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israel’s parliament voted to renew a law on 6 March denying naturalized citizenship to Palestinians from the occupied West Bank or Gaza who are married to Israeli citizens.
Because some Israeli citizens are Palestinians by ethnicity, marriage between them and Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza is not uncommon. The law, therefore, bans family reunification and forces thousands of Palestinian families with only one Israeli spouse to either leave Israel or live apart, Haaretz reported.
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said it is “one of the tools aimed at ensuring a Jewish majority in Israel” when the law was passed last year.
As Reuters reported, the law replaced a similar temporary order that was first passed during the height of the Second Palestinian Intifada in 2003 and was renewed annually until it expired last July, and the Knesset failed to extend it.
Supporters of the law acknowledge it helps Israel maintains its “Jewish character.”
Reuters reported further that some Knesset members said it was intended to prevent a gradual right of return for Palestinian refugees. Many Palestinians were violently expelled from their homes by pre-state militias during the 1948 war through a “transfer” policy which opened the way for the conquest of Palestinian land and Israel’s establishment.
“The State of Israel is Jewish, and so it will remain,” said Simcha Rothman of the far-right Religious Zionism party, a member of the opposition who brought the law forward last year with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. “Today, God willing, Israel’s defensive shield will be significantly strengthened,” he said at the Knesset hours before the 2022 vote to pass the law.
Many human rights groups, including the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, have described Israel’s system of laws giving special rights to Jews and discriminating against the indigenous Arab Muslim and Christian population as constituting Apartheid.
According to Reut Shaer, a lawyer with the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, the citizenship law “comes off as more xenophobic or racist (than other laws) because it’s not only giving extra rights and privileges to Jewish people but also preventing certain basic rights only from the Arab population.”