Israel imposes 'racist' marriage law
Palestinian-Israeli couples will be forced to leave or live apart
By Justin Huggler in Jerusalem
1 August 2003
Israel's Parliament has passed a law preventing Palestinians who
marry Israelis from living in Israel. The move was denounced by
human rights organisations as racist, undemocratic and
Under the new law, rushed through yesterday, Palestinians alone will
be excluded from obtaining citizenship or residency. Anyone else who
marries an Israeli will be entitled to Israeli citizenship.
Now Israeli Arabs who marry Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza
Strip will either have to move to the occupied territories, or live
apart from their husband or wife. Their children will be affected
too: from the age of 12 they will be denied citizenship or residency
and forced to move out of Israel.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch sent a joint letter to
the Knesset, Israel's parliament, urging members to reject the bill.
"The draft law barring family reunification for Palestinian spouses
of Israeli citizens is profoundly discriminatory," Amnesty said in a
statement. "A law permitting such blatant racial discrimination, on
grounds of ethnicity or nationality, would clearly violate
international human rights law and treaties which Israel has
ratified and pledged to uphold."
B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, joined in the
criticism of the law. Yael Stein, a spokesman, said: "This is a
racist law that decides who can live here according to racist
Some Israelis believe they are sitting on a demographic time bomb,
with an Israeli Arab community, already 20 per cent of the
population, growing faster than the Jewish population.
The discrimination is not only against Palestinians, according to
human rights groups, but against Israel's own 1.2 million citizens
of Palestinian origin as well. The overwhelming majority of Israelis
who marry Palestinians are the so-called Israeli Arabs -
Palestinians who live in Israel and have Israeli citizenship.
"This bill blatantly discriminates against Israelis of Palestinian
origin and their Palestinian spouses," said Hanny Megally of Human
Rights Watch. "It's scandalous that the Government has presented
this bill, and it's shocking that the Knesset is rushing it
The government pushed the vote through at speed, even agreeing to
consider it a vote of confidence to get it through. It was passed by
53 votes to 25, with one abstention.
Gideon Ezra, a cabinet minister, said: "This law comes to address a
security issue. Since September 2000 we have seen a significant
connection, in terror attacks, between Arabs from the West Bank and
Gaza and Israeli Arabs."
Since 1993, more than 100,000 Palestinians have become Israeli
citizens through marriage, Mr Ezra said. But B'Tselem pointed out
that only 20 of those 100,000 have been involved in suicide bombings
or other militant attacks. Human rights groups said security
concerns could not justify the new law, which amounts to collective
punishment. Noam Hoffstater, another spokesman for B'Tselem, said:
"Those who voted for the bill and those who support it are making a
very cynical use of security arguments to justify it, even though
they used no data. This in fact was a cover for the real reason,
which is the racist reason, the demographic reason."
Many on Israel's right fear that it will be impossible to maintain
Israel's identity as an officially Jewish state if the Arab sector
becomes too large.
"Today I lost hope," Sa'id abu Muammar, an Israeli Arab, told
Reuters news agency. He has been hiding his Palestinian wife from
the police since their marriage a year ago. "This is what we've been
doing and this is probably what we will have to continue to do."
PROPOSED MARRIAGE LAW CALLED RACIST MOVES FORWARD IN ISRAEL
JAMES BENNET, New York Times, 7/31/03
JERUSALEM, July 31 - The Israeli parliament voted today to block
Palestinians who marry Israelis from becoming Israeli citizens or
residents, erecting a new legal barrier as Israel finished the first
section of a new physical barrier against West Bank Palestinians.
Supporters of the legislation called it a necessary bulwark against
infiltration by terrorists. "We are in a state of war - not with the
English, or the Americans, or the Dutch, or the Slovaks - we are at
war with our neighbors, the Palestinians," Gideon Sa'ar, of the
dominant Likud Party, told the parliament in debate before the
vote. "It's a tragic reality."
Proponents also called the law a way to preserve Israel's Jewish
Opponents of the law called it a racist measure that threatened to
divide thousands of families or force them out of Israel. Roughly 1.2
million of Israel's 6.7 million citizens are Arabs, and they are far
more likely than Israeli Jews to marry Palestinians.
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