01/13/2012, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE

Israeli Supreme Court’s racism

Joshua Lapide
Palestinians who marry an Israeli cannot acquire Israeli citizenship. For Israel’s right, the court’s decision saves the country from “demographic suicide”, but for human rights activists and liberals, it pushes the country down the “slope of apartheid”.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – For human rights groups and bloggers, the decision by Israel’s Supreme Court to uphold a law banning Palestinians who marry Israelis from getting citizenship is racist and a violation of the country’s Basic Laws.

The ruling, which upholds the 2003 law, was made public on Wednesday evening. The vote was six to five. "Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide," wrote Justice Asher Grunis.

The law was introduced at a time of emergency. It bans Palestinians married to Israeli citizens to acquire Israeli citizenship and permanent residency.

Initially, the legislation was extended periodically. It was amended in 2005, allowing women over 25 and men over 35 to apply for temporary permits to live in Israel, but still ruling out citizenship. In 2007, it was expanded to apply to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The law allows for certain exemptions. Still few Palestinian women have become terrorists; yet, last year, only 33 out of 3,000 applications for exemptions were approved.

Human rights activists say the law is racist because it would force Israeli-Palestinians who marry Palestinians from the Occupied Territories to live apart from their spouse or move to Gaza or the West Bank if they marry a Palestinian.

Rightwing politicians believe the law saves Israel from “demographic suicide”. If Palestinian women were allowed to become Israeli citizens, the demographic balance would soon be in favour of the Palestinians.

Despite the court’s decision, the law remains controversial even in the court. In fact, Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch is against it, saying that the freedom to marry and have a family is the bases of democratic principles.

In an editorial, Haaretz noted that in 2006 ruling, 6 out of 11 justices said the law was unconstitutional. This year’s ruling pushes instead Israel down the “slope of apartheid”.
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