Israel’s Knesset passed another controversial bill, by a majority of votes, specifically designed to prevent Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians from passing on their citizenship. The bill has been criticized as another Apartheid law.
The Israeli Knesset (Parliament) voted last week, 45-15, to pass a law which was originally enacted in 2003, that bars Israeli citizens from extending their citizenship to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This means that if an Israeli Jew, or more commonly a Palestinian citizen of Israel, is to marry a Palestinian from the occupied territories, the Palestinian partner, of an Israeli, and even their children, cannot attain Israeli citizenship. Furthermore, the Palestinian from the occupied territory can not even get residency status to live inside what is considered Israel, according to the bill.
On the other hand, illegal Israeli settlers who are participating in a war crime, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, are free to marry Israelis living inside what is recognised by the UN as Israel proper. Israeli settlers and their children, even those living in settler outposts unrecognized by Tel Aviv, are permitted to live wherever they choose, while still being afforded Israeli citizenship. Ayman Odeh, a Palestinian Citizen of Israel and head of the ‘Joint List’, called the adoption of the bill a victory for “an Apartheid State”.
The world’s top human rights groups, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, consider Israel to be an Apartheid State. In their detailed reports published on why they have drawn this conclusion, both point to the over 60 discriminatory laws against Palestinian citizens of Israel, passed by the Knesset, as one of the reasons for their position. It is key to note that this bill’s adoption is viewed by its critics as a means of punishing, and targeting for exile, Palestinian citizens of Israel. The reason for this is because it is rare that Israeli Jews will marry a Palestinian from the occupied territories. It is more common that this will happen between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians from the West Bank, or less commonly Gaza. As the bill clearly makes it untenable for the couple, as well as their children, to live inside Israel, they are forced to leave and relocate elsewhere. This essentially means they are exiled for committing the crime of falling in love with someone from the wrong ethnic group.
Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s far-right Interior Minister, tweeted following the bill’s passing that it was a victory against the notion that Israel is “a State for all its citizens“. Shaked is of course referring to ‘The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law‘ which openly affirms that non-Jews are not equal to Jews in Israel. In an interim period where the bill (which is temporary and needs renewing) was on hold, she actively took measures to ensure that Palestinian families could not reunite.
What is often not pointed out is the overwhelming agreement from the Israeli public with the clearly racist legislation. Despite Palestinian citizens of Israel — roughly 20% of the population — and their parties opposing the bill, along with a small number of left-wing Israelis, such as those belonging to the Meretz Party, such racist laws have the backing of a large portion of Israel’s Jewish population. This is why, for instance, the Israeli opposition, led by the Likud Party of Benjamin Netanyahu, largely refrained from voting all together, as a means of stopping the bill being passed and embarrassing the current Israeli government.
This point really has to be thought about. That it is a valid political tactic for Israeli law makers who support a racist law, to refrain from voting on it, hoping that the government which also supports the law won’t get it passed and will appear weak to an Israeli public who also supports the racist law. Despite the efforts of the Israeli opposition, to stop the law being passed as a means of embarrassing the government they oppose, the bill still passed with a majority of votes.
Imagine for a moment that in the United States, such a political maneuver was taken in regard to a piece of openly anti-Black legislation. Would this not be an outrage? Somehow it’s okay if the pernicious racism of the Israeli government, which is part of its legal structure, is practiced against Palestinians.
It’s hard to believe that the Western world can operate on such flagrant double-standards, as with the shameless hypocrisy on display in Ukraine. These governments claim to be against racism, whilst allowing an openly racist country to violate international law without consequence.