Israel’s Supreme Court Condones Discriminatory Citizenship Law

Last night the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a series of petitions challenging an amendment to the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. The Open Society Justice Initiative submitted an expert opinion in support of one of the petitions.

The law prohibits family reunification for Israeli citizens married to Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), and makes it impossible for Palestinians to acquire Israeli citizenship through marriage. The government argues that the law is necessary for security reasons, while the petitioners—including Israeli NGO Adalah—argue that it constitutes racial discrimination because it disproportionately affects Arab Israelis.

But the government recently also acknowledged that there is more to the law than just security issues. Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai said in a radio interview that the citizenship applications that follow family reunification from the OPT endanger the Jewish majority and constitute “national suicide.” The Jerusalem Post reports that this sentiment was echoed in the judgment itself: ”Justice Asher Grunis wrote that ‘human rights’ cannot be enacted at the price of ‘national suicide.’”

The judgment is a great setback for equal rights in Israel (and comes only a week after it decided to extend the maximum limit for immigration detention to three years). While there are plenty of other countries around the globe that maintain racist or otherwise discriminatory citizenship policies, the Israeli case really stands out among democratic nations. In a very bad way.

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