Palestinian girl in Israel
Palestinian girl in Israel Reuters

Human rights activists and others have condemned a decision by Israel’s Supreme Court to uphold a law prohibiting Palestinians from gaining Israeli citizenship by marrying an Israeli citizen.

The Citizenship and Entry Law, which was introduced in 2003 amidst waves of suicide bombings by Palestinians against Israel, was an effort to guarantee that Israel remains a Jewish-dominated state. It is deemed unconstitutional and “racist” by Israeli Arabs, civil rights groups and others.

Originally intended as emergency legislation, the law has periodically been amended and extended over the years.

By 2007, the law was expanded to include citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Under current law, Palestinian men over 35 and women over 25 married to Israeli citizens can get only short-term permits to reside in Israel, according to Agence France-Presse. They have limited ability to work and receive no social benefits.

The rule was upheld by six justices against five opposed.

Human rights do not prescribe national suicide, Justice Asher Grunis wrote in the judgment supporting the law.

The court also stated the right to a family life does not necessarily have to be realized within the borders of Israel.

One dissenter on the court, Justice Dorit Beinisch, wrote that the law should be canceled because it violates the right to equality.

Fury over the ruling came from far and wide.

Jamal Zahalka, an Arab Israeli MP, condemned the decision and declared that the court had failed the test of justice.”

This decision will encourage the racist groups in the Knesset [parliament] to enact more anti-Arab, anti-democratic and anti-human rights laws, he added.

The court's ruling pours oil on the fire of racism burning in the Knesset and removes any fear that the Supreme Court will repeal laws on grounds of unconstitutionality.”

Another Arab Israeli MP. Mohammed Barakeh, lamented: This law, which differentiates between people in a repulsive, racist fashion, sets standards for an individual's personal life and denies Arabs their right to choose their life partner.”

Attorneys for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel similarly told reporters: It is a dark day for the protection of human rights and for the Israeli High Court,” adding that the court has failed to uphold basic human rights in the face of the tyranny of the Knesset majority.

ACRI attorneys Dan Yakir and Oded Feller further said: The majority opinion has stamped its approval on a racist law, one [that] will harm the very texture of the lives of families whose only sin is the Palestinian blood that runs in their veins.

The Arab-Israeli civil rights group Adalah also blasted the court, stating, “The ruling proves how much the situation regarding the civil rights of the Arab minority in Israel is declining into a highly dangerous and unprecedented situation.

“This law severely restricts Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel from living together in Israel with their Palestinian spouses from the Occupied Palestinian Territory or from ‘enemy states’ defined by the law as ‘Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq.’ Thousands of Palestinian families are affected by this law, forced to move abroad, or live apart or to live together illegally in Israel.”

Adalah added that the law is unlike any that exists in a democratic nation.

“[It deprives] citizens from maintaining a family life in Israel only on the basis of the ethnicity or national belonging of their spouse. The ruling proves how much the situation regarding the civil rights of the Arab minority in Israel is declining into a highly dangerous and unprecedented situation.

Zahava Gal-On, a liberal Jewish member of the Knesset, also blasted the court. She told Army Radio that while she opposed the right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel and supports a two-state solution, nonetheless Israeli Arabs “are also citizens in this country.

Preserving [Israeli Arabs'] rights does not threaten the country and I think that in order to strengthen Israel we must be stronger than our most basic fears. A dark stain was left on our law books, she added.

Not surprisingly, the ruling was hailed by right-wing Israeli politicians.