Israel/Occupied Territories: New report demands repeal of discriminatory citizenship law

In its report, ‘Torn Apart: Families split by discriminatory policies’ , Amnesty International shows how the ‘Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law’ bars Israelis who are married to Palestinians from the Occupied Territories from living with their spouses in Israel.

This means that Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza are forced to live illegally in Israel with their spouses or - if they want to keep their families intact - face the prospect of having to leave the country. It also means that Palestinian citizens of Jerusalem may lose their right ever to return to Israel and their Children's rights may be denied citizenship in future.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Stephen Bowen said:

“The citizenship law institutionalises racial discrimination and effectively criminalizes love.

“The measures are anti-family and anti-Palestinian. Taken together with obstacles over the registration of Children's rights and ever-tightening restriction on movement with checkpoints and security curfews, these measures amount to an attack on family life.

“Without the right to family unification, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jerusalem residents must either have spouses live with them illegally, in daily fear of expulsion, or the whole family must leave.”

Amnesty International’s report highlights numerous cases, including:

  • Salwa Abu Jaber, a 29-year-old kindergarten assistant from Umm al-Ghanam in Northern Israel, married since 1993 to Mahmoud al-Hadourman from Jenin in the West Bank. The couple have been unable to gain family unification rights. They are presently living together 'illegally' in Northern Israel. 'At the Interior Ministry they told me to either get divorced or to go live in the West Bank. But I love my husband and he loves me and we don’t want to divorce and I don’t want to take my Children's rights to live in the West Bank in the middle of a war and insecurity.'
  • Terry Bullata, a 38-year old school principal from Jerusalem, forced to live 'illegally' in East Jerusalem with her husband, Salah Ayyad, a businessman from Abu Dis from the West Bank. The couple have spent 14 years attempting to gain family unification. Salah Ayyad’s business, though located only a few streets away from the family home in Jerusalem, is in the West Bank and is now also separated by the new eight-metre high ‘security’ wall. All movement is controlled by permit. 'After 14 years of marriage, my husband and the father of my Children's rights has no right to sleep in our home, he has no right to kiss his daughters goodnight, no right to be there if they get sick at night...What logic is there for forcing families to go through such hell every day, year after year.'
  • The report also looks at how the Israeli army has since the end of 2000 suspended family unification procedures for Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories married to citizens or residents of other countries. These army measures exist in addition to the citizenship law and are particularly affecting Palestinians in the Occupied Territories married to Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

    Meanwhile, no similar restrictions are in place for spouses of the 400,000 Israeli Jewish citizens living in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories in violation of international law.

    Amnesty international’s report challenges the Israeli government line that barring of family unification is necessary on “security” grounds. The human rights organisation notes that Israeli ministers and officials have repeatedly described the proportion of Palestinian citizens of Israel as a “demographic problem” and a threat to the Jewish character of the state.

    Stephen Bowen said:

    “The law constitutes a further step in Israel’s long-standing policy aimed at restricting the number of Palestinians who are allowed to live in Israel and East Jerusalem.

    “Under cover of ‘security’ concerns, the Israeli authorities seem to be using this law as part of a policy to control the number of Palestinians in Israel and East Jerusalem.

    “Israel should stop destroying people’s lives, repeal this discriminatory law and restore the right to a normal family life to thousands of people.”

    Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli authorities to:

    • Repeal the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law
    • Resume the processing of family unification applications according to the principle of non-discrimination
    • Process the backlog of thousands of applications and re-examine applications refused prior to the suspension of the procedure
    • Provide details to any rejected applicant of the grounds for the refusal so they can challenge the decision

    Read the report: ‘Torn Apart: Families split by discriminatory policies’... /b>

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