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Friday, 15 October. 2021
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

As if choosing a life mate is not a difficult enough decision, here in the land of the absurd, even the most basic human rights must be taken into consideration before “tying the knot.” Most people consider the future spouse’s character, their financial situation and perhaps their in-laws before saying “I do”. Forget all that – when asking for a woman’s hand these days, a suitor must first display his ID card and hope it is compatible with his future wife’s.

On May 14, the Israel High Court of Justice dismissed, in a 6-5 vote, petitions to annul the amendment to the Israeli citizenship law, which prevents Palestinians from requesting residency status in Israel for their spouses through "family reunification". The ruling is an endorsement of the amendment introduced in 2002, which froze family reunification applications filed by Palestinian-Israelis who sought to bring their Palestinian spouses into Israel.

The petitions were filed in 2003 by Adalah the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; the Association for Civil Rights in Israel; Knesset members Zahava Gal-On, Roman Bronfman, Talab al-Sana, Mohammed Barakeh, Azmi Bishara, Ahmed Tibi and Abdulmalik Dehamshe; and several Israeli-Palestinian couples affected by the law. The petitioners claimed the law is racist and violates the right to family life, the principle of equality and the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty.

The six justices, however, ruled that the law did not violate constitutional rights and even if it did, the violation was proportionate with the benefits, namely – Israel’s “security concerns.”

Legal jargon aside, what this really means is that families are virtually separated from each other by means of a law. When a Palestinian is denied family reunification with their Israeli spouse, not only can they not move into Israel, but the Israeli citizen cannot move to the West Bank or Gaza since Israel passed a law banning Israeli citizens from entering Palestinian Authority territories – a Catch-22 of the worst kind.

Still, there are tens of thousands of Palestinian residents who choose to “defy” this law by making their homes with their spouses inside the Green Line and in Jerusalem, which is also subject to Israeli residency laws. A small victory, some would say. At least the family is not separated physically. They live together, have children, who usually become Israeli citizens – or permanent residents in the case of east Jerusalem – and can stay together under one roof. In Jerusalem alone, there are an estimated 40,000 Palestinians living illegally within the city’s borders.

However, not only does this mean the spouse does not have a right to national and medical insurance but they cannot work, they cannot drive, ride in public transpiration or cross checkpoints into Palestinian territories. They are constantly vulnerable to arrest, harassment or even deportation out of Israel on grounds of residing in the country illegally.

What is so absurd is that Israel, the so-called democracy, gets away with such blatant discrimination. What rationale could possibly be presented that would justify families being separated from each other? Israel defends itself by saying it is certainly not the only country that restricts “foreigners” from obtaining citizenship on the sole basis of family unification, especially if the spouse originates from an “enemy country.”

“The Palestinian Authority is an enemy government, a government that wants to destroy the state and is not prepared to recognize Israel,” Israeli Justice Mishael Cheshin said during a debate over the law last February.

"It's true that the Palestinians are not a hostile people. But are the State of Israel's defensive efforts against terror attacks, against lone individuals carrying out attacks not a sufficient enough reason to prevent their entry?”

That Palestinians should be considered foreigners is, in and of itself, a ridiculous premise. This is a people who have lived in this land for generations, who can trace their lineage back hundreds of years to a stone house, to a single olive tree standing stubbornly in the rich soil of what was once an orchard tended by Palestinian hands.

Once, the late Dr. Ibrahim Abu Lughud, a prominent Palestinian scholar and refugee from Jaffa, said what sets Israelis and Palestinians apart is that Palestinians have claims to all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan, while Israelis do not. They are the invaders and the colonizers and now the tables have been turned and the aboriginal inhabitants of this land are being expelled yet once again, labeled as outsiders, enemies and “foreigners.”

However, anyone who knows anything about Israel’s policies and long-term goals will realize that this is just one rung in the long ladder of racist measures against the Palestinians. Israel has elevated its oppression of the Palestinians into an art form, constantly creating ingenious ways of fencing them off, kicking them around and eventually squeezing them out.

Since it is not a feasible option to haul hundreds of thousands of Palestinians over the borders and dump them into neighboring Arab states – even the blind-eyed international community would flinch - Israel attacks one family at a time. Eventually, if families are not free to live in peace and prosper in their own homes, it is only natural that they will turn to other options outside this oppressive box. For Israel, each Palestinian family beaten into submission is one less spot of Palestinian blood tainting its Jewish demographic map.

While the High Court ruling may have come as a surprise to some, the Palestinians would have expected nothing less from their oppressors. Besides the more obvious measures of oppression such as the military operations, the Apartheid wall and the assassinations, Palestinians understand that these more insidious but no less lethal measures compose a major part of Israel’s strategy in realizing its true goal of obliterating the Palestinian cause.

With Israel’s intentions as clear as daylight, there is only one thing left. The time has come for the world to wake from its slumber.

By the Same Author
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