Court to rule on Citizenship Law appeal
High Court to rule Sunday on appeal against law that blocks entry of Palestinians married to Israeli citizens. Arab-Israeli who is married to Bethlehem woman: If High Court rejects our appeal, it will be a disaster and an infringement of our basic human rights
Arab-Israeli attorney Morad el-Sana said regarding Sunday’s expected ruling on a petition against the Citizenship Law that “if the High Court rejects our appeal, it will be a disaster and an infringement of our basic human rights.”
The Citizenship Law currently blocks the entry of Palestinians married to Israeli citizens. The decision was made following a series of deadly terror attacks in Israel in May 2002, after security officials claimed the perpetrators had entered Israel under a law allowing family reunification.
High Court deliberates on Citizenship Law (Photo: Amit Shabi)
The amendment elicited harsh criticism by social and civilian organizations, with the High Court characterizing the decision as “severe discrimination."
In 2005 the High Court already rejected a request by civil rights group Adalah to issue an interim injunction that would suspend the Citizenship Law until a ruling on the group's petition is made.
In February Judge Mishael Heshin confronted the attorney who represents the petitioners against the Citizenship Law during a deliberation in the High Court.
"I'm talking about an adversary regime, a regime that wants to destroy Israel. Now we need to allow them entry… I don't understand, are we really not striving for life?" said Heshin at the time.
Al-Sana, who also serves as the lawyer for Adalah, filed the appeal along with the Tabila family from Shfaram against the law. Al-Sana himself suffered the law’s consequences as the law was passed one day before his return to Israel from a honeymoon with his Palestinian wife.
'A very difficult situation'
“I never thought the Knesset would legitimize such a racist law,” al-Sana said. “Several years ago I met my wife, a Palestinian from Bethlehem, when she was working on a project promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, but it seems that this made no impression on anyone.
“My wife, who was lecturer at al-Quds University in east Jerusalem, was forced to obtain entry permits to Israel for short periods of time. Later we had to live without the permits and we were afraid she would get arrested. It is not a simple thing for a traditional Arab woman to go to prison.”
Al-Sana continued: “We had to file an appeal against the law with the High Court, in the framework of which we filed a request for an injunction that would allow my wife to remain in the country until a final decision on the matter is reached, but this request was approved only three months later. The injunction helped, but it is not a solution.
“My wife is not a citizen. She cannot work or study (in Israel). We are facing difficulties wherever we turn and cannot live as a normal couple. We had to pay all the hospital expenses during my wife’s two pregnancies. We cannot even travel abroad from Ben-Gurion Airport together as we are not listed as a married couple in my identification card. We have to go through Jordan,” he said.
“It is a very difficult situation; you feel as though you are being discriminated against based on your race.”
How would you feel if your appeal is rejected by the High Court?
"I would consider it a disaster. Principally, the court will prove to us that we are citizens whose citizenship is not whole. It doesn't make sense that the State will discriminate against Arab citizens only because they marry women from the territories. It will have ramifications on the Arab's feelings who will feel unwanted in Israel. It's part of the problem of Arabs in Israel. It's time to implement the equality principles fully."
What will you do if the court rejects the appeal, where will you live?
"If the court rejects the appeal this means that my wife's status will become illegal. We're trying not to think about it, and we're hoping for a just decision by the court. We don't want to live as a divided family where I live in Israel and she lives in Bethlehem while we have two kids, a two-year-old, and five-month-old baby. It would be tragic to our family."
Hatem and Raneen Tabila also appealed through attorney al-Sana. Hatem (34), a resident of Nablus married Raneen (30), a resident of Shfaram, several years ago.
The couple has two children. Hatem received a temporary resident status and already completed the four-year graded period process of becoming a citizen, however the law was enacted before the end f the period, and Hatem is still classified as a temporary resident who needs to renew his certificate all the time.
"The situation causes instability to the family structure, and overall there is a feeling that we're less worthy," he said.
Tabila promised he will appeal the court's decision if rejected.
Where will they live if the court rejects their appeal?
"My wife doesn't want to go to Nablus. She lived all her life here (In Israel) and her family is here. I can't hurt my family so I will resort to living in Israel even without a certificate and be subjected to detention and deportation. This law is racist more than it is for security purposes. In the past I was optimistic and was hopping that their appeal will be granted, but now I am more pessimistic and believe that there is a 50/50 chance that their appeal will be accepted", he said.