ACRI, HaMoked and PHR-Israel petitioned the HCJ: The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) brands all Palestinians as a security risk; its purpose is racist and it must be abolished המוקד להגנת הפרט
ACRI, HaMoked and PHR-Israel petitioned the HCJ: The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) brands all Palestinians as a security risk; its purpose is racist and it must be abolished
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The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on April 25, 2022, on behalf of individuals harmed by the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), demanding the Law’s cancellation. The organizations argued that the Law, which prevents Palestinians from obtaining residency status in Israel based on family unification, brands all Palestinians as a security risk, without any individual security check, and that its purpose is racist.

The petition argues that the Law undermines the values of a democratic state, establishing prohibited discrimination between Arab citizens and residents of Israel and Jews when it comes to their right to family life in Israel. The Law separates spouses, and separates parents from their children. It also violates a range of basic rights of those who have been allowed to stay in Israel and have become over time de facto residents of the State. The Law prevents them from receiving social security rights and national health insurance, access to social services, housing and legal aid, limits their possibilities of gaining employment and earning a living, and much more.

In the petition (HCJ 2741/22) the organizations review the dramatic changes that occurred in the two decades since the Law was first enacted in 2003 as a temporary order (i.e., a provisional law). Over the years, the State consistently extended the Temporary Order based on security claims. However, during the March 2022 Knesset deliberations on reenacting the Law, and once its legislation was finalized, its initiators and also governmental jurists acknowledged that the Law had a demographic purpose and that security officials could not justify it on security grounds.

The petition also contains an overview of a series of solutions agreed upon by many members of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee while considering the reenactment, which were not opposed by the Israel Security Agency (ISA); but they were not adopted into the legislation for strictly political reasons: “In the Knesset sessions, it was clarified that the Law could achieve its goal without causing such harm to human rights. It was agreed that there was no security justification to deny residency status to people permitted to stay in Israel, many of whom had become de facto residents over the years (many of them present for many years, some even for two whole decades) and to deny them health insurance and social welfare rights, as well as access to welfare and housing benefits, limit their employment opportunities, their right to legal aid and more. It was agreed that there was no security reason to deny residency status to spouses of the same gender, for example”, the petition argues, “however, despite this, the version that was legislated harms theirs and others’ rights, only because those who agreed to support the Law in the second and third reading demanded that the Law harm human rights to a larger extent, irrespective of its security purpose, even when the ISA agreed it was possible to lessen the harm”.  ­­

Additionally, the petition focuses on two groups that are especially harmed by the Law: women and children. The petition stresses that a woman with a permit or temporary status stands at the bottom rung of the social ladder. Her status in Israel depends on her spouse and their relationship. Many women choose to remain in an unsafe relationship or with a violent spouse out of fear of losing their status, and often their children as well. A woman in this never-ending family unification procedure who leaves her husband could be deported to the West Bank without her children.

Under the Law, some children also grow up with no status in Israel. The petition states: “Children without residency grow up to be adults who are not entitled to any of the rights afforded to a resident: social security rights, higher education, free employment, the possibility to drive, assistance in housing and more. The meaning of this, in effect, is that these children grow up and reach adulthood in Israel knowing from a young age that the Law does not allow them to live the full life of a human being and tell their story. No matter how talented they are, they are channeled by the Temporary Order to live limited lives without possibilities, condemned by law to struggle to make a living, to poverty and to distress”.

The petitioning organizations stated: “The Knesset had an opportunity to eradicate a racist and discriminatory law that brands all Palestinians whoever they may be as a security risk, without any individual security check. Instead, the Knesset members opted to reenact arrangements that violate human rights with the deliberate purpose to harm, burden and oppress, unrelated to security considerations. We petitioned the HCJ because it is impossible to maintain such a Law that establishes wrongful discrimination between the Arab citizens and residents of the State and those who are Jewish, with regards to their right to family life in Israel; a law that infringes a string of basic rights, separates between spouses and between parents and their children and undermines the values of a democratic country”.

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