We at HaMoked woke up this morning to a change that we’re still trying to grasp: the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law – the law that denied family unification to Palestinian spouses – is no longer in force. The law was cancelled for all the wrong reasons, due to political maneuvering rather than concern for human rights, but this doesn’t diminish the importance of this event: from this morning, Palestinian residents and citizens of Israel have an equal right to fall in love, get married, and raise a family.
Since the law first passed in 2003, HaMoked has done everything in its power to fight it. We petitioned the High Court several times demanding that the law be cancelled, we demanded changes to mitigate the harm to its victims, and we assisted and represented many hundreds of families who found themselves in limbo because of this racist “temporary order”.
We don’t want to celebrate too early; it’s possible that the law will be renewed in the next few weeks or months, either in its original form or in a more or less harmful one. In any case, we are determined to take advantage of the window of opportunity that has been created to ensure that the law’s victims can demand their basic right to family life.
Today, some 9,000 families live in Israel or East Jerusalem, in which one spouse holds only a military permit allowing them to live in the country, which they must renew every year or two. The permit does not allow the West Bank spouse to drive in Israel, open a bank account or access social rights, and often makes it difficult to find work. In another 3,500 families, one spouse only has temporary residency. All these families live in limbo, in constant fear that they may be forced to live separately or to move elsewhere. As of this morning, Palestinian spouses are entitled to the same status as spouses from any country in the world, meaning that thousands of people are now entitled to residency status or citizenship for the first time. HaMoked has already started preparing requests for the hundreds of families we represent, both for the spouses and for children who were denied legal status because of the law.
Alongside this individual assistance, through work with the press and on social media, HaMoked is acting as a source of information and guidance for the thousands of families trying to understand this new situation and how they can best ensure their rights.
Let’s all hope that this racist and discriminatory law is a thing of the past. For now, we have a lot of work to do – wish us luck!
Executive Director of HaMoked