Discriminatory law to be extended

Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights and its member and partner organizations in Israel, ACRI (The Association for Civil Rights in Israel), Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel), B’Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), the Mossawa Center (the Advocacy Center for Arab Palestinian Citizens of Israel) express their deep concern regarding the vote of the Israeli cabinet on July 18 asking the Knesset to extend by six months the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) - 2003.

This Temporary Law, which was voted in a rush by the Knesset on 31 July 2003, was due to expire in the beginning of August this year. This Law forbids residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territories married to Israeli citizens or Palestinian residents in Israel to live lawfully in Israel with their companion. This law, which aims at preventing family unification affects thousands of couples, as well as their children.

As a majority of Israeli citizens married to residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territories belong to the Palestinian minority of Israel (about 20% of the Israeli population), this law directly discriminates Israeli Arab citizens. Thus, it contravenes both to the Basic Laws of Israel, granting equality to all its citizens and to many international human rights instruments ratified by Israel, and in particular article 5 (d) (iv) of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination (ratified by Israel in 1979) guaranteeing “the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law in the enjoyment of (...) the right to marriage and the choice of spouse”.

Since 1967, Israelis who married residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territories had to apply for family unification to obtain a legal status for their spouse in Israel. Since March 2002, the issuing of residence permits for Palestinian spouses had been frozen in practice and on 12 May 2002, the Israeli government, by a unanimous decision of the cabinet, decided to freeze all new request for family unification.

Alerted by the FIDH and its member and partner organizations in Israel, the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination (CERD) had called, on 14 August 2003, upon Israel to “revoke” the ban on family unification law and to “re-consider its policy with a view to facilitation family unification on a non-discriminatory basis”. The Committee had found that the temporary order “raises serious issues under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination”.

The FIDH recalls that in its concluding observations on Israel, issued on 6 August 2003, the UN Human Rights Committee had urged Israel to revoke the law, considering that it raised “serious concerns under article 17, 23 and 26 of the Covenant” (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).

Moreover, Palestinian citizens of Israel suffer numerous legal discriminations as highlighted in an investigative mission report of the FIDH, Foreigners, within, the status of the Palestinian minority in Israel published in 2001.

The FIDH and its member and partner organisations call on the Israeli government to revoke the Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law and to respect in all circumstances the right to non-discrimination, as provided for in international human rights Instruments to which Israel is a party.

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