(photo credit: www.goisrael.com)
Critics were quick to attack the High Court of Justice’s decision Wednesday to
uphold the Citizenship and Entry Law, which severely restricts the right of
Palestinians married to Israelis to receive Israeli citizenship.
rushing to accuse our highest court of discrimination, racism or worse, it would
be instructive to recall how the Citizenship and Entry Law came about in the
Prohibitions on “family reunification” were first introduced
by the Interior Ministry on April 1, 2002, following the suicide bombing at the
Matza restaurant in Haifa’s Neveh Sha’anan neighborhood in which 16 Israelis
were killed and more than 40 were wounded. The driver of the car bomb was a
Hamas terrorist who had married an Israeli and carried a blue Israeli identity
Since the Oslo era, about 130,000 Palestinians have exercised their
right to acquire Israeli residency or citizenship through family reunification,
according to figures quoted by the Metzilah Center in a 2009 study titled
“Managing Global Migration: A Strategy for Immigration Policy in
Between 2001 and 2010 there were 54 cases in which Palestinians
who received Israeli citizenship via marriage (or whose parents did) were
involved in terror activities, according to data provided to the High Court by
While the vast majority of Palestinians married to Israeli
Arabs are not terrorists, it is eminently reasonable to assume that members of a
people with which Israel is in a state of conflict, if not war, present a high
risk. And the State of Israel has not only the right but the obligation to
protect its citizens.
Even in times of peace, Western jurisprudence
strongly supports the right of lawmakers to decide, without judicial
interference, who can and cannot enter the country and who can be deported, as
Prof. Liav Orgad noted in a 2008 article titled “Love and War: Family Migration
In Time of National Emergency.”
In Fiallo v. Bell, for instance, the US
Supreme Court supported Congress’s right to deny citizenship to the father of an
illegitimate child with US citizenship while recognizing it for the mother,
under the assumption that the mother’s ties are stronger. New Zealand bans
migration of citizens’ foreign spouses if they fail a body mass index test,
under the assumption that obese immigrants burden the healthcare services. The
Netherlands bans family migration of people who do not speak Dutch or who do not
accept Dutch culture. In Denmark, marriage-sponsored migration is possible only
if both spouses are above the age of 24, out of concern over forced marriages.
Many Western countries simply do not recognize their citizens’ right to
establish a family with anyone they choose.
In times of war this is all
the more true. The 9/11 Commission, noting that “for terrorists, travel
documents are as important as weapons,” found that the US government’s lax
immigration policies hurt national security. All 19 9/11 hijackers were lawfully
admitted into the US on nonimmigrant visas. Eighteen other terrorists who
operated between the early 1990s and 2004 were granted permanent status due to
their marriages to American citizens.
Israel, surrounded as it is by
enemies, must be even more vigilant regarding immigration policies.
this is especially true considering the fact that Israel was created to be the
national home of the Jewish people, a tiny minority in a region dominated by
Muslim states. Israel is already struggling to integrate Arab Israelis who make
up 20 percent of the population, many of whom do not identify with Israel’s main
goals as a Jewish and democratic state. Israel also faces the challenge
presented by a growing number of foreign workers – legal and illegal – who
number about 250,000, and the steady stream of migrants and refugees from Sudan
and Eritrea who continue to make their way into Israel via Sinai at a rate of as
much as 2,000 a month.
Under the circumstances, the State of Israel
cannot allow itself to take the risk of absorbing a potentially dangerous
population that in the best case is indifferent to the aims of Zionism and in
many instances is downright hostile to them. Instead of being attacked for
racial discrimination or worse, the High Court should be praised for making a
tough but necessary decision that strikes the proper balance between recognition
of personal liberty and maintaining the integrity and security of the world’s
only Jewish state.