Several Bedouins lose citizenship despite family in IDF, birth in Israel

Among some of the complainants are Bedouins who have apparently been in Israel as citizens for 20, 30 and 40 years, with a history of paying taxes, and with parents who completed IDF service.

Girls walk on the outskirts of the Bedouin city of Rahat, southern Israel (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Girls walk on the outskirts of the Bedouin city of Rahat, southern Israel
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Several Israeli Bedouins, some of whom were born in Israel and are the children of IDF veterans, have lost their Israeli citizenship due to alleged registration errors, but according to some of those currently seeking remediation of the issue, Israel’s Ministry of Interior and the Population and Immigration Authority revoked their citizenship on purpose, according to an Al-Monitor report on Friday.
The Israeli Bedouins claim that bureaucratic mistakes are a poor explanation for the ministry's decision to revoke their citinzenship. According to the report, the ministry and attorney general's office claim the problems stemmed from registration, which are in the process of being fixed. The Bedouins have since appealed to the office of Aida Touma-Suleiman, an MK from the Joint List, in addition to the Adalah Legal Center, which has sent an appeal to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. The appeal claims that the policy of revocation has been occurring since 2010. 
The report notes that many Bedouins conduct day-to-day affairs at the Interior Ministry in order to change their address, obtain a birth certificate, and register a name. The ministry maintains records dating back to 1948 when Israel was founded. In some cases, when the Bedouins arrived to take care of common tasks, they were informed that their citizenship has been revoked, without an explanation or option to appeal.
Among some of the complainants are Bedouins who have apparently been in Israel as citizens for 20, 30 and 40 years, with a documented history of paying taxes, voting in elections and with parents who have completed IDF service. 
The Israeli Bedouins have since been relegated to permanent residents, losing their ability to run for office, vote in national elections and obtain a passport. Their status is also not automatically transferred to their children, as noted by Al-Monitor. 
In some cases, those denied citizenship were the children of Israeli citizens. Al-Monitor noted that some of the complainants are in a peculiar situation status-wise, with some families having one child as a citizen, and the other as a permanent resident, while their parents (the children's grandparents) are Israeli citizens.
One of the complainants, Salim al-Dantiri, 50, of Bir Hadaj, is unsure why he was denied citizenship. “In some cases — like mine — they say that there was some mistake when our parents were registered, but that was decades ago. Is that our fault?” Dantiri told Al-Monitor. Dantiri's father served in the IDF as well.
Similarly, Atalla Sagaira, from an unrecognized Bedouin village in southern Israel, was previously denied citizenship despite his father having served in the IDF as a tracker who was injured in the line of duty. 
“They said that my parents were naturalized, and that they were not originally citizens.
“I insisted on obtaining my rights and fought the whole bureaucratic process on my own, until I obtained my citizenship. Still, I know that there are people who just give up,” Sagaira said. 
Al-Monitor noted that the problem is rooted in Israel's early statehood, when Israeli-Arab areas were under the control of IDF administration following the War of Independence in 1948. Adalah claimed that under the circumstances, “There is no case of a Jewish citizen who had his citizenship revoked because of some mistake in the registration of his parents or grandparents.” 
The ministry responded to Al-Monitor, saying Bedouins have been investigated due to contentious cases in the past, when Palestinians in the West Bank, who are related to Bedouins living in the Negev, have tried to attain Israeli citizenship in a fraudulent manner. 
A representative of the ministry also added that “There have been discussions recently about finding a solution that will resolve the problem within the context of the law, without detracting from these people’s status in Israel.” 
The Interior Ministry also said that it is seeking solutions to lessen the bureaucratic burden, while the attorney general's office indicated they are also employing a rapid naturalization process on the condition that they are no grounds to be denied citizenship.