ACRI urges Mazuz to stop ouster of Hamas PLC members

In what might be the prelude to a High Court petition, the Association for Civil Rights on Monday demanded that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz instruct the government not to strip three Hamas parliamentarians from east Jerusalem of their Israeli residency status. The cabinet decided to take the step following last Thursday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv which killed nine people and wounded dozens. "The decision of the ministers is unworthy, illegal and unconstitutional, and it is your job to make that clear to them and to refrain from giving legal backing to their decision," ACRI attorney Oded Feller wrote Mazuz. He added that while the state was obliged to take action against anyone who harmed national security, the government's power to deny status to a resident on grounds of breach of faith was "very extreme." The state had made this very argument in a petition calling on the state to strip prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, of his citizenship. In that case, the court had accepted the state's argument and ruled that "the criminal law was the proper way to take action against illegal acts and to express revulsion toward them." On the one occasion when the government had decided to strip an Israeli of his status, the attorney-general at the time told the government it could not do so unless the person had been involved in hostile and grave activity against state security and had taken advantage of his Israeli status to do so, wrote Feller. He added that the three members of the Palestine Legislative Council were not suspected of such conduct. Feller also pointed out that it was Israel that had annexed east Jerusalem after the 1967 Six Day War. He wrote that the annexation was not recognized by the international community and that, according to international law, it was forbidden to expel members of the occupied population. Furthermore, the fact that Israeli law had been applied in east Jerusalem meant that the Palestinian residents of that area had been integrated into the Israeli legal system. "Above all," wrote Feller, "this gives them the right of residence... the right to live permanently in their homes and immunity from expulsion." He also wrote that Israel had agreed in the Oslo Accords to allow the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to vote in Palestinian Authority elections. "Membership in the PLC per se, as well as the political positions of the PLC representatives, is not a reason for expelling them from their homes," Feller continued. He also wrote that if the government carried out its intentions, the move would "legitimize the evil and racist trends that have gained a foothold in Israel."