Court deliberates 'family unification'

Four petitions challenge law that bans Palestinians married to Israelis from living within Green Line.

high court 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
high court 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The High Court of Justice held its final deliberations Sunday regarding four petitions challenging key amendments to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law that currently bans Palestinians marrying Israeli citizens from living within the Green Line. The petitions were submitted by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Hamoked - Center for Defense of the Individual, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and by former Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On. The Citizenship Law, which was enacted in 2003, bans what the petitioners term "family unification" between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as with residents of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran, which are defined as enemy states. Attorneys Hassan Jabareen and Sawsan Zaher from the Adalah organization prepared Adalah's petition and argued it Sunday morning before an expanded seven-justice panel of the High Court, led by court President Dorit Beinisch. Beinisch and two of the other seven justices, Ayala Procaccia and Salim Jubran, have ruled in the past against the law. Another three of the judges - Eliezer Rivlin, Asher Gronis, and Miriam Naor - all ruled in the past that the High Court should not rule on its legality. The only undetermined vote on the panel is Edmond Levy, who in the past upheld the law on the basis of the argument that it was a temporary security measure. The Adalah representatives argued that "the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law discriminates on the basis of nationality and on the basis of ethnicity, and that violates the constitutional rights to family life, dignity and equality in a sweeping manner." Last week, Adalah filed three expert opinions with the court. One opinion was written by the Open Society Justice Initiative, and discusses the legal and constitutional status enjoyed by the right to family life and the right to family unification under regional law in Europe, the Americas and Africa. It also examines the right of ethnic and national minorities to maintain familial, social and cultural contacts with other members of their people in other states. Another expert opinion was provided by Dr. Helene Lambert and Prof. Rebecca Wallace, two specialists in family law and migration in the United Kingdom and the European Union. The paper provides a discussion of the status of the right to family life and anti-discrimination regimes in the UK and EU. The final expert opinion was written by attorney Anton Katz, a specialist in constitutional law in South Africa who provides legal representation on numerous seminal cases of restrictions on the right to family life before the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Katz's opinion regards the right to family life using specific cases in South Africa in which he represented the appellants. Adalah argued - through the three expert opinions - that the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law had "no parallel law in any democratic state in the world, and that regional law in the Americas, Africa and the EU, along with the domestic legal systems in a large number of other states worldwide, contain a clear prohibition on discrimination against a person only because of his or her ethnic or national belonging, even in emergency situations." The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law was first passed as a temporary order in 2003, and has since been extended. The law places restrictions on the automatic granting of Israeli citizenship and residency permits to spouses of Israeli citizens. Spouses who are inhabitants of the West Bank are ineligible, and Zaher argued that the law unfairly targets Arab Israelis. Before the law was added, the number of Palestinians who were added to Israeli population registers was unclear - Professor Sergio DellaPergola of the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at Jerusalem's Hebrew University said Sunday that while the Central Bureau of Statistics suggested that the number was around 20,000, data from the Population Authority indicated that the number was over 100,000. In 2003, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned to have the law struck down, but a 6-5 High Court decision upheld the law.