Expatriation bill sparks calls of racism

Meretz MK: Citizenship not a license that expires due to bad behavior.

Amir Makhoul 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of the Ittijah website)
Amir Makhoul 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Ittijah website)
Tempers flared at the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee on Monday as Israel Beiteinu MKs clashed with Arab MKs over a bill that proposes to expatriate Israelis indicted of acts of terror and spying against the state.
The bill, put forward by Israel Beiteinu MKs David Rotem and Robert Ilatov and supported by the government, proposes that people whom the courts find guilty of treason or espionage offenses, under Israeli penal law, have their citizenship revoked as further punishment for their crimes.
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“The state is a body in which people partner in shared destiny. Citizenship is the certificate that allows people to participate in the body. There are, however, some people who are part of the body and who attempt to harm it,” said Rotem.
“How can we allow it? This bill proposes that the interior minister will have the authority to revoke the citizenship of such people.”
However, Arab MKs who attended the meeting began protesting the bill as soon as it was read out.
“This is a racist law proposed by a racist political party. This law is strictly against us and is selective in its use,” said Hadash MK Afo Agbaria.
“The only thing that is ‘selective’ is the loyalty of some of Israel’s citizens. Unfortunately, up until now, only Arabs were traitors,” said Likud MK Carmel Shama.
Rotem defended the bill, stating that the word “Arab” was not mentioned anywhere in the proposal and that it applied to any citizen, no matter to which population they belonged.
“This law was cooked up in Israel Beiteinu’s kitchen, a party that is pulling this government toward extremism,” declared Agbaria. “You know that the bill is directed toward a particular population, and since it is a weak population, you should have no problem setting people up. What you are doing is an act of incitement.”
In response to Agbaria’s statement, Rotem said there was no need to set anyone up and – referring to former Balad chairman Azmi Bishara, who was indicted on treason and espionage charges in 2007 for assisting Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War – quipped that the Arab parties would rather vote for someone found guilty of treason as an MK, than revoke their citizenship.
“I regret that MK Agbaria is pulling the debate toward racism and, by so doing, is tainting an entire population. Our bill has no intention of defining who is a terrorist. The people who will do that are the security forces and the judges,” said Ilatov.
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz said he saw the bill as a means of expressing aversion to an individual’s actions against the state, but that the aversion was sufficiently expressed by harsh penalties already existing in the penal code.
“Citizenship is not a license that expires due to unacceptable behavior. It is the most fundamental thing one can possess,” said Horowitz.
“There are states that deny individuals certain basic rights because of acts of sedition, like the United States, where in some cases people’s right to vote is revoked, yet their citizenship is not taken away,” he continued.
“There is a clear message here against the Arab population. The message is that their citizenship is conditional,” said Horowitz.
“This is a bizarre bill that has no place in a self-respecting society,” said UAL-Ta’al MK Taleb a-Sanaa. “Any offense can be construed as an act that endangers the country or its citizens.”
The expatriation bill has already passed its first reading and is awaiting evaluation by the Justice Ministry before going back to the Knesset plenum for second and third readings.