Fear of deportation ties non-Jewish women to abusive spouses

"Basically, an Israeli husband can abuse his non-Israeli wife as much as he wants."

domestic abuse 88 (photo credit: )
domestic abuse 88
(photo credit: )
Professionals working with battered women say laws making it difficult to protect the right to citizenship have given rise to a new type of abuse that they are calling "Jewish violence." "Basically, an Israeli husband can abuse his non-Israeli wife as much as he wants, and if she says she is leaving he can then threaten her with deportation," Shoham Carmi, director of the Israel Hotline for Battered Women, told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. "Experts and professionals in the field are calling it "Jewish violence" and say it is a new type of violence against women," Carmi said. A non-Jewish woman married to an Israeli man automatically loses her citizenship if she chooses to separate from her spouse. This means many women are forced to stay quiet even if they are subject to severe mental and physical abuse. Carmi said the hotline, which is run jointly by WIZO and the Ministry of Social Affairs and deals daily with women and children in danger, has seen a growing number of such cases in last few years. "We get calls mainly from Romanian or Bulgarian women," said Carmi. She also recalled the case of a woman from the Philippines who was being abused by her Arab husband and was in need of shelter. Any woman in danger from physical abuse, be she Jew, Arab or something else, can call the hotline and get treatment for their problem, said Carmi. "We provide services to every woman who needs it." "However," she continued, "we don't make promises that we can't keep and we warn the women that their situation might get even more difficult at some point." Nurit Kaufmann, director of Violence Against Women at WIZO, said, "We provide as much help as possible, we refer them to different organizations that can help, but at some point if the woman is not Jewish then everything changes." Yoav Loeff, spokesman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said the organization was in the middle of a court battle to enable foreigners who were married to Israelis and have children here to stay in the country. "If a foreigner wants Israeli citizenship, then they must apply via the Interior Ministry, a process that can take up to four and a half years to complete," he said. "In the meantime, a couple can get divorced or separated, and then there is the issue of the children, which can make it very difficult. Even if a couple that has separated they might still want to raise their child together. If one member of the couple is forced to leave the country, then what?" he asked. A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said there were procedures for obtaining permanent residency or citizenship and that every case was judged individually. "If an individual has been here three or four years we will not automatically deport them," she said. "But if it is a question of a few months then that is a different story." Cases involving spousal abuse are not decided automatically, she said, adding that sometimes the matter was referred to a special committee to assess the humanitarian aspects of the situation. "There is a committee that meets to assess a person's status," said Loeff. "However, no one at the Interior Ministry volunteers this information to the individuals in question. All we are asking for is the implementation of a standard procedure so that foreign nationals can apply for citizenship in an organized manner," he said.