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Israeli law broadens criteria for stripping Palestinians of citizenship

A separate bill, approved in a preliminary reading on the same day, could see family members of convicted Palestinians undergo the same treatment.

Jerusalem24 – Nadeen Alshaer – The Israeli Knesset approved on 15 February a law that widens the policy of stripping Palestinians with Israeli citizenship or Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem of their citizenship or residency.

The bill allows for the stripping of citizenship of Palestinian citizens of Israel if they have been convicted by Israel of a “security” offense and have received a monetary allocation from the Palestinian Authority during or after their incarceration.

The bill, which passed with 94 votes in favor and 10 against in the Knesset, also paves the way for Israel to deport people from the country, with the law stating that those stripped of their citizenship will be deported to either the occupied West Bank or Gaza after their sentence ends.

The law that applies to Palestinians only

“This law joins other laws that were already in place allowing the revocation of status from Palestinians, it puts the legal status of Palestinians under more threat,” Salma Irsheid, attorney with Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority rights in Israel, tells Jerusalem24.

She explains that offenses as defined under the counter-terrorism act are “very ambiguous and broad”. 

The law can furthermore be implemented irrespective of the length of the sentence.

“So the gravity of the offense isn’t a standard for implementation, the implementation of the law can affect many Palestinians,” Irsheid explains. “In addition, the counter-terrorism act also includes breach [of loyalty] offenses. So, all of these together makes us fear that the new law will also impact freedom of speech, and the ability for Palestinians to have any ability to express themselves.”

And in specifically targeting security offense detainees who have received compensation from the Palestinian Authority, the law “affects Palestinians only”, says Irsheid. “So it broadens the Israeli practices and laws that differentiate between people on the basis ‘Palestinians vs Jews’.”

An arsenal of legal avenues

Irsheid stresses that the bill is only the latest in an arsenal of legal avenues to expel Palestinians from their homeland for a wide variety of reasons, such as “breach of loyalty to the State of Israel” – which was recently invoked to deport French-Palestinian lawyer and human rights defender Salah Hammouri to France.

“This law doesn’t replace the other legal avenues for the revocation of status, it only widens the racist practice and laws already in place,” Irsheid says. “But this law also especially targets people who receive monetary benefits from the PA.”

The novelty of this particular bill, says Irsheid, is that it specifically allows the Israeli government to leave people stateless, by deporting them to the West Bank or Gaza even if they don’t hold a Palestinian ID and Palestinian authorities refuse to grant them status – something the Israeli Supreme Court had previously objected to, as it is in breach of international law, before ruling in July 2022 that the practice was in fact constitutional in cases of “breach of loyalty”.

Are family members next?

Another bill which is cause for concern was approved in a preliminary vote the same day, which would allow for the deportation of family members of Palestinian “security” detainees if they are found to have “supported” the crime their family member was convicted of.

Although the bill hasn’t yet passed the first of several readings necessary to become law, Irsheid says it must be monitored closely.

“It implements collective punishment on Palestinians,” she says, “and attempts to take away their most fundamental rights of status, and the ability to have and maintain family relations.”

The bill is also “intentionally vague”, she cautions, and gives “complete discretion” to Israel’s interior minister in terms of when to apply it.

“We’ll have to wait and see how this bill will be applied – but that depends on how the bill is written, and how the members of the Knesset talked about it in the legislation process. However, it seems like they will attempt to use it widely.”

Listen to the full interview on Wake Up Palestine.

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