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Israel's family separation law

Netanyahu reveals one of the motivations behind the ‘Jewish Nation-State Law’: to stop Palestinians from ‘exploiting’ family unification procedures to join their families in Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the separation wall near Tarqumiya in the West Bank, July 20, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the separation wall near Tarqumiya in the West Bank, July 20, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Many people have been asking what harm Israel’s “Jewish Nation-State Law” actually causes — what rights it infringes on, and how it changes the current situation in Israel, in which Jews are already a privileged class. I myself, wrote just last week that the law’s power lies more in its declarations than its legal ramifications.

I stand corrected.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained on Sunday exactly how the law harms an untold number of non-Jewish Israeli citizens, specifically, Palestinian citizens of Israel who are married to or who are immediate relatives of Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said:

The Nation-State Law, first of all, entrenches the Law of Return. It raises it to another level and this law, of course, grants an automatic right to Jews, and only to them, to come here and receive citizenship. The Nation-State Law, for example, prevents the exploitation of the family reunification clause under which very, very many Palestinians have been absorbed into the country since the Oslo agreement, and this law helps prevent the continued uncontrolled entry into Israel of Palestinians. It could be that this law will also be able to assist us in blocking the future entry of labor migrants.

In other words, one of Netanyahu’s primary motivations in passing the Jewish Nation-State Law was to prevent Palestinian families from living together.

Family reunification is a procedure by which Israeli citizens can obtain residency and eventually citizenship for their immediate family who are not citizens.

For Jews, the procedure is moot because Jews can already obtain citizenship under the so-called Law of Return. For non-Jewish, non-Palestinian family members of Israeli citizens, family unification can be an arduous process but not all that unlike similar procedures in many other countries.

If your spouse is Palestinian, however, a demographic almost exclusively comprised of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, you are barred from bringing your family member into Israel and obtaining status for them as if they were Russian, Danish, Nigerian, Mexican, American, Egyptian, or virtually any other nationality.

That ban was first put in place 15 years ago and justified as a security measure. Technically, it is an “emergency regulation,” a category of laws that are only valid as long as Israel is in a “state of emergency,” which it has been for the past 70 years. If the state had argued honestly that the point of halting family unification for Palestinians is borne of demographic and not security concerns, the High Court would have struck it down as unconstitutional.

What Netanyahu said on Sunday is that now, with the Jewish Nation-State Law on the books, he and his government can finally be honest about their intentions. Israel does not want more Palestinian citizens — not due to any security concerns but simply because it doesn’t want more Palestinians living in Israel. With a constitutional amendment declaring Israel to be the Jewish state, where only Jews have a right to national self-determination, discriminatory laws with exclusively demographic aims are legitimate. Preventing Palestinian families from living together has become a legitimate legislative objective.



In the name of maintaining Israel as a “Jewish and democratic” state, Netanyahu — like Rabin, Barak, Livni, and virtually all of his predecessors — has concluded that demography is one of the most fundamental elements of Israeli national security.

Take a minute and think about what that means. It means that there is such a thing as a demographic threat. It means that someone’s child, solely by virtue of being born, is a national security threat. It means that who you marry and your right to live with them in your home is a grave national security concern. It means that Palestinian families, simply by virtue of being Palestinian families, are a threat to the future of the Jewish state. It means that one group of Israeli citizens is entitled to the right to family, and another group, one in five Israeli citizens, is not.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      “Palestinian citizens of Israel who are married to or who are immediate relatives of Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza.”

      Israel does NOT have any “fakestinyan” citizens. It only has Israeli citizens, who are mostly Jewish, Christian, Moslem or Druze. “Fakestinyanism” represents a crime against hunanity by taking an Israeli citizen and transmuting him / her into a fake nation that never existed in history.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Even if your jabbering craziness were true it wouldn’t make any difference in the context at hand. It’s still blatant race-based discrimination.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          More confused, distorted pseudo-analysis from Ben.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Your comment represents a crime of inanity by taking my coherent diagnosis and transmuting it into an inane assertion that never existed in history.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Jackal

      To Gregg Pollack:
      There are always loopholes to any law and it would seem to me that this is one that could certainly be challenged, again depending on the judgement of the High Court.
      If a Jew wanted to bring in a spouse who is a non-Jew, than all the spouse would have to do is to convert. I would think (but I’m not familiar with Jewish law) that conversion is just a matter of signing a piece of paper, not necessarily somthing that would be taken to heart. Palestinians need to learn to relax their religious requirements in this case as well.
      Property, of course is an entirely different matter, but from what I read, it is no longer a controversy amoung Jews. To them, Palestinians don’t have any rights.
      The other point you brought up was on the lack of an Israeli constitution. I would wager that most people don’t know that Israel has no constitution, that if it did, most of the laws they pass favouring Israelis would be totally illegal and could more easily be challenged in international courts.

      Reply to Comment
    3. anon 1

      Israel is an apartheid state. Bibi the Terrible is bringing on WW3. Just another crook like Trump….they will be in hell together.

      Reply to Comment
      • Cecilia Halllinan

        I liked reading the About segment of what +972 is about. I find it very difficult to understand how Israeli Zionism that promotes the hatred of Palestine and Palestinians, that has ‘ghettoized’ Palestinians in their own land become the dominant ‘spokesperson’ for Israel?? Zionism is a right wing party. The Israeli prime minister is their chief. Like the president of the US, they share the same characteristics of hatred and extremism. Not all Americans support the madman in the White House yet he is THE NEWS. Same for the extreme Zionist party and BN. Let’s support the truth and identify these parties by their proper names. Zionist is a terror organization, just as is the DC Republican Party in the U.S. They are the dominant parties but they should not be given the status of being spokespeople for all Israeli’s or all Americans.

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