Israel just voted to strip citizenship or residency from Palestinians convicted of ‘terrorism’

Mariam Barghouti

Mondoweiss  /  February 20, 2023

A new Israeli law allows the government to strip citizenship or residency status and deport Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jerusalem residents convicted of widely-defined “acts of terrorism.”

On Wednesday, February 15, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that would allow for the revocation of Israeli citizenship or permanent residency status from those who commit “terrorist acts.” 

The bill builds upon the Entry Into Israel Law 5712-1952 and the Citizenship Law 5712-1952. 

“The Knesset has now passed yet another measure that explicitly and exclusively targets Palestinians,” the legal center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adalah, said in a statement. The organization explained the new measure as part of Israel’s “pursuit of its commitment to establish two separate legal systems based on Jewish supremacy.” 

The new bill not only allows for the revoking of citizenship under the pretext of committing terrorist acts but those that also receive money from the Palestinian Authority (PA) for committing “terrorist acts.” 

In an unprecedented move, the new reading of the bill also allows for the deportation of those whose citizenship is revoked to the PA-controlled West Bank and Gaza. According to legal experts and human rights organizations, this showcases that the bill is designed to specifically and discriminatively target Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and residency status.

Implications for Palestinians

The bill came after a first reading that took place on January 30 of this year. The bill proposes the revocation of Israeli citizenship from those convicted of carrying out a “terrorist act.” 

The bill was approved by a vast majority of Knesset members in its third reading — 94 for the bill, with 10 abstentions

Ahmad Tibi, one of the few Palestinian MKs who opposed the bill, stated that the coalition government “is performing a coup in the regime” by “passing populist draconian laws such as this bill for the revocation of citizenship,” according to a press release on the Knesset website.

The new bill was years in the making and entwined with the context of the crackdown on Jerusalem, where Palestinians do not have citizenship as Jewish residents of the city do, but rather hold “permanent residency status.” 

Laws such as the “center of life” policy used in the 1990s, and the more recent “breach of loyalty” law, have allowed Israeli authorities to revoke the residency status of thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem over the years. 

This escalated in December of last year when the Israeli court not only revoked the residency of French-Palestinian lawyer and human rights defender, Salah Hammouri but also deported him to France. 

This was undertaken under Israel’s “breach of loyalty” law, which demands that an occupied people show loyalty to their occupying power. The law was first applied to Hammouri in 2016 and was later applied to Palestinians with Israeli citizenship in 2017.

Therefore, while the new bill is not new, it allows for the easier revocation of Israeli citizenship or Jerusalem residency status. This should also be seen in the context of a recent Israeli assault on Palestinians with Israeli citizenship ever since 2021, which saw the mass mobilization of those Palestinian communities during the Unity Intifada. In response, Israel’s security apparatus launched “Operation Law and Order,” which resulted in over 2000 arrests and thousands of searches leading to the confiscation of hundreds of firearms among Palestinian communities residing in the Israeli state.

The broader context in Jerusalem

The immediate context of the bill is Israel’s recent escalation of repression of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. The first reading of the bill came just four days after Israeli forces committed what Palestinians described as a massacre in Jenin refugee camp on January 26, which was followed by a shooting in Neve Yacov carried out by a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem, in addition to two more attacks, also carried out by Jerusalemites, in the weeks that followed. This led to Itamar Ben Gvir’s declaration of war on Jerusalem last week.

In the same week of the bill’s passing, Israeli forces had raided and ransacked the homes of former and current Palestinian detainees, confiscating personal possessions, including money and gold. Israeli authorities also pushed for the freezing of personal bank accounts under the pretext of receiving money for committing terrorist acts. 

This included the family home of Ahmad Mansasra. The new bill uses amendments made to Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Law of 2016 to categorize what is a “terrorist act.” 

In 2016, the same law was amended by then Justice Minister Ayalet Shaked, to allow for the imprisonment of children as young as 12 for committing “terrorism acts.” This was the path that facilitated the charging and indictment of Manasra at the age of 13.

In a response to an inquiry made to Israel’s Ministry of Justice, the office of the Deputy Attorney justified the prolonged incarceration of Manasra — who has been kept in solitary confinement for almost two years — by appealing to legal procedure.

“Mr. Manasra was well within the minimum legal age of criminal responsibility,” the letter explained, “which in Israel is set at the age of twelve, in accordance with international norms.”

In a prolonged campaign by mental health networks as well as family and global legal experts to push for Manasra’s early release, the Deputy Attorney explained: 

“According to Article 40A of Counter-Terrorism Law 5776-2016, the offense of attempted murder is classified as an act of terrorism that excludes the possibility of early release. Additionally, early release for medical reasons is restricted to the specific causes stated in the Release from Prison on Parole Law 5761-2001, and mental health issues are not included in the relevant provision.”

Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss