Israel renews racist marriage law

Israel’s version of apartheid can be more subtle than South Africa’s, but the goal is fundamentally the same - ethno-racial gerrymandering, segregation and domination (Picture-Alliance - DPA)

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /  June 3, 2020

Israel this week renewed one of the most overtly racist of the dozens of laws on its books that discriminate against Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The “Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law” prohibits Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians from the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip, or nationals from several other regional states, from living with their spouse in Israel.

“The law affects tens of thousands of Palestinian families on both sides of the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank, preventing Palestinians from legally moving into Israel to join their spouses,” according to Adalah, an advocacy group that has mounted unsuccessful court challenges to the law.

Originally passed as an emergency measure in 2003, the provision has been renewed annually ever since.

The law is part of Israel’s efforts to prevent the growth of the Palestinian population, a fundamentally racist measure justified by Israeli leaders as necessary to maintain a Jewish majority.

Zvi Hauser, the head of the foreign affairs and defense committee of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, said the renewal was justified by Israel’s recently passed Nation-State of the Jewish People law, which legal advocates say violates international prohibitions on apartheid.

In intent and effect the Israeli citizenship law is no different to the laws that used to exist in apartheid South Africa to prevent miscegenation, the “interbreeding” of people of different races, and to control where Black people could live – laws such as the Group Areas Act and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act.

While the Israeli law does not ban marriages outright, it does effectively prevent Israeli citizens and Palestinians from exercising their right to family life.

It aims to achieve precisely the same goal, albeit by slightly more subtle means than used by the white supremacists in South Africa, as I explain in my 2014 book The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

Racial gerrymandering

Israel initially justified the marriage law on the grounds of “security,” an excuse dismissed by Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch said in 2012 that the “sweeping ban” without “any individual assessments of whether the person in question could threaten security, is unjustified” and “imposes severely disproportionate harm on the right of Palestinians and Israeli citizens to live with their families.”

The discrimination in the law could be measured “by its effects on Palestinian citizens of Israel as opposed to Jewish citizens,” it added.

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister at the time, admitted the true purpose of the law in 2005.

“There is no need to hide behind security arguments,” Sharon said. “There is a need for the existence of a Jewish state.”

“National suicide”

The racist demographic purpose of the law was reaffirmed in 2012 when the Israeli high court threw out Adalah’s challenge.

“Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide,” wrote Judge Asher Grunis for the 6-5 majority.

Effectively endorsing racial gerrymandering, the court’s ruling added that “the right to a family life does not necessarily have to be realized within the borders of Israel.”

Note the stark similarity of the terms used by Israel’s highest court to the words of South Africa’s apartheid Prime Minister Daniel Malan, who said in 1953 that “equality… must inevitably mean to white South Africa nothing less than national suicide.”

Palestinians affected have campaigned to raise awareness of the racist law by talking about the challenge it poses to “Love in the Time of Apartheid.”

Al Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books