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Ha’aretz: “Supreme Disgrace”

A Haaretz Editorial

The bottom line is the decisive one in yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on family reunification. In light of such serious damage to the equal rights of Arab citizens of Israel, it does not matter at all what the ruling says or how instructive the position of the minority justices, led by Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, was. It also does not matter that the decision to rob Israel’s Arab citizens of the right to marry the person they choose and live with that person in Israel was made by a 6-5 majority.

There is no country in the Western world that does not limit immigration and set priorities in accordance with its needs at a given time. Immigration laws make it difficult for foreign partners of citizens to receive citizenship, and they combat fictitious marriages. But not one single Western country discriminates against some of its citizens by passing laws that apply only to them, and that impose limits only on their choice of a partner with whom they can live in their homeland.

It is difficult to accept the argument that the amendment to the Citizenship Law, which won the Supreme Court’s approbation yesterday, comes in response to a genuine security need. It is easier to accept the skeptical position of Justice Ayala Procaccia, who wrote that in light of the facts before her, she doubted whether the security explanation is the only one behind the law. The facts presented by the security establishment do not explain the law, since out of the tens of thousands who have become Israeli citizens since 1967 in the framework of family unification, only 26 have been questioned on suspicion of abetting terrorism. Since 1993, 16,000 requests for family unification have been submitted. This number also does not justify the demographic frenzy at which the justice hinted. The relatively small number of people suspected of abetting terrorism does not justify the blow the Knesset dealt to family unification in general, nor does it justify the injustice done in particular to hundreds of married couples who were barred from living in Israel because the law applied retroactively to couples whose cases were pending.

The justices did agree that the law infringes on the equality and human rights of Arab citizens of Israel, but they decided that this was trumped by the risk of terror. It is tough to be impressed by the security rationale when recalling the approximately quarter of a million Arabs from East Jerusalem who were annexed against their will, and who have given rise to more terrorists and terror accomplices than did all those who entered Israel as a result of marriage.

In the minority opinion, Barak wrote things that the Knesset and the majority justices chose to forget: “Democracy does not impose a sweeping ban, thereby cutting off its citizens from their partners and not allowing them to live a family life … It does not give its citizens the option of living in it without their partners or leaving the country … Democracy cedes a certain amount of security in order to obtain an immeasurably greater amount of family life and equality.”

The fear is that the position expressed by the Supreme Court president will fade and disappear once the Knesset turns the Citizenship Law into a Basic Law, aided by a tailwind from the Supreme Court in one of its most shameful hours.