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Jewish, Arab MKs Slam Order to Deny Citizenship to Children of Israeli-Palestinian Couples

By Dan Izenberg

This article originally appeared in and is reprinted with permission of the Jerusalem Post . Visit www.jpost.com .

May 27, 2003--Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ordered the Justice Ministry to prepare legislation denying the children of parents, one of whom is Israeli and the other Palestinian, automatic Israeli citizenship.

The disclosure was included in a letter from Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon protesting new citizenship policies announced recently by Interior Minister Avraham Poraz. The full contents of Rubinstein's letter to Sharon were published on Tuesday by Yediot Ahronot's Internet site, Y-net, and its veracity confirmed by the Justice Ministry spokesman.

In the letter, Rubinstein wrote: "I should point out that [Poraz's] policy [of granting citizenship or permanent status to the children of illegal foreign workers who have lived in Israel for many years] contradicts the instructions you gave the Justice Ministry recently to amend the law so as to deny automatic citizenship to the child of an Israeli whose other parent is a Palestinian resident."

Rubinstein warned Sharon that it would be hard to defend in court the law that Sharon wants passed, when at the same time the state is granting official status to children whose parents are illegal foreign workers and neither of whom is an Israeli citizen.

"The prime minister has no business carrying out our conflict with the Palestinians on the backs of children," MK Ilan Leibovitch (Shinui) said. Labor MK Yuli Tamir said this "bizarre" bill, which clearly views Arab-Israelis as second-class citizens, is an affront to the basic concept of human rights. "It's strange that this order was given now, when Sharon purports to be opening a clean slate with the Palestinians."

"I am married to a Palestinian woman from Tulkarm," MK Ahmed Tibi (Arab Movement for Change) told the Knesset Tuesday, "will my two girls' citizenship be revoked?" Tibi said the proposed bill would constitute nothing less that a wedge between parents and children in one family, "based on purely racist grounds."

"If this bill is passed," MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) said, "Israel will be the only state in the world after the demise of South African apartheid that would employ such racist discrimination." MK Muhamed Barakeh (Hadash) said "the whole idea is derived from racial theories." He called on Sharon and Poraz to the bill, which "puts Israeli democracy to shame."

"The whole thing has nothing to do with security but with the deeper issue of demographics," Deputy Security Minister Ze'ev Boim (Likud) told Ynet.

Asked about the letter, the Justice Ministry spokesman replied: "The security establishment asked the Justice Ministry to examine the possibility of denying automatic citizenship in cases where one of the parents is not Israeli. This is in response to a request from security sources following the involvement in terrorist activities of Israeli citizens who are the children of a resident of the Palestinian Authority and an Israeli citizen (as in the case of the bombing of the Mazza restaurant in Haifa last year)."

"Rubinstein sent the letter to Sharon last week. He asked the Prime Minister to override Poraz and determine the government's policy regarding all of the citizenship issues that the Interior Minister had raised in recent weeks. These issues include refusing to grant automatic citizenship according to the Law of Return to anyone who converts while living in Israel, whether the conversion takes place in an Orthodox, Conservative or Reform ceremony. Poraz has also indicated that he wants to grant official status to the children of illegal immigrants who have grown up in Israel, and to stop deporting a foreign worker who has married an Israeli, had children here and then been divorced.

Rubinstein said he opposed all the changes Poraz wanted to initiate and called on Sharon to block the Interior Minister.

The Association for Civil Rights wrote Rubinstein on Tuesday, protesting his appeal to Sharon.

Acri charged that Rubinstein was "injecting his personal point of view regarding the granting of citizenship to non-Jews and converts and in doing so, deviating from his prerogatives as Attorney-General. From his letter to Sharon, it is clear that the Attorney General is mixing in unacceptable considerations of blood and race and that he is making wrongful distinctions between people of one nationality and another.

This is particularly true when the Attorney General relies for his arguments [regarding citizenship for the children of illegal foreign workers] on an illegal and discriminatory demand emanating from the Prime Minister's Office to consider changing the Citizenship Law so as to deny Israeli citizenship from children with one Israeli and one Palestinian parent."

Dan Izenberg writes for the Jerusalem Post.

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