The State Cannot Legislate on Matters of Love

Anonyme, Thursday, July 8, 2004 - 05:30

Am Johal

In a few weeks, Israel may reintroduce legislation denying the right of residents of the West Bank or Gaza Strip from becoming Israeli citizens through marriage.

Recently Israeli President Moshe Katsav publicly stated that human rights are basic rights and cannot be based on obligations set by the state – in other words, these rights are inherent to being human and cannot be taken away or limited by the state. In Israel where the desire for the security of the state and its citizens is used as a pretext to limit the advancement of human and civil rights both in Israel and the Occupied Territories, this is enlightened thinking coming from the head of state.

The Citizenship and Family Unification Law is a perfect example. No matter where people live in the world, they take their right to marry for granted. It certainly isn’t something to be negotiated with the state.

But the government legislation is causing severe hardship in the lives of people attempting to marry, have children and spend time together by denying citizenship rights to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza married to Israeli citizens.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, European and North American countries discriminated against the Jewish community and other minority populations and often denied them citizenship on this basis. France became the first country to extend citizenship rights to Jews in 1791.

In a few weeks, the Government of Israel will decide whether to renew the legislation which was passed last year as a temporary law. While under international law Israel is allowed to give preferential treatment to a specific population in cases of citizenship such as the Law of Return, it does not have the right to discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians specifically.

The right to love, to live together and have a family life is a human right. To have this right undermined through government legislation is short-sighted and caters to the extreme right wing in Israeli society.

Not only is citizenship being denied, but also access to health coverage, national insurance and child allowances to existing citizens.

The children of these couples are also being denied Israeli citizenship. Under the new legislation they have to leave Israel at the age of 12.

To carry out a relationship, to spend time with your children and to have a social life in the world of military checkpoints, identification cards and harassment by government authorities is a world of torment and pain.

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, FIDH and the Anti-Defamation League have not been alone in criticizing the law. The United Nations, the European Union and the United States State Department have all expressed grave human rights concerns with the legislation. The Democrats and the Republicans in an election year and fully supportive of Israeli policy will probably choose to stay away from this debate.

The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, descent and national or ethnic origin.

In response to a question asked by Member of Parliament Daniel Cohn-Bendit to the European Parliament, the European Commission said in a statement that, “In the Commission’s view, this order raises issues of concern in relation to potential discrimination in the highly sensitive area of family rights.

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