NGOs, Arab officials slam Israel citizenship ruling

AFP , Thursday 12 Jan 2012

Israeli court ruling to uphold controversial citizenship law provokes accusations of racism and injustice by rights groups and Arab-Israeli official

Rights groups and parliamentarians on Thursday slammed a court ruling upholding a law that prevents Palestinians married to Arab Israelis from obtaining Israeli citizenship.

"It is a dark day for the protection of human rights and for the Israeli High Court," attorneys Dan Yakir and Oded Feller from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said in a statement.

ACRI was one of three rights groups that had appealed to the High Court over a law preventing the Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens from obtaining citizenship.

The petitioners said the law violated the right of Palestinians married to Arab-Israelis to a family life, but in a late-night ruling, the High Court said human rights could not override security concerns.

Six judges backed the controversial law, while five were opposed.

"Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide," wrote justice Asher Grunis, who is poised to become the next president of Israel's supreme court.

Yakir and Feller accused the court stamping "its approval on a racist law, one that will harm the very texture of the lives of families whose only sin is the Palestinian blood that runs in their veins."

In July 2003, the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, adopted a law limiting the right of non-nationals to residence in the Jewish state, blocking citizenship for Palestinians married to Arab Israelis.

Initially applicable for one year, the law was extended for security reasons but has been challenged by rights groups on more than one occasion.

Arab-Israeli MP Jamal Zahalka, of the Balad party, said the court "had failed the test of justice."

"This decision will encourage the racist groups in the Knesset to enact more anti-Arab, anti-democratic and anti-human rights laws," he warned.

"The court's ruling pours oil on the fire of racism burning in the Knesset and removes any fear that the High Court will repeal laws on grounds of unconstitutionality," he added.

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