The Jerusalem Post (Editorial)
January 12, 2012 - 1:00am

Critics were quick to attack the High Court of Justice’s decision Wednesday to uphold the Citizenship and Entry Law, which severely restricts the right of Palestinians married to Israelis to receive Israeli citizenship.

Before rushing to accuse our highest court of discrimination, racism or worse, it would be instructive to recall how the Citizenship and Entry Law came about in the first place.

Prohibitions on “family reunification” were first introduced by the Interior Ministry on April 1, 2002, following the suicide bombing at the Matza restaurant in Haifa’s Neveh Sha’anan neighborhood in which 16 Israelis were killed and more than 40 were wounded. The driver of the car bomb was a Hamas terrorist who had married an Israeli and carried a blue Israeli identity card.

Since the Oslo era, about 130,000 Palestinians have exercised their right to acquire Israeli residency or citizenship through family reunification, according to figures quoted by the Metzilah Center in a 2009 study titled “Managing Global Migration: A Strategy for Immigration Policy in Israel.”

Between 2001 and 2010 there were 54 cases in which Palestinians who received Israeli citizenship via marriage (or whose parents did) were involved in terror activities, according to data provided to the High Court by the state.

While the vast majority of Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs are not terrorists, it is eminently reasonable to assume that members of a people with which Israel is in a state of conflict, if not war, present a high risk. And the State of Israel has not only the right but the obligation to protect its citizens.

Even in times of peace, Western jurisprudence strongly supports the right of lawmakers to decide, without judicial interference, who can and cannot enter the country and who can be deported, as Prof. Liav Orgad noted in a 2008 article titled “Love and War: Family Migration In Time of National Emergency.”

In Fiallo v. Bell, for instance, the US Supreme Court supported Congress’s right to deny citizenship to the father of an illegitimate child with US citizenship while recognizing it for the mother, under the assumption that the mother’s ties are stronger. New Zealand bans migration of citizens’ foreign spouses if they fail a body mass index test, under the assumption that obese immigrants burden the healthcare services. The Netherlands bans family migration of people who do not speak Dutch or who do not accept Dutch culture. In Denmark, marriage-sponsored migration is possible only if both spouses are above the age of 24, out of concern over forced marriages. Many Western countries simply do not recognize their citizens’ right to establish a family with anyone they choose.

In times of war this is all the more true. The 9/11 Commission, noting that “for terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons,” found that the US government’s lax immigration policies hurt national security. All 19 9/11 hijackers were lawfully admitted into the US on nonimmigrant visas. Eighteen other terrorists who operated between the early 1990s and 2004 were granted permanent status due to their marriages to American citizens.

Israel, surrounded as it is by enemies, must be even more vigilant regarding immigration policies.

And this is especially true considering the fact that Israel was created to be the national home of the Jewish people, a tiny minority in a region dominated by Muslim states. Israel is already struggling to integrate Arab Israelis who make up 20 percent of the population, many of whom do not identify with Israel’s main goals as a Jewish and democratic state. Israel also faces the challenge presented by a growing number of foreign workers – legal and illegal – who number about 250,000, and the steady stream of migrants and refugees from Sudan and Eritrea who continue to make their way into Israel via Sinai at a rate of as much as 2,000 a month.

Under the circumstances, the State of Israel cannot allow itself to take the risk of absorbing a potentially dangerous population that in the best case is indifferent to the aims of Zionism and in many instances is downright hostile to them. Instead of being attacked for racial discrimination or worse, the High Court should be praised for making a tough but necessary decision that strikes the proper balance between recognition of personal liberty and maintaining the integrity and security of the world’s only Jewish state.


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