Israel renews laws that discriminate against Palestinians

Israel’s parliament has updated a provisional law that has been in effect since 2003 that prohibits the automatic granting of citizenship or permanent residency to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who marry Israelis.

Israel says the law, which was first enacted during the Palestinian uprising, is necessary for security. Critics view it as a racist act to maintain the country’s Jewish majority.

The law is aimed at Palestinians and does not apply to Jewish settlers in the West Bank given that they already have Israeli citizenship.

Israel’s parliament, or Knesset, failed to pass the law last summer because it lacked support from members of the Arab and left-leaning governing coalition. The opposition party, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, actually supported the law but refused to give approval to embarrass the government.

However, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a staunch nationalist, insisted on campaigning for reform of the law. He and a number of other officials have even acknowledged that the law is partly aimed at preserving Israel’s Jewish majority.

The law was passed late Thursday with help from opposition parties but without the support of the left-leaning Meretz Party and the United Arab Lisr, an Arab party that made history by joining the governing coalition last year.

On Twitter, Shaked declared that passing the law was a victory for a “Jewish and democratic state” and a defeat for a “state for all citizens”. This last phrase is often used by Israel’s Arab minority to refer to their aspirations for equality.

Ayman Odeh, an Arab lawmaker, reposted Shaked’s statement, calling it a victory for the “apartheid state”.

The law primarily affects the Arab minority, who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population of 9.5 million and have close family ties to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. They have citizenship, including the right to vote, and have gained acceptance and influence in a number of fields, but still face widespread discrimination. [ab/ka]