Israel extends law to strip 'terror' convicts of citizenship

Law will also tackle payments from Palestinian Authority to families of prisoners or detainees

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. AFP
Powered by automated translation

The Israeli parliament expanded legislation on Wednesday that will introduce a policy of stripping citizenship over “terrorism” offences, aimed at those who receive funds from the Palestinian Authority.

The bill received 94 votes in favour and 10 against in the Knesset and paves the way for Israel to expel people from the country or annexed East Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed it on Twitter as “our answer to terrorism”, while a rights group said the move was “in violation of international law”.

A statement from parliament said politicians had approved “the revocation of citizenship or residency of a terrorist operative who receives compensation [from the Palestinian Authority] for committing an act of terrorism”.

The Palestinian Authority gives stipends to numerous families of prisoners, or detainees themselves, including those convicted of killing Israelis.

Israel says making payments to the families of attackers encourages further violence, but for some Palestinians, such payments are a key source of income.

The Palestinian family who live in a cemetery — in pictures

Adalah, an organisation that advocates Palestinians' rights in Israel, said the law “not only creates an additional avenue for the revocation of the citizenship of residency of Palestinians … under the Israeli regime, but also facilitates their expulsion”.

“The law explicitly and exclusively targets Palestinians as part of Israel's entrenchment of two separate legal systems based on Jewish supremacy,” the group charged in a statement.

The law may affect hundreds of East Jerusalem Palestinians and dozens of Israeli citizens, according to Dani Shenhar, head of the legal department at Israeli rights group HaMoked.

“The threshold is very low, so we're very worried about it, especially the effect on East Jerusalem,” he told AFP when the bill was tabled last month.

The text approved by politicians lays out a judicial procedure for denying legal status following a request by the interior minister.

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem hold Israeli residency permits rather than citizenship.

Palestinians recycling plastic for fuel — in pictures

The new legislation allows deportation “to the territories of the Palestinian Authority [in the occupied West Bank] or the Gaza Strip”.

Gaza, controlled by Hamas, has been under an Israeli-led blockade since 2007.

Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 war.

Ahmad Tibi, an Arab opposition lawmaker, denounced the law as discriminatory.

“When an Arab commits a crime, they are a conditional citizen, whereas when a Jew commits even a more serious crime, revoking their citizenship is unheard of,” he said during Wednesday's debate in parliament.

Politicians on Wednesday also approved in a preliminary vote a bill to allow the deportation of family members of those convicted of “terrorism”, in cases in which they are found to have supported the crime or known about it and failed to report it to the authorities.

Israel has previously stripped residency and citizenship, including that of French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri, who was deported in December.

Palestinian-Israeli clashes — in pictures

The Jerusalem resident had been arrested and jailed on several occasions by Israel, which revoked his residency permit citing ties the outlawed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

In 2017, an Israeli court revoked an Arab citizen's nationality over an attack against Israelis.

That was the first time an amendment passed in 2008 had been used to revoke citizenship.

Also in 2017, Israel announced it was stripping 20 people of citizenship after they allegedly joined ISIS.

Human Rights Watch said Israel has stripped 15,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians of their right to residency since 1967, warning the practice may constitute a “war crime”.

Updated: February 15, 2023, 11:18 PM