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Israel: The impact of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision), 5763-2003 on Palestinian women without status in Israel

A call for the immediate abolition of the law

Tuesday 15 March 2022, by siawi3

Source: Haifa Feminist Center, via Women In Black nework, March 15, 2022

Last week the Israeli Parliament reinstated a law that prohibits any Palestinian from the occupied territories who married an Israeli citizen, from having any civil rights while living in Israel on a military permit.
The final vote in the Knesset took part last week when we were all worried about that is happening in the Ukraine and flabbergasted by the refusal of Israel to accept any refugees unless they are Jewish. Both issues are deeply rooted in Israel’s racist ideology.
We at Isha L’Isha, the Haifa Feminist Center continue to support women with no status in Israel and to oppose Israel’s refusal to accept Ukrainians refugees.
It is important that people will know more about what is actually going on in Israel.

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The impact of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision),
5763-2003 on Palestinian women without status in Israel – A call for the
immediate abolition of the law

June 2021

We, the undersigned organizations, professionals, and activists, hereby call for the immediate abolition of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision), 5763-2003 (hereinafter “the temporary provision” or “the citizenship law”), because it is racist and non-proportional towards Palestinian women who do not have permanent status in Israel, and causes havoc in their lives. This law preserves a government policy that is abusive towards the Palestinian people. In this position paper, we will describe the harsh implications of this law on Palestinian women from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who reside in Israel because of marriage with an Israeli citizen or due to humanitarian circumstances.

The citizenship Law was passed as a temporary provision that has been renewed regularly for the past 18 years. The law prevents Palestinian men and women from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from receiving permanent status in Israel, including when married to an Israeli citizen or resident. The temporary
provision was ostensibly passed to mitigate security threats, but is effectively used to prevent Palestinian migration into Israel in order to maintain the Jewish majority.

Palestinian men and women who marry Israeli citizens are not eligible for residency permits or citizenship in Israel. However, after passing difficult and non-proportional inspection, they do become eligible for a military permit of stay called a DCO permit that does not include social benefits. The inspections carried out before issuing this permit include security checks. Any potential security issues found will prevent the Ministry of Interior from issuing a DCO permit. Therefore, the security basis for the law is irrelevant and constitutes collective punishment in clear violation of one of the fundamental principles of international law that prohibits all forms of collective punishment.

The citizenship law has especially harsh implications on Palestinian women who live in Israel, it impacts all aspects of their life and keeps them without legal status. These women are the most marginalized and transparent group in Israel, they lack basic social rights, are completely dependent on the men in their lives for their financial survivability, and are at constant risk of deportation, detention, and violent relationships.

Lack of social rights

Siwar (a pseudonym) is a Palestinian woman from Hebron who is divorced and has three children. She is not eligible for full social services. The National Insurance Institute has rejected her requests for the allowances and support she receives for her children, who are Israeli citizens, to be transferred to her own bank account, because of her lack of status. Instead, the money is deposited into her brother-in-law’s bank account, who she must fight with every month to get the money.

Women like Siwar are not entitled to receive National Insurance allowances such as income supplements or unemployment benefits, legal assistance, drivers’ license, or certain social services. They are also not able to realize legal guardianship over their children. Such denial of rights impairs their ability to live a dignified life, care for their children, find gainful employment, or reduce dependency on their spouse. This makes it almost impossible for them to escape violent relationships.

Although these women do have the right to purchase medical insurance, most cannot afford it. In addition, most employers are unaware that the DCO permits that these women have include work permits and therefore they can be employed. Others are unwilling to deal with the bureaucracy involved in their
employment and therefore refuse to hire them. As a result, the citizenship law forces these women to suffer a life of endless poverty and complete dependence on their spouses.

If the Israeli spouse has passed away or the couple has divorced, the woman would be required to leave Israel even if she has lived in Israel for decades, and even if her children and grandchildren are Israeli.
Widows who have been living in Israel for most their lives are required to move, fight the courts for the right to continue to live near their children, or live in fear of leaving their homes while mourning their husbands and adapting to life alone.

The implications of lack of status in cases of violent relationships

In many cases, a woman’s dependence on her spouse to maintain her legal status, rights, and financial welfare can lead to exploitation and violent relationships that the woman cannot escape because of the looming threat of her lack of status. The citizenship law creates an imbalance of power that allows a violent man to treat his wife in any way he likes, knowing that she has no alternative but to remain in the toxic relationship without filing complaints, in order to maintain her rights. The lack of employment opportunities and the absence of social and healthcare benefits force these women into a life a poverty, making them financially dependent on their spouses as well. The threat of deportation constantly hangs over their heads, and is used to control the women’s lives and force them to obey their violent spouses at all times. (For more information about the exploitation of immigrant women by their spouses and the specific challenges faced by immigrant women attempting to obtain legal status while under threat, see Hadar Dancig-Rosenberg and Nomi Levenkron, Migratory Victimization, 37, Tel-Aviv U. L. Rev. 341 (2015)).

This was the case of Iman (a pseudonym), mother of two children with Israeli citizenship, who has been living in Israel for more than a decade. She suffers severe violence inflicted by her husband, who constantly threatens to deport her if she does not behave as instructed. She is completely under his control, and is forced to suffer his violent treatment to avoid losing her children.
These difficulties are exacerbated when women are unable to overcome the bureaucratic challenges created by the Ministry of Interior when they apply for a DCO permit. The ministry treats them with hostility, and does not offer any language accessibility. Therefore, the women remain in Israel without any
legal status at all, and without a work permit or access to any medical or social services, leaving them completely dependent on their husbands.

Women without status and polygamy

It is impossible to discuss the implications of the citizenship law for Palestinian women in Israel without noting that many of these women are in polygamous relationships. This is especially common among the Palestinian Bedouin population in southern Israel. In some cases, the wives are minors, and in other cases, the marriages can be considered as organized trafficking of women. Many women assume this is their fate and they have no other alternative, and since they are transferred like merchandise from their male relatives to a husband, they have no way of objecting.

The government of Israel has declared its plans to combat polygamy many times. However, the criminal prohibition against polygamy and bigamy in Israel is enforced only when one of the spouses is a Palestinian from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. The law is enforced for security and demographic reasons only, not out of concern for women in polygamous relationships.

In these cases, Palestinian women are not only victims of polygamous relationships and of the patriarchal society in which they live, which have severe physical and emotional consequences and undermine the status and dignity of these women, they are also punished by the government as it ostensibly battles
polygamy, but in fact leaves them without status for years. As these women have been isolated from their families, they also lack tribal and social protection. This increases their dependence on their spouses and puts them at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships.

For instance, there are cases in which the Population and Immigration Authority revokes permits of stay granted to a Palestinian woman married to an Israeli citizen after she has had the permit for years, sometimes for even more than a decade, because her husband decides to take a second wife. This deplorable policy sees the woman as an accomplice to her husband’s crime of polygamy, and applications for the woman’s status for reasons of family reunification are always rejected in these cases. This policy ignores the best interests of the children born to the Israeli citizen and his Palestinian wife, the consequences of revoking a woman’s permit, and the fact that the only one who remains unscathed is the Israeli spouse who acted in violation of the law.

Granting status for humanitarian reasons

The citizenship law states that requests for legal status can be submitted for humanitarian reasons. The applications are examined by a committee that comprises representatives from the Israeli Security Agency, the military, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Interior. However, the law stipulates that only Palestinians with a first-degree relative living legally in Israel can submit a request of this kind. This limitation is based solely on demographic considerations, as there are humanitarian cases that do not meet
the criteria because of their complex nature and specific circumstances. This limitation does not apply when submitting a request for legal status for humanitarian reasons to the humanitarian committee that rules on applications submitted by non-Palestinians. As a result, Palestinian women at risk from the West Bank who are seeking asylum in Israel, who have no relatives in Israel, have no way of applying for legal status in Israel. The only option available to them is to marry an Israeli spouse in order to receive a permit to reside legally in Israel.

Rola (a pseudonym) is a Palestinian woman who is five months pregnant. She is at risk of being harmed by her family in the West Bank, but as she has no relatives in Israel, she has no option of applying for legal status. She is forced to live in poverty in Israel, with no means of receiving support for the upcoming birth of her baby.

In conclusion, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision), 5763-2003 is essentially a racist law, making it invalid. This law has no equivalent in any other democratic countries. It prevents specific individuals from rejoining their families solely because of their nationality. The law prevents Palestinian Arab Israeli citizens from maintaining contact with their Palestinian relatives, in severe violation of international law, given the fact that the Palestinian minority in Israel is an indigenous minority. The law is contrary to procedures that regulate immigration and family reunification with citizens of various countries of the world who are not Palestinians, who can obtain legal status and even citizenship in Israel in a gradual process over a course of several years.

This law pushes women to the brink and makes them completely transparent by constantly trampling their rights and dignity. The implications of this law are disastrous for these women and their children, and make it impossible for them to live a life of physical, emotional, and financial prosperity. We demand the immediate abolition of this law, to enable Palestinian women in these situations to receive permanent status and legal rights so that they may live in dignity, and to stop the racist treatment of the Palestinian population.

Written by:

Ayala Olier, Coordinator of the Women Without Status Project, Isha L’isha – Haifa Feminist Center
Khadra Alsanah, Director, Sidreh
Sohela Ghattas, ADV. Itach – Maaki - Women Lawyers for Social Justice

Undersigned

201 signatories