June 19, 2024

Israel’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved a law to strip Arabs of their Israeli citizenship or residency if they are convicted in nationalistic attacks or give money to prisoners.

The law was passed by 94 votes to 10 by the hard-right coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many opposition politicians, while Arab representatives voted against it.

It gives authorities the right to strip people of their citizenship or residency and deport them to either the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

The decision, which could potentially affect hundreds of Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel, was condemned as racist by Arab politicians as well as Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank.

The vote follows months of deadly Israeli raids against militants in the West Bank and fatal Palestinian street attacks on Israelis.

The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority (PA) has long provided cash to families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned for attacks on Israelis.

Prisoners are widely seen as heroes in Palestinian society, and the PA considers these payments as a form of welfare for needy families.

But Israel says they reward violence.

According to the Israeli rights group HaMoked, about 4,700 Palestinians are imprisoned by Israel for alleged security offences.

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Of those, 360 are Israeli citizens or residents of east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 war and subsequently annexed.

The PA has limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank, where Israel wields overall control. The Gaza Strip, is controlled by the Hamas militant group and largely closed by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

Although Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its undivided capital, its annexation of the eastern part of the city is not recognized internationally.

Most Palestinians in Jerusalem have Israeli residency rights, which allow them to work and travel freely and provide access to Israeli social services, but not full citizenship, which would allow them to vote.

‘An Arab who commits an offense is a conditional citizen’

Jewish politicians, including the opposition, voted in favor of the bill, while Arab representatives voted against it.

Arab politician Ahmad Tibi said the bill was racist because it only applies to Palestinians convicted of violence.

He said: “An Arab who commits an offense is a conditional citizen.

“If a Jew commits the same offense or a more serious one, they don’t even think of revoking his citizenship.”

HaMoked said 140 Arab citizens and 211 Jerusalem residents could be affected by the law.

It added that because east Jerusalem is considered occupied territory, transferring the population would violate international humanitarian law.

“It’s shameful that this law passed, and with an overwhelming majority of support from the opposition as well,” said Jessica Montell, HaMoked’s executive director.