Occupied East Jerusalem – The Israeli parliament has passed a law making it easier for authorities to revoke citizenship and residency from Palestinians imprisoned over Israeli-designated “acts of terror” and who receive financial assistance from the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The final reading of the bill, which for the first time stipulates the deportation of Palestinians to the occupied territories, was passed in the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – on Wednesday afternoon by a vast majority of 94 votes in support, and 10 against.
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Under the law, a Palestinian citizen of Israel or a Palestinian in the occupied and illegally annexed East Jerusalem who holds Israeli residency can be stripped of their status after being convicted or charged for an “act of terrorism” and receiving money from the PA.
The PA, which governs the occupied West Bank, provides financial aid to families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, as well as those killed or seriously injured by Israeli forces.
“This law represents a very dangerous escalation. It only deepens the apartheid system that is in place and creates separate laws for Palestinians and Jews,” Salam Irsheid, a lawyer at the Haifa-based Adalah Legal Center, told Al Jazeera.
“It is a racist and arbitrary law and it puts the citizenship and residency of Palestinians in danger and constant threat,” she added.
Israeli law already allows the revocation of citizenship and residency of Palestinians in Israel and Jerusalem based on acts that constitute “a breach of loyalty to the State of Israel”. It defines “breach of loyalty” to include an “act of terror,” assistance or solicitation thereof, or “taking an active part” in a “terrorist organisation,” among other things.
“They are punishing people multiple times over things they have already been charged and sentenced for,” said Irsheid.
An “act of terrorism” is defined broadly under Israeli law and includes “serious harm to property” or “to public safety or health,” and even “a threat to carry out such an act,” so long as they are committed for “political, religious, nationalistic or ideological motives”.
It is unclear how many Palestinians this will apply to, and whether the law will be applied retroactively to include those who have served their sentences and have since been released.
“We think there are at least hundreds that this may apply to – whom they (Israel) claim get money from the Palestinian Authority,” said Irsheid.
Irsheid from the Adalah Legal Center says the deportation of Palestinian prisoners is “a violation of international law”.
“It leaves people without any status, it leaves them stateless,” said Irsheid, adding that it constitutes “forced displacement”.
“They are even talking about not allowing these people to re-enter Israel – whether with a work permit, or even to visit family,” she continued.
Palestinian politician Sami Abou Shahadeh noted the wide consensus among Israeli politicians over the new law.
The law to withdraw citizenship is another racist and dangerous law. But take note: It was approved as a matter of consensus by all Zionist parties, whether in the government or in opposition. pic.twitter.com/DmadMKnSNL
— Sami Abou Shahadeh (@ShahadehAbou) February 15, 2023
“They have been talking about their disagreements over the past days, but when it comes to racism, Jewish supremacy, apartheid and strengthening the illegal colonial occupation they’re all united,” said Abou Shahadeh on Twitter.
“There’s no solution without dismantling the colonial occupation and apartheid,” he added.
The individuals targeted under Wednesday’s law will be given seven days to appeal the decision. Irsheid noted that petitioning the law at the Israeli Supreme Court will not be possible until there is a specific case.
Palestinians living in Israel form 20 percent of the population and carry Israeli passports. They became an involuntary minority during the violent ethnic cleansing of Palestine from 1947 to 1949 to create a “Jewish state”.
At least 350,000 other Palestinians live in East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied and illegally annexed in 1967.
Palestinians view inmates in Israeli prisons as political prisoners, who were jailed because of the Israeli occupation or their resistance to it. The West Bank-based PA provides monthly cash stipends to families of Palestinians killed, injured or imprisoned by Israel.
Irsheid noted the law is “very dangerous” because it provides a basis for further punitive legislation related to the citizenship of Palestinians.
“We are against any infringement on the right to nationality and permanent residency, because this opens the door for them to revoke citizenship from Palestinians for other reasons.”
The new Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed a far-right agenda since it came to power in December. It has since decided to arm Israelis in the wake of attacks by Palestinians, has expanded settlements, banned Palestinian flags and pledged to annex the West Bank.
The Palestinians say the settlement expansion threatens the viability of their future independent state. Settlements are considered illegal under international laws.