Yitzhak Laor: Arabs have never been equal before the law

Last week’s decision by the High Court of Justice to uphold the amendment to the Citizenship Law that keeps Palestinians apart from their Israeli spouses has closed a chapter in the life of Israeli democracy. The Supreme Court no longer wants to protect Israel’s Arab citizens.

Racists sitting in the stands at soccer games who yell “Death to Arabs” have never ripped a mother away from her children. But Justice Asher Dan Grunis and his friends have rendered such expulsions kosher, and the representatives of Israel’s Arab citizens will now have to bring the issue to the international community.

Of the amendment upheld by the High Court, Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken wrote in this paper in May 2005: “Ostensibly the amendment to the Citizenship Law is equitable. It prevents a man from Haifa from marrying a woman from Ramallah and living with her in Haifa, and does not distinguish between Jews and Arabs. But it’s clear that it isn’t equitable: Jews rarely marry Palestinians.”

For three days afterward, in a hysterical response, Maariv’s entire opinion page was devoted to wild attacks on Schocken and his piece. Only one of the opinion pieces is even worth quoting: that of Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, author of “The Constitutional Law of the State of Israel.”

“Every state, even if not by law, has the right to prevent immigration of any kind from an enemy state or enemy territory,” Rubinstein wrote at the time. “Must Israel permit immigration from Syria? Of course not. Was England, during World War II, obligated to permit immigration from Germany, or even from German protectorates? Of course not. So why doesn’t this rule apply to Israel?

“It’s true, the Palestinian Authority is not a state, but if a ban on immigration applies to an enemy state, it applies even more so to an enemy territory.”

Afterward, Rubinstein published statements to this effect as part of a scholarly academic article, which expanded the argument with the help of numerous references and citations. He later chaired a government committee that justified this wrongdoing.

Why is Rubinstein worth quoting? Because before leaving the Knesset in 2002, he was an MK representing Meretz, the last significant political party of the Zionist left; because his words are cited by Grunis in his ruling; and because Rubinstein is considered a veteran analyst, a member of a select group of legal commentators who sat quietly for eight years, since the amendment came into force as a “temporary emergency measure.”

Even now, these legal commentators are not commenting. The looming expulsion of thousands will be carried out with the silent agreement of enlightened members of society. This silence does not stem from their deep respect for the High Court of Justice. Its cause is that maintaining a Jewish majority is an ideological common denominator for the overwhelming majority of Israelis, and this ruling is a symptom of the demographic arguments made on their behalf.

But in effect, Rubinstein was lying. In order to discriminate against the Arab citizens of Israel, Rubinstein wrote about residents of the territories, who do not live in an enemy state. They live in an Israeli ghetto, a bantustan, without the right, as blacks had in apartheid South Africa, to earn a living from their masters.

The State of Israel is officially in its 64th year. But it can be more accurately seen as an imaginary entity that existed in reality only for the 19 years between 1948 and 1967.

Temporariness is an illusion. For jurists it’s also a cynical trick.

The expulsion of women and children from their homes will be carried out by a state that has never held Arabs to be equal before the law. That’s the real reason an Israeli constitution was never written. That inequality was the wound. Now it’s just pus.

(www.israeli-occupation.org / 17.01.2012)

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