Israel's Knesset votes to extend 'racist' citizenship law, banning Palestinian family unification

Israel's Knesset votes to extend 'racist' citizenship law, banning Palestinian family unification
The Knesset extended Israel's citizenship law, which prevents Palestinians who marry Israeli nationals from gaining residency in Israel, effectively banning the unification of Palestinian families.
2 min read
06 March, 2023
Israel's Knesset has voted to extend the discriminatory citizenship law [OREN BEN HAKOON/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel’s parliament voted on Sunday to extend a citizenship law which bars Palestinians who marry Israelis from attaining a resident status in the country. 

The law - which has been slammed as "racist" and a "love ban" - effectively bans the unification of Palestinian families by preventing married couples from living together in Israel. 

The law was originally passed by the Knesset in 2002 during the Second Intifada when Palestinians rose up against Israeli oppression and were met with brutal violence. 

The law has been renewed every year ever since and has been expanded to include residents or nationals of 'hostile states' - defined as Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and Iraq. 

While the bill does not directly state that it is meant to preserve the ‘Jewishness’ of Israel, members of the government have asserted that its true aim was an ensure Jews remained a majority in Israel. 

In 2021, then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told his colleagues in the Knesset: "We don’t need to hide from the substance of the Citizenship Law. It’s one of the tools aimed at ensuring a Jewish majority in Israel."

A new provision was added last year explicitly stating these demographic aims: "The purpose of this law is to establish restrictions on citizenship and residence in Israel by citizens or residents of hostile countries... all while taking into consideration the fact that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and in a manner that will ensure safeguarding of vital interests for the state’s national security."

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Rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have said that Israel has created apartheid-like conditions both for Palestinians within Israel's 1948 borders - who hold Israeli citizenship - and for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces have killed at least 65 Palestinians in near-daily raids in the occupied West Bank since the beginning of the year. The past few months have been described as one of the “bloodiest periods” in recent Palestinian memory.