Israeli high court keeps Israeli, Palestinian spouses apart
By NBC News and news services
An Israeli high court ruling has left at least one family angry, frustrated and in limbo because the husband, an Israeli citizen, will be forbidden legally from living with his Palestinian wife.
The Israeli Supreme Court reaffirmed late Wednesday a 2003 citizenship law that bans most Palestinians who marry Israelis from living inside the Jewish state. The law is intended to prevent Palestinian migration to Israel on the pretext of family unification.
The law is believed to have prevented thousands of Palestinians from living with their spouses. At the core of the ruling lies the notion that some Israelis see the Palestinians as "the enemy" and as "potential terrorists."
Six years ago, Taiseer Khatib, an Israeli Arab living in the northern city of Acre, married Lana, a Palestinian from the West Bank town of Jenin. They have two children, Adnan, 4, and Isra, 3.
Now the Khatib family faces the deportation of Lana back to Jenin.
"This ruling is all about racism," Taiseer Khatib told NBC News on Thursday. "The Israelis want to change the demography here by reducing the number of Palestinians inside Israel. What choices are left for me?"
Khatib's choices are all bleak. The only way for this family to stay together is by emigrating to another country. Khatib, as an Israeli, by law cannot enter the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
The ruling was handed down by a 6-5 majority.
Judge Asher Grunis, who belonged to the majority, wrote in the ruling that human rights are not a recipe for "national suicide."
Supreme Court President Judge Dorit Beinish wrote in the minority opinion that the disagreement on the issue revolved around one of the most difficult questions in the state's history, the battle against terror while at the same time maintaining the nation's democratic nature.
According to the ruling, about 135,000 Palestinians were granted Israeli citizenship through marriage between 1994 and 2002. Most of them were married to Israeli Arabs. This was a jump from just a few hundred such cases before 1994.
About 20 percent of Israel's citizens are Arabs. They share common roots with the Palestinian community in the West Bank, Gaza and abroad, and frequently intermarry.
The law bans granting citizenship or residency to Palestinian spouses of Israelis but allows for exemptions for those not believed to pose security risks, including Palestinian men older than 35 and women older than 25.
Adalah Arab, a human rights group that petitioned the high court, told NBC News that between 2002 and 2008 about 10,400 families living in Israel applied for a reunification request.
Last year, only 33 out of 3,000 applications for exemptions were approved, Adalah attorney Sawsan Zaher told The Associated Press.
"Israel is considered one of the strongest military countries in the world," Khatib told NBC News. "Are they afraid of my wife? She is not a terrorist; I promise you she doesn't consist of any threat to Israel."
"Our only way of action is to apply to the world and international courts to uncover the real face of Israel," Khatib said. "Can you imagine me raising my children here while their mother will be in Jenin? This is not only crazy but impossible."
Reporting from NBC News' Paul Goldman and The Associated Press.