This other wall is not so visible as the controversial
"security barrier" Israel is building around itself, but it is as real. It divides
thousands of Palestinians from one another, and it does not look like it is
going to come down.
The name of this wall is The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law that bars
Israelis married to Palestinians from the occupied territories from living with
their spouses in Israel.
protested in a report published Tuesday against the law, due to come up for
renewal in the Israeli parliament at the end of this month. The report "Torn
Apart: Families Split by Discriminatory Policies" details the havoc this
law is causing among Palestinians.
"It is very difficult to estimate the numbers affected because many people
who applied are not getting a response, and others do not apply for fear that
their spouses within Israel might be expelled," author of the report Donatella
Rovera told IPS. "But we are talking about thousands here."
The Israelis here really are Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin who number
about a million in an Israeli population of six million.
"It is Palestinians who are Israeli citizens who marry into families in the
occupied territories," Rovera said. "The law discriminates explicitly against
Palestinians from the occupied territories, but implicitly against Palestinians
who are citizens of Israel who marry someone from the occupied territories,"
she said. "This legislation is a clearly discriminatory piece of legislation."
The law means that thousands who happen to be in the occupied territories
are unable to with their spouses within Israel.
"After 14 years of marriage, my husband and the father of my children has
no right to sleep in our home, he has no right to kiss his daughters goodnight,
no right to be there if they get sick at night," Terry Bullata, a 38-year-old
school principal from Jerusalem was quoted as saying in the report.
"What logic is there for forcing families to go through such hell every day,
year after year," she added.
Salwa Abu Jaber, a 29-year-old kindergarten assistant from Umm al-Ghanam in
Northern Israel is quoted as saying: "At the Interior Ministry they told me
to either get divorced or to go live in the West Bank. But I love my husband
and he loves me and we don't want to divorce and I don't want to take my children
to live in the West Bank in the middle of a war and insecurity."
The law was passed at the end of July last year, "but before that the Israeli
ministry of interior had set in place discriminatory policies that worked pretty
much as the law," Rovera said. "The law only gave the practice a parliamentary
The Israeli Parliament is all set to extend the law. Any change would have
meant the setting up of a committee to review the law, but no such committee
has been set up. Officials from the Israeli ministry of Interior have indicated
that the law will be extended, Rovera said.
"But still we must bring pressure to bear on the Israeli parliament not to
renew the law," Rovera said. "These are not times when such openly racist laws
can be acceptable."
Amnesty said in a statement that the law "institutionalizes racial discrimination
contravening international human rights and humanitarian law. Without the right
to family unification, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jerusalem
residents can either have their spouse live with them illegally, in daily fear
of expulsion, or the whole family must leave the country."
The Israeli government has justified the law on security grounds, saying it
is intended to reduce the potential threat of attacks in Israel by Palestinians.
Amnesty says that Israeli ministers and officials have "repeatedly described
the percentage of Palestinian citizens of Israel as a demographic threat and
a threat to the Jewish character of the state. This suggests that the law is
part of a long standing policy aimed at restricting the number of Palestinians
who are allowed to live in Israel and in East Jerusalem."
Amnesty is demanding repeal of the act, resumption of the processing of family
unification applications on a principle of non-discrimination, processing the
backlog of thousands of applications and providing details to any rejected applicant
so they could challenge the decision.