Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the state can revoke the citizenship of people who carry out actions that constitute a breach of trust against the state, including terrorism, espionage, or treason.
The ruling addressed a 2008 Citizenship Law in Israel that gives the state authority to revoke citizenship based on actions that constitute a “breach of loyalty.”
It came following separate appeals in the cases of two Palestinian citizens of Israel who were convicted of carrying out attacks that killed Israeli citizens. The two were handed long sentences but the state sought to strip them of citizenship.
The two terrorists that the ruling revolved around were Alaa Ziad, who ran over and stabbed two Israeli soldiers and two civilians, and Mahmoud Mafarja, who planted a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv in 2012, injuring 24 people.
The Supreme Court denied the removal of citizenship in these two cases based on “serious procedural flaws” but ruled that the practice itself was constitutional, even if a person became stateless as a result. It said in such cases, the interior minister would have to grant permanent residency.
Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked welcomed the ruling, stating, “The High Court has confirmed the obvious: Whoever acts intentionally to harm the State of Israel cannot be part of its community of citizens. However, unfortunately, the High Court has adopted an interpretation that is contrary to the language of the law and required that terrorists be given a different permanent status in Israel.”
A joint statement in response to the ruling by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Adalah, an Arab rights group, called the law discriminatory and said it “will likely be used exclusively against Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
“There are many cases of Jews in Israel who took part in terror and not even once has the interior ministry thought to appeal to revoke their citizenship,” the ACRI’s Oded Feller told Reuters. “The only cases that were submitted to the court were of Arab citizens.”
In the court statement, the justices acknowledged that leaving a person stateless challenged international law standards, but the majority opinion was that “the difficulty in itself does not render the entire practice as unconstitutional.”
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s finance minister and head of far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, welcomed the ruling. “Finally, justice is served,” he said in a tweet.
The judge in the case said that the interior minister can resubmit a request to revoke the citizenship of Ziad and Mafarja at a later date.
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters (additions and edits for FISM News by Michael Cardinal)