On July 18, the Knesset again extended the "Temporary Order" as it's done annually since 2003, affecting thousands of couples, one member an Israeli citizen, the other a Palestinian resident or refugee in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran or elsewhere, denied their right to reunite legally with spouses in Israel.
A new Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-IL) position paper titled, "No civil status, no hope: A close look at the 'Humanitarian' Committee of the Citizenship Law (CL)" explains its harm, using several case study examples.
Since enacted in 2003, it's prevented thousands of couples from living normally, most unable to reunite, others residing in Israel without health insurance, work permits, or other social benefits.
To quell public criticism, a "humanitarian committee" was established, charged with reviewing reunification requests based on humanitarian, not legal, grounds - how couples live together elsewhere.
PHR-IL reviewed seven individual cases gotten by referral from 2007 - 2010.
The "Humanitarian Committee"
On March 21, 2007, the Knesset authorized the Interior Minister to grant legal status to non-resident spouses on "humanitarian grounds," based on the Committee's recommendation, established for this purpose - called the "Humanitarian Committee," functioning, in fact, as a racist one, aided by a vague mandate requiring "special humanitarian reasons" not defined or specifically who qualifies.
For example, having an Israeli spouse and/or children "is not sufficient grounds to submit a request to the committee." In addition, the Interior Minister has six months to rule once required documents have been submitted in proper form.
Further, after months of delays, it took a Supreme Court ruling to get the Committee established, its members named as followed:
-- Miriam Rosenthal, chairwoman;
-- Avi K - representing Shin Bet (Israeli security services);
-- Amos Arbel - representing the Interior Ministry;
-- Rafael Miara - representing the Israeli public; and
-- an unnamed Defense Ministry representative, his job called "head of the Operations Branch in the Office for the Coordination of Government Activities in the occupied territories."
No members of Israel's social ministries are represented - health, social welfare or education, glaring omissions, putting a lie to the Committee's purpose.
As of March 2009, 396 applications were received, 100 only addressed.
Case Study Examples of Committee Operations
On November 21, 2007, PHR-IL petitioned on her behalf, a woman living in Israel "illegally." Married in 1986 to an Israeli citizen with three daughters, all citizens, she was widowed in 1998. Thereafter, she assumed sole custodial responsibilities, yet she's ill, vulnerable to cardiac arrest from a blood disease.
In October 2007, removing her spleen was recommended, "immediately if not sooner," given her grave condition. The Committee demanded she provide up to date official medical documentation from a recognized institution, besides document submissions in Hebrew and English. Halima speaks Arabic.
Complying was extremely hard with no medical insurance access to public facilities or funds to use a "recognized" private clinic. Her only option was free or subsidized care through PHR-IL's volunteer Open Clinic, one not recognized as "official."
To adhere to Committee demands, a PHR doctor issued an expert opinion on a private clinic's stationery, but it was rejected on the grounds that submissions must be on the letterhead of a recognized hospital or Kupat Holim (Health Fund or Health Maintenance Organization - HMO).
The doctor then saw Halima at his Kupat Holim, but the Committee (in August 2008) ruled that the Palestinian Authority (PA) must subsidize her operation. She also needs tests and authorization to complete them, ones the Committee further delayed.
As a result, she hasn't been treated, and now needs another operation, requiring the procedure be repeated. It was, but the Committee didn't review submitted documents, denying her request.
On June 10, 2009, it ruled her "staying permits" (requiring annual renewals) won't cover public medical care or social welfare services, the PA instead responsible.
PHR-IL posed the following issues:
-- getting PA authorization;
-- providing care for her children without social benefits; and
-- earning a living with no right to work.
The Committee never met with Halima, let her health deteriorate, only granted her temporary permission to stay with her daughters, never addressed the above issues, and won't release the minutes relating to her case.
In November 2007, she married an Israeli citizen and lived together with his family. On November 18, 2009, she petitioned the Committee for citizenship, saying her husband's medical condition requires constant supervision. In September 2008, their daughter was born. "Illegally" in Israel, Yoseftal Hospital notified the police. They demanded she leave the country.
PHR-IL petitioned the Committee on her behalf so she could care for her family. Though mandated to respond within six months, none came after a year and a half. With two children to care for, she fears deportation and separation from her family.
In November 2007, she applied to be reunited with her children. Married to an Israeli citizen, she was abused yet stayed together for 13 years and had six children. Several times she tried to separate. He refused. With no legal status she stayed, fearing deportation otherwise.
In 2000, while pregnant, she was violently abused, complained to the police, entered a battered women's shelter, divorced her husband, applied for child custody, partly received it, but without legal status can't work or receive social benefits. As a result, she's impoverished and needs surgery.
PHR-IL petitioned the Committee for help. Today, two years later, no response was received or solution for her condition or status.
In April 2009, she petitioned the Committee for help. Originally from Gaza, he married an Israeli citizen in 1998, got a "stay permit" for several years, and was suspected of collaborating with Shin Bet.
If he returns to Gaza, he'll be in danger, even though the suspicions aren't true. In addition, his wife is ill, suffering from headaches, convulsions, and epilepsy, her condition preventing her from working. They have five children, two suffering severe health problems. Attiya bears full responsibility for care, but without legal status can't do it adequately.
As a result, he and his wife lost custody in February 2010 for a limited time. In petitioning Committee on his behalf, the family court judge and case worker testified that he provides supportive and loving care, but needs permanent status to function fully as a parent. After a 12 month delay, the Committee rejected his request.
Suspected as an Israeli collaborator, the PA imprisoned and tortured him. A "staying permit" (renewable every few months) lets him live in Israel, but denies him work and social benefits including health insurance. In fact, he never collaborated with Shin Bet, but he's stigmatized, must stay and needs help, including for terminal kidney failure requiring twice weekly dialysis and medications.
As a result of torture, he also suffers from PTSD and need psychiatric treatment. Earlier he married an Israeli, but they divorced. With no family connection, Israel categorizes him as a Palestinian with no regard for his need. For help, PHR-IL petitioned the Committee on his behalf with no response so far.
In total, seven submissions were made. One got legal status after the High Court intervened. Another got partial approval. One was denied, and four await responses months beyond the six month mandated period, the Committee stonewalling, not helping.
As a result, PHR-IL concluded the following - the Committee doesn't provide "fair and realistic solutions" for those harmed by the Citizenship Law. In fact, it obstructs them by:
-- operating secretly;
-- denying applicants the right to a hearing;
-- ignoring their inability to supply required documents for lack of civil status;
-- requiring Arabic speaking applicants submit notarized documents in Hebrew and English;
-- not responding within the mandated time frame; and
-- excluding Israel's social ministries (health, social welfare or education) from representation on the Committee, Shin Bet and Defense members unlikely to show humanitarian concern.
Calling Israel's Citizenship Law racist and nefarious, PHR-IL demands its abolition because of its harm to thousands of families seeking reunification, the Committee a "fig leaf" for injustice, a tool to camouflage outrageous human rights violations, denying Muslims equal status to Jews - official Israeli policy, discriminatory, racist, and outrageous.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.