Thursday, January 11, 2007

Israel: Conditional Citizenship

Conditional citizenship by Tom Segev January 11, 2007

One day, MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) came up with an idea for how to punish Arab Knesset members who travel to Beirut and Damascus: declaring that they have "broken faith" with the state and stripping them of their citizenship. The initiative added a patriotic headline to Erdan's collection of press clippings. Living from headline to headline is obviously not unique to him: That is also the lifestyle of, among others, the Arab MKs who make anti-Zionist declarations in Damascus and Beirut. But some gimmicks are dangerous: Before anyone realizes it, they develop a life of their own and threaten to become reality. That is what happened with Erdan's silly idea: The Ministerial Committee on Legislation adopted it this week.

Currently, the interior minister is authorized to remove someone's citizenship if, inter alia, he "broke faith" with the state. Let it be said to Ophir Pines-Paz's credit that during his tenure as interior minister, he proposed abolishing this ministerial authority. But instead of eliminating it entirely, the ministerial committee is now proposing to transfer it to the courts. "Breach of faith" will presumably not include, for example, a decision to send the nation into an unnecessary and failed war, or expanding the corrosive occupation of the territories, or governmental corruption in general. Rather, this bill belongs among the plethora of initiatives aimed at effecting a "transfer" of Arabs.

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