ACRI Letter to MK Azulay: Citizenship Bill

4 July, 2010

Attn: MK David Azulay
Chairman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee
The Knesset

Dear Sir,

Re: Citizenship Bill (Amendment – Revocation of Citizenship of Persons Convicted of Terror or Espionage) 2010

On 5 July, 2010, the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee is expected to hold a discussion, preparing the said bill for its first reading. The amendment is intended to establish that should a court found a person guilty of terrorism, espionage, or disloyalty, the court may order the revocation of his citizenship. We urge you to vote against this bill.

All of the basic rights derive their practical meaning from an existing infrastructure that makes them possible, and from a framework in which they are realized and practiced. The revocation of a person’s citizenship denies him the option of protecting those rights, which explicitly or implicitly require a social framework that offers them. This is why the right to citizenship and the need to protect it have been acknowledged by the international law and the laws of democratic countries.

As it stands, The Citizenship Law – 1952 already contains draconian and unconstitutional aspects concerning the revocation of citizenship (i.e., the very power to revoke a person’s citizenship for reasons of “breach of trust”; the possibility of leaving a person without a citizenship; that his children’s citizenship may be revoked; that the legal proceeding against a person on the revocation of his citizenship may be held in absentia, based on secret evidence, and so on). The authority that the bill seeks to grant to the courts is particularly extreme, with no parallel law in any enlightened nation.
Undoubtedly, the state authorities are entitled to and even must take action against any person who harms the security of the state and its citizens, but the authorities have numerous enforcement means at their disposal that are far less grave than the revocation of citizenship.

In 1996, the High Court of Justice discussed a petition to the interior minister that he revoke the citizenship of Yigal Amir. The petitioner argued that the minister should be ordered to revoke Amir’s citizenship so as to express the Israeli society’s determined resentment of the dreadful assassination of the prime minister. The court ruled that an organized society has other ways to express its resentment (HCJ 2757/96 Alroi v the Interior Minister, Ruling N(2) 18, 24 (1996)).

In 1958, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Nationalization Act chapter that allows the revocation of a person’s citizenship due to the breach of trust is unconstitutional and a cruel and unusual punishment. “Citizenship is not a license that expires upon misbehavior,” the US Supreme Court determined, adding that “the revocation of citizenship under these circumstances is a form of punishment more primitive than torture” (Trop v. Dulles 356 U.S. 86 [1958]). In her book “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (new ed. 1996), philosopher Hannah Ardent similarly referred to this issue, arguing that while irrecoverably impairing on human rights, the revocation of citizenship is tantamount to reverting to a caveman’s wild form of living.

It seems that the very debate about the authority to revoke citizenship is not meant to promote national security as much as it wishes to deliver a humiliating and discriminatory message, according to which the citizenship of Israel’s Arab citizens is not self evident.

In view of the above reasons, we urge you to vote against the amendment.


Attorney Oded Feller
The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)

CC: Committee members
The Legal Chamber

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Categories: Arab Citizens of Israel, Citizenship and Residency, Democracy and Civil Liberties, The Occupied Territories, The Right to Family

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