Palestinians start applying for citizenship under family unification laws

Of note. Creating ‘facts on the ground’ while the law has not been renewed:
Palestinians who are married to Israeli citizens but who have not been able to obtain Israeli citizenship or residency due to the Citizenship Law which the government failed to renew this week have begun filing requests for such standing with the Interior Ministry.
NGOs, including the Hamoked civil rights group, have begun filing requests for citizenship and residency on behalf of their clients, and are encouraging others to do so as well.
There are some 9,200 Palestinians married to Israeli Arab citizens who have the most basic “stay permits” allowing them to reside in the country but which have to be renewed every one or two years, and another 3,500 who due to special circumstances were able to obtain temporary residency visas.
They will all now be able to apply for citizenship, although since the Arab population of east Jerusalem generally shuns citizenship in favor of residency those with stay permits in the city will likely request residency visas.
Until now, the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law prevented Palestinians who marry Israeli Arab citizens from obtaining citizenship through naturalization, as is available to other foreign national spouses of Israelis.
The law was passed on security grounds and later extended to Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis and Iranians who marry Israelis.
But the law has been criticized by human rights groups as discriminatory and on humanitarian grounds, and was opposed by coalition partners Ra’am and Meretz.
Although compromises were found, two Ra’am MKs abstained, while Yamina rebel MK Amichai Shikli voted against, and the law was toppled.
This means that those Palestinians married to Israeli citizens can now start the application process with the Interior Ministry for citizenship or residency like any other foreign national.
They will be able to apply first for a B1 visa, then an A5 temporary residency visa, and ultimately for citizenship if they do not live in east Jerusalem.
Jessica Montell, Executive Director of the Israeli human rights organization HaMoked, said that her organization represents approximately 400 families and that it has begun filing visa applications for them to the Interior Ministry.
In some families not just the spouse needs to obtain residency, the children do as well, she said.
Asked whether the ministry might hold up the processing of applications while the government ponders new steps, Montell insisted that the “Ministry doesn’t have right to drag its feet,” and that it had to “respect people’s rights.”
She said the standard response time for a request to a government authority is 45 days, and that if her clients did not receive responses in such time they would take the issue to court.
“The ministry cannot ignore these requests for a year in the hope a new law is passed,” said Montell.
“Israelis are just as safe as they were before the law expired. The authorities still have all the tools necessary to prevent dangerous people from entering the country, but without this law we will be a little bit more free and equal,” she said.
“Without this law, all Israeli citizens and residents have an equal right to fall in love and build a family, and that’s good news for these families and for everyone who cares about basic human rights.”
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has said however that she intends to bring the law back to the Knesset for a vote in the coming weeks in a fresh attempt to get it approved, meaning that the gateway to citizenship for such people may soon be closed.
Shaked has emphasized the security basis of the law, stating this week that the majority of terror attacks carried out by Arab Israeli citizens have been committed either by individuals who obtained some form of status in Israel through family reunification under the Citizenship Law, or by their offspring.
The Shin Bet said in 2018 that since 2001 some 155 individuals involved in terror activities obtained entry to Israel under family reunification laws.
But the law has also been justified to preserve Israel’s Jewish majority, something emphasized this week by Shaked, as well as  more centrist figures like Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and, a few weeks ago, Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Source: Palestinians start applying for citizenship under family unification laws

Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout as jabs go to settlers

Of note and undermines claims not to be an apartheid-type state:

Israel is celebrating an impressive, record-setting vaccination drive, having given initial jabs of coronavirus shots to more than a 10th of the population. But Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza can only watch and wait.

As the world ramps up what is already on track to become a highly unequal vaccination push – with people in richer nations first to be inoculated – the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories provides a stark example of the divide.

Israel transports batches of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine deep inside the West Bank. But they are only distributed to Jewish settlers, and not the roughly 2.7 million Palestinians living around them who may have to wait for weeks or months.

“I don’t know how, but there must be a way to make us a priority, too?” said Mahmoud Kilani, a 31-year-old sports coach from the Palestinian city of Nablus. “Who cares about us? I don’t think anybody is stuck on that question.”

Two weeks into its vaccination campaign, Israel is administering more than 150,000 doses a day, amounting to initial jabs for more than 1 million of its 9 million citizens – a higher proportion of the population than anywhere else.

Vaccine centres have been set up in sports stadiums and central squares. People over 60, healthcare workers, carers and high-risk populations have priority, while young, healthier people who walk into clinics are sometimes rewarded with surplus stock to avoid the waste of unused vials.

The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has told Israelis that the country could be the first to emerge from the pandemic. As well as a highly advanced healthcare system, part of the reason for the speed could be economics. A health ministry official said the country had paid $62 a dose, compared with the $19.50 the US is paying.

Meanwhile, the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, which maintains limited self-rule in the territories, is rushing to get vaccines. One official suggested, perhaps optimistically, that shots could arrive within the next two weeks.

However, when asked for a timeframe, Ali Abed Rabbo, director-general of the Palestinian health ministry, estimated the first vaccines would probably arrive in February.

Those would be through a World Health Organization-led partnership called Covax, aimed at helping poorer countries, which has pledged to vaccinate 20% of Palestinians. Yet vaccines intended for Covax have not yet gained “emergency use” approval by the WHO, a precondition for distribution to begin.

Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of office at WHO Jerusalem, said it could be “early to mid-2021” before vaccines on the Covax scheme were available for distribution in the Palestinian territories.

The rest of the doses are expected to come through deals with pharmaceutical companies, but none have apparently been signed so far.

Despite the delay, the authority has not officially asked for help from Israel. Coordination between the two sides halted last year after the Palestinian president cut off security ties for several months.

But Rabbo said “sessions” with Israel had been held. “Until this moment, there is no agreement, and we cannot say there is anything practical on the ground in this regard,” he said.

Israeli officials have suggested they might provide surplus vaccines to Palestinians and claim they are not responsible for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, pointing to 1990s-era interim agreements that required the authority to observe international vaccination standards.

Those deals envisioned a fuller peace agreement within five years, an event that never occurred. Almost three decades later, Israeli, Palestinian and international rights groups have accused Israel of dodging moral, humanitarian and legal obligations as an occupying power during the pandemic.

Gisha, an Israeli rights group, said Palestinian efforts so far to look elsewhere for vaccines “does not absolve Israel from its ultimate responsibility toward Palestinians under occupation”.

The disparities could potentially see Israelis return to some form of normality within the first three months of this year, while Palestinians remain trapped by the virus. That may have a negative impact on Israel’s goal of herd immunity, as thousands of West Bank Palestinians work in Israel and the settlements, which could keep infection rates up.

In Gaza, an impoverished enclave under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, the timeframe could be even longer than in the West Bank. The strip’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, have been unable to contain the virus and are enemies with Israel and political rivals with the Palestinian Authority.

Salama Ma’rouf, head of the Hamas-run Gaza press office, estimated vaccines would arrive “within two months”, adding that there was coordination with the WHO and the Palestinian Authority.

Heba Abu Asr, 35, a resident of Gaza, jolted when asked how she felt about others getting the vaccine first. “Are you seriously trying to compare us with Israel or any other country?” she asked. “We can’t find work, food, or drink. We are under threat all the time. We do not even have any necessities for life.”


Should Palestinians Visit Nazi Concentration Camps? – The Daily Beast

More on Prof. Mohammed Dajani’s efforts to educate Palestinian youth on the Holocaust (see earlier Mid-East: The knowledge constituency versus the ignorance lobby):

“Palestinians should not compare the Nakba with the Holocaust,” he says. “While the Holocaust was the Final Solution for the Jewish people, the Nakba was not the Final Solution for the Palestinian people. It wouldn’t have been possible for Jews to sit with Nazis and reach an agreement. Within the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is possible for Palestinians and Israelis to reach a comprehensive, just settlement that will accommodate both peoples. That’s why I think that teaching about the Holocaust is important. For Palestinians to realize that there is hope, and that in negotiation the path to peace lies.”

At the same time, he is deeply uncomfortable with Jews using the Holocaust “to rationalize, for us [Palestinians], why they had to deport us from our homes in order for them to come and live in them. It doesn’t mean,” he insists, “that if we learn about the Holocaust we will not demand our rights, or [will] lose our national identity.”

But this nuanced message was lost on those who stirred up controversy following the trip. Students at Al Quds University – where Dajani was the head of the American Studies Department and library director – boycotted him, claiming that he was “trying to sell Palestinians the Zionist story,” or was “collaborating with the Israelis to undermine Palestinian nationalism.” Dajani knew to take things seriously when he started receiving threatening letters at his office.

His students also faced negative responses to the trip, as well. However, “many of them were courageous,” Dajani says proudly, “to stand up and say, ‘We went to learn, and we learned a lot.’”

Should Palestinians Visit Nazi Concentration Camps? – The Daily Beast.

Stop the Anti-Semitism When Talking Gaza

Commentary by Dean Obeidallah, a Palestinian American, on the need to avoid antisemitism when criticizing Israel on Gaza:

But to those who want to cheer “Death to the Jews,” use Nazi imagery, or in any other way want to demonize the Jewish people, let me be clear: I don’t want you on our side. Your hateful rhetoric is not only morally repugnant, it’s hurting my family and the millions of other Palestinians struggling for basic human rights. Don’t attend events supporting Palestinians or post vile comments in our name on Facebook, etc. We don’t want the Palestinian cause to be defined by your hate.

Let’s follow the lead of people like [US Congressman] Ellison—and those in Europe engaged in the “Raise Your Voice” campaign—and vocally counter anti-Semitism wherever we see it, be it at an event or a posting on social media. We can’t afford to wait to speak out until we see anti-Semitic incidents in the United States like those happening in Europe.

Hate is hate regardless of the target. Let’s not lose our own humanity while trying to fight for the humanity of others.

Stop the Anti-Semitism When Talking Gaza – The Daily Beast.