15 Israeli and Palestinian organisations warn of far-reaching consequences of Israel’s for obstructions of UN human rights mechanisms

15 Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations today warned of the far-reaching consequences of Israel’s refusal to fully cooperate with the United Nations (UN). On the morning of Israel’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR), scheduled for Tuesday 29 January, it remains unclear whether it intends to participate.

This lack of transparency will not only mean that Israel avoids rigorous criticism of its violations of international law, but that the entire UPR system will be undermined by the loss of its two fundamental principles: equality and universality.

In May 2012, Israel formally announced its decision to “suspend its contact with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Human Rights Council (the Council) and its subsequent mechanisms”.

Israel reportedly met with the Council President His Excellency Remigiusz A. Henczel in January 2013 and discussed a postponement of its UPR. However, as no formal request has yet been made, the Council agreed to proceed as scheduled and to consider on the day what steps to take if the Israeli delegation does not attend.

These exceptional circumstances have created uncertainty and forced some civil society organisations to revise or limit their engagement with the review process due to the risk of investing necessarily significant resources into a process that may not take place. Thus, a key component of the UPR process – civil society engagement – has been severely hampered.

Through this uncertainty, Israel and the Council are setting a dangerous precedent on the international stage, one that could be followed by other States refusing to engage with the UN in order to avoid critical appraisals. Israel’s decision to disengage from core mechanisms of the United Nations human rights system has, in effect, resulted in preferential treatment. All but one of the 193 UN Member States have attended their UPR as scheduled; in that single instance the State of Haiti was unable to attend due to the humanitarian crisis caused by the 2010 earthquake. Israel should not receive any benefits or concessions for its efforts to   undermine the system of the UN and, in particular, its human rights system.

To the contrary, the Council should ensure the unobstructed process of Israel’s UPR in accordance with the principles and standards set in the UPR mechanism, thereby reasserting the condition that human rights are more important than political or diplomatic considerations.

Moreover, Israel’s move to suspend cooperation with the Council and the OHCHR must be viewed within the context of its ongoing refusal to respect the decisions, resolutions and mechanisms of the UN. Consecutive Israeli governments have refused to recognise the State’s obligations under international human rights law with regard to the Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), obligations repeatedly reaffirmed in statements by UN treaty bodies.

Israel also rejects the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, incumbent upon it as the Occupying Power, in defiance of numerous UN resolutions, the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the oPt, and countless statements issued by governments worldwide.

In 2009, Israel declined to cooperate with the UN Fact-finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone. Justice Goldstone repeatedly called on Israel to engage, to no avail. More recently, in 2012, the UN Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the oPt was denied entry into the territory to collect testimonies. The Mission joined a long list of UN Special Rapporteurs and the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, to whom Israel has also refused entry. Furthermore, since his appointment as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Mr. Richard Falk has not been allowed to enter the oPt to carry out his work.

Within this context, 15 human rights organisations call on the Council to take a firm stand consistent with the seriousness of Israel’s obstructive actions to date.

NGO List

Israeli government approves massive new evictions in the Naqab

Nazareth – Late last night, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government approved the Prawer Plan Law. This law was passed by the Knesset in 2011 and it legitimizes the displacement, dispossession, and eviction of tens of thousands of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel, while not recognizing their right of ownership of their ancestral land.

The Prawer Plan is presented as a “development plan” for the “improvement of living conditions” for all citizens of the Naqab, but with the mass expulsion of the Bedouin Palestinian citizens at the heart of the proposal.  This approval paves the way for the next Knesset to implement it components, which stipulate the seizure of more than 800,000 dunams of land (about 200,000 acres).  The plan will recognize around 30 unrecognized Bedouin villages, affording the residents the legal right to ownership of their homes, with a land area of around 48,000 dunams (about 12,000 acres), while the rest of their ancestral territory is confiscated.

In effect, the execution of this plan is extortion. The Bedouin are forced to acquiesce in order to win legal ownership over their homes, but in doing so they give up their rights to their land.  Furthermore, the Plan entails a five-year period for the Bedouin to accept the meager compensation or lose their rights to everything. This is basically a warning from the government.  They will begin demolishing all but the recognized villages to make way for the development of Jewish settlements in the Naqab in the next five years and if the Bedouin protest, they will lose what small area they have.

The Prawer Plan was designed and approved without any consultation with the Bedouin indigenous to the Naqab. The head of the Council of Unrecognized Villages responded yesterday, “We want the conditions improved. We don’t accept the outlined proposal. We’re all for regulating the unrecognized villages, but only in cooperation and coordination with the people living in them.”

This most recent decision is disappointing, but not unexpected.  The Prawer Plan has already justified the destruction of many homes in the Naqab.  However, Sunday’s decision marks a significant step forward in the spread of destruction.

The timing of this decision is also suspect.  It comes in the weeks leading up to the formation of a new government (the American equivalent is a president’s lame duck period), but also the day after the High Court of Justice ruled in defense of the Prawer Plan.  It will be difficult for advocacy groups to hold the new government that will form in a few weeks accountable for this abuse committed by its predecessor.

The Arab Association for Human Rights calls on the government to overturn this decision and to uphold the rights of the Bedouin Arabs of the Naqab to their land and their homes. Furthermore, the HRA would like to denounce the clandestine manner in which the ruling was processed.

Mohammad Zeidan, general director of the HRA, responded to the decision, “The Bedouin Arabs have a right to live in the lands they own and should not fear encroachment from Jewish settlements.  It is not right to force an exchange of land for a promise not to destroy homes.  The Bedouin land that is confiscated should not be a viewed merely as potential zone of development; this is the source of the Bedouin lifestyle and their livelihood. It destroys their indigenous way of life and forces them to integrate into a society that does not respect their traditions.  To force this exchange on the Bedouin of the Naqab is to deny them their human rights.”

 

A New Way to Support the HRA

Our Friend,

This past year has thrown many obstacles in the way of our collective strive for human rights.  2012 saw the ACAA protocol passed by the European Parliament and the Haifa District Court’s rejection of the Rachel Corrie’s family’s appeals.  These two developments set dangerous precedents domestically and abroad that will threaten future justice-protection mechanisms. In addition, a spate of discriminatory legislation was passed this past year; the Prawer Plan threatens the livelihoods of Arab Bedouin in the Naqab, the Family Unification Law divides Palestinian families, the Anti-Boycott Law violates freedom of speech, the Naqba Law revokes the Palestinian minority’s right to commemorate a national tragedy. Each law like these that is passed further restricts the human rights of Palestinians in Israel in favor of consecrating the superiority of the Jewish majority. The upcoming elections on January 22 are projected to an extremely right-wing government to power. Most serious of all, the outbreak of violence in Gaza in November portends troubling attitudes from Israeli politicians and marks the most recent in the long line of Israeli violations of Palestinians’ human rights.

The HRA is working as hard as ever to protect and promote the rights of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel.  We published two reports on issues of discrimination, one about home demolitions and the other focusing on the personal tragedies caused by the discriminatory family unification law.  Our human rights forums and youth outreach programs reached over 10,000 Palestinians living in Israel.  We also started a Twitter feed and redesigned our Intern Blog to make is easier for us to connect with supporters from all over the world.

This year we will be starting long-term projects with many esteemed partners in Israel and the Occupied Territories.  In 2013 we project our programs will reach record numbers of participants.  We hope to further expand our social media presence and to find even more ways to spread the word about human rights abuses in Israel. Our efforts can only be successful with the participation and support of people like you.

We are happy to announce that today it is easier than ever to support our work.  All you have to do is go to the Donate Today! section on our website and click the Paypal button.  You can start the New Year off right by supporting our work and joining our effort to promote human rights in Israel.

“You who stand in the doorway, come in,

Drink Arabic coffee with us


And you will sense that you are men like us


You who stand in the doorways of houses


Come out of our morning times,


We shall feel reassured to be


Men like you!”

-Mahmoud Darwish, exerpt from Under Seige

Mohammad Zeidan

General Director

Arab Association for Human Rights

 

 

Declaration of the Arab Association for Human Rights on International Human Rights Day 2012

Nazareth – 24 years ago, the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) was established with the mission to protect and promote the human rights of the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.  Today, the condition of human rights inequality in Israel is no less dire.  This past year has seen a gross violation of human rights in the form of Israel’s assault on Gaza, it has seen the Haifa District Court reject the appeal for justice on behalf of the family of Rachel Corrie, and it has seen the upgrade of Palestine’s status in the United Nations to non-member observer. On International Human Rights Day this year, the HRA would like to highlight the major developments in the human rights situation for the Palestinian minority in Israel.

In October, the European Union Parliament voted to pass the ACAA protocol. This trade agreement may set a precedent for further advancement of EU-Israel trade and it represents a significant missed opportunity for the EU to exercise its institutionalized conditionality of human rights concerns in all trade deals.

Over the course of the year, a spate of new legislation, proposed policies, and actions of lawmakers affected the condition of the Palestinian Arab minority’s human rights. In January, the Israeli High Court upheld the “Nakba Law”, which denies funding for any organization that recognizes the “Nakba”. Also in January, the “Prawer Plan” for Bedouin relocation was accepted.  It will force the relocation of 70,000 Bedouin from their lands in the Naqab.  On the 11th of January, the Supreme Court denied the petitions of many human rights organizations to revoke the discriminatory “Citizenship Law” which divides families of Palestinians in Israel. Also in July, MK Michael Ben-Ari published a video of himself ripping a Christian Bible in half; a clear polemic against religious minorities in Israel and an extremely troubling indicator of racism among public officials.

These developments, international and local, are each troubling in their own right; however, the effect on the Jewish Israeli public is much more frightening. As a result of institutional discrimination, the Jewish Israeli population has become polarized and racism has become a mainstream political opinion.  This process was the subject of an illustrative poll taken in September of Jewish Israelis in Tel Aviv. It found that 42% of Jewish Israelis do not want an Arab child learning in the same classroom as their own child, 33% favor legally blocking Palestinian citizens from voting in the Knesset, 59% favor preference for Jews in government hiring, and 42% do not want an Arab family as a neighbor.

With the region as politically and socially tumultuous as ever, this should be an occasion to remember the Human Rights inside Israel as well.  There are some disturbing trends that show no sign of stopping. Looking forward to the challenges we face in the future, the support of the international community will be as important as ever.  This International Human Rights Day, the HRA reaffirms its dedication to the principles of freedom and equality. Our organization will continue advocating Israeli adherence to international humanitarian law and we will continue protecting and promoting the human rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“Your Right”: An International Human Rights Day Celebration

hNmK2Yg=_=_م العالمي لحقوق الانسان-معك حق 13.12.12

 

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day this year, The HRA is honored to co-host an evening of cultural celebration.

Next Thursday, December 13, at the Mahmoud Darwish Cultural Center in Nazareth, this evening of artistic expression will include:

-A musical performance from the HRA-sponsored band

-A short theatric presentation

-A performance from rapper Hassan Akabarih

Tickets will cost 30 shekels and they will be available at the door.  Space is limited.

For more information, call the HRA at 046561923

The Arab Association for Human Rights celebrates the graduation of a new group of human rights facilitators

Nazareth – This week the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) is proud to announce that a new group of students has graduated from our human rights training course.  In the name of “Mansur Kardosh”, the HRA’s founder, our “Human Rights Education and Community Outreach” program presents a new group of human rights facilitators.

21 college students participated in the course. With the HRA’s “Haq” Youth Group, they will go on to establish human rights forums, which will increase human rights awareness and facilitate public action through volunteer work and application of their human rights training. The “Haq” Youth Group has already successfully launched 19 of these human rights forums is various Arab cities and villages throughout Israel.

As trainees they were given 96 total hours of training, including special guest lectures, and covering various theoretical concepts and more practical applications. They learned about international human rights groups, minority rights, national rights and the specifics of how to manage and direct groups for the purpose of creating positive change.

The HRA’s general director, Mohammad Zeidan, took the opportunity to congratulate the new facilitators, “This is an opportunity to celebrate the culmination of the work of the HRA over the past 20 years.  We have always tried to promote a cultural respect for human rights in our society, especially among the young audience, so we are proud of our ability to send this new group of able youth leaders back into a society which is suffering human rights discrimination in so many ways.”

The HRA Condemns the Israeli Aggression Against Gaza

Nazareth – The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) would like to affirm that Israel is not above international law and the current escalating Israeli aggression on Gaza, with its continuing indiscriminate attacks on civilians and densely populated residential areas constitutes a war crime. Furthermore, the renewal of a policy of assassination is considered extrajudicial killing and constitutes a gross violation of human rights and international law.

The continuing Israeli attack on Gaza and the threat to further expand its military operation constitute a flagrant challenge to the international community, who have shown their inability to take the necessary practical action to stop the crimes.  It also is in violation of agreed-upon universal values of protection of civilians in time of war.  The inability of the international community, including the United Nations Security Council and international legal bodies, to take firm action to stop Israel are perceived as giving approval of the continuing Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. Moreover, their mere silence is an act of compliance.

Mohammad Zeidan, the HRA general director, has condemned these attacks; “this aggression would not have happened if the international community had taken a stronger stance following Israel’s war crimes in 2008 and 2009.  I would also say to the international community that in failing to meet the legal obligation to criminalize Israeli actions, specifically in the case of the Goldstone Report, Israel has been allowed to continue its crimes against the Palestinian people and humanity.”

The HRA condemns all Israeli practices against the Palestinians in Gaza and against Palestinians in general.  Specifically, The HRA:

1)      Confirms the need for the UN and the UNSC to fulfill its obligation to take immediate actions to stop the Israeli aggression and to take punitive measures against Israel to stop the ongoing war crimes.

2)      Calls for international institutions to intervene immediately to provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian civilians and civil infrastructure inGaza.

3)      Calls on the Human Rights Council and the general prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to initiate an investigation on all Israeli war crimes committed against Palestinian civilians and to prosecute those responsible in accordance with international law.

4)      Calls on international institutions to provide the necessary humanitarian aid and medical relief to enable local Palestinian institutions so they continue providing the basic needs of the citizens under Israeli bombardment.

EU Parliament Passes ACAA Protocol

Nazareth – Last Tuesday evening, October 24th, the parliament of the European Union voted on the EU-Israel Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance (ACAA) protocol.  Despite an impassioned argument from Belgian Socialist MEP Veronique de Keyser for the ACAA protocol to return to committee stage, the protocol was passed.  The ACAA is an addition to the EU-Israel Association Agreement of 1995 and it stipulates that Israeli pharmaceutical products are held to a high enough standard to be sold in the EU.  The vote, in addition to reducing trade barriers, also sets a precedent for further trade agreements between the two parties.

The vote passed with 379 MEPs in favor, 230 against, and 41 abstentions. Supporters of the assent procedure described their rationale in terms of international trade while detractors saw this as an opportunity to activate the human rights conditionality of the law.

Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) General Director, Mohammad Zeidan, responds to the vote, “The failure of the EU to link human rights with trade agreements makes all the promises of the EU to prioritize human rights empty. The European Parliament’s decision sends two bad signs. One to Israeland all the other governments in the region, it says that they will not be held accountable for their human rights violations.  Second, it says to the victims that the violation of their rights is not taken into account in Israel’s trade agreements.”

In a letter to members of the European Parliament prior to the vote, The HRA, along with international and European human rights organizations, advised that human rights conditionality should be activated in the case of the ACAA protocol.  In terms of setting precedent, this vote not only alleviates trade restrictions, it also signals that the European Union is neglecting its responsibility towards international human rights.

Though the outcome of this vote is a disappointment, our future efforts will not be stymied.  The HRA will continue to advocate in the EU on behalf of the human rights issues facing the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel.

Don’t vote for ACAA!

Nazareth- The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) calls  on the Members of the European Parliament NOT to give their vote to an important trade agreement with Israel,sending a clear message to Israel that the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel won’t stand for ‘business as usual’ given the deterioration of the situation on the ground.

The European Parliament’s plenary session is due to vote on the EU-Israel ACAA protocol on 23 October 2012. At this occasion, the HRA urges MEPs to suspend their vote on the ACAA protocol so as not to create a legal precedent that could further jeopardise a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. These concerns have been echoed in the outcome of the vote in the international trade committee of the European Parliament on September 18th, which gave a consent vote to ACAA with a surprisingly tight margin for a technical agreement (15 in favour, 13 against and two abstentions) and could now be overturned in the Plenary session of the European Parliament.

ACAA, or the Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products, is a protocol attached to the EU-Israel Association Agreement. In practice, this agreement allows industrial products to enter the respective markets of the parties without additional testing and conformity assessment procedures. In practice, this means that both European and Israeli consumers will have quicker access to more and cheaper pharmaceuticals goodsRegardless of potential benefits, this vote represents an opportunity to show thatIsrael’s human rights violations will not stand.

Our organisation argues that:

  • The protocol implies the recognition of an Israeli authority that is competent over the settlements in the OPT and annexed territories;
  • This protocol shows the lack of coherence in EU Foreign Policy;
  • The EU should stick to the principle of ‘positive conditionality’ and ask Israel to commit to its human rights obligations;
  • While not technically an ‘upgrade’, ACAA is still an important strengthening of bilateral relations between the EU and Israel;
  • The agreement does not account for the fact that the Israeli pharmaceutical industry is deeply involved in the occupation, with devastating consequences for Palestinians in need of basic healthcare.

HRA General Director, Mohammad Zeidan, sent a letter to Members of the European Parliament asking them to withhold their consent to this agreement until there is tangible progress in Israel’s respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). ACAA is not just a technical agreement – it has implications for the Parliament’s credibility in ensuring that the EU upholds human rights in its foreign policy, in the Middle East region in particular.

At present, there is only one annex to the ACAA protocol, which covers pharmaceutical products,; however, in the future other annexes could be added like cosmetics and toys.

Negotiation on the ACAA Protocol between the EU and Israel started in early 2009. The ACAA Protocol was signed in May 2010 and has since been waiting for the assent vote of the European Parliament. The final vote on October 24 maybe be remembered as a watershed moment in the advancement of EU/Israel relations, lets not let the EU’s human rights obligations be forgotten.

The HRA letter to the MEPs was a part of a larger campaign organized by the Euromed Human Rights Network, which is a coalition of human rights organization based in Europe and the Middle East.

“Stripping Citizenship” Story Series #5: “Love in the Time of Apartheid”

All this week the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) has been publishing the contents of its newest report, “Stripping Citizenship”, in serialized updates here and on our website. These stories were reported and written by Samih Ganadri and edited internally by the HRA. Each story intends to display the human consequences of the discriminatory legislation and to show you reality of an often underrepresented minority.  This fifth installment marks the end of our series.

To see the first post including relevant background information and the preface to the report, click here.

So, without further delay, we present the fifth and final story of “Stripping Citizenship”:

Love in the Time of Apartheid

Tayseer Khateeb is a young man from Acre, born in 1973.  In 2002, he visited the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank in order to gather information for his PhD studies about the identity of Palestinian refugees.  He had completed his Masters degree in Anthropology at a German university, and had received a scholarship from a Canadian university for his doctoral studies. Officials in Jenin directed him to the Ministry of Health office, where he met the staff member in charge, Lana Khateeb, who was born in 1978.

What happened between them was like a magnetic field. “I was drawn to her” says Tayseer; “I was drawn to him” says Lana.  Tayseer had planned on returning to the office in Jenin in a week to collect the information that the “staff member” was preparing for him, but he was back the next day. Tayseer said he had returned “not only for the information,” while Lana said, “I was surprised to see him the next day, but I was waiting and expecting it.” I met with each of them separately.

Love in a time of war

His visits continued. Despite the barriers, their love and affection grew deeper, and even while the Jenin camp was, at the time, under a violent military invasion, aimed at striking the resistance to the occupation. They decided to get engaged. At first, Lana’s parents were reluctant to agree to this relationship, because they were concerned for their daughter’s fate. She would have to go to Canada, where Tayseer was continuing his academic studies. Would they return after he graduated? If they did return, who would ensure Lana’s citizenship in Israel? At the time, Amendment No. 1 of the Citizenship Law, which would prevent this, had been issued.

“A love that no barriers, military rifles or laws could prevent,” says Tayseer. He adds, “There is no law in the entire world that can prevent and forbid love.”  It has been ten years since the amendment was issued, and “Palestinian Arabs, on both sides of the border, are continuing to fall in love and get married” said Lana when we met in March 2012. Lana’s family in Jenin is educated, intellectual and progressive, and Lana graduated from university with a degree in business administration. They got engaged with their parents’ blessing in 2003. Tayseer traveled to Canada on his own, planning to return in six months to get married and take his wife back with him. Then, Tayseer’s mother became severely ill, needing to spend days at a time in the hospital. Because Tayseer’s father had died and he was an only child, he returned to Acre to be with his mother.

While Tayseer stopped his PhD studies, his relationship with Lana continued and became even more serious. For months, he spent his time traveling between his ill mother in the hospitals and nursing homes, and crossing checkpoints and traveling on rugged bypass roads to visit his beloved who was besieged in Jenin. How could he marry her and bring her to Acre? Particularly since the occupation only understands the language of the rifle. The law does not understand the language of human communication as it legislates with the language of separation and division.

In 2005, Tayseer found the solution to their problem by taking advantage of a loophole in the law, which allows first degree relatives to visit their family in exceptional cases, such as a serious illness. Tayseer’s mother was very sick. Lana was his fiancée, as they had gotten engaged before he had gone to Canada.  Thus, Lana and her mother were able to get a permit to visit Tayseer’s mother for two days. Lana came to Acre and through advance planning, the wedding hall was ready, and they had their wedding.

The morning after the wedding, the bride left her husband’s house in Acre and returned to Jenin. Tayseer smiles as he is telling me this story, and says: “Where in the world would you find a married couple who got married in the evening and are forced to part ways the next day? Anyway, it is better than her staying with me and finding herself in prison, on the second night of her wedding.”

Over the next eight months, Tayseer visited his wife in Jenin on a weekly basis. Lana could visit her husband in Acre once a month and only for a day or two, depending on the “mercy” of the security forces, and by proving that Tayseer’s mother is still very ill. A wife visiting her husband in their home is not a humanitarian issue that requires violating the law that prohibits people from a “hostile state” from entering Israel.

However, Tayseer is an academic intellectual, and a brave man who does not give up. He took advantage of another loophole in the law, which authorizes the examination of reunification requests (not approval, just consideration) if the wife is older than 25 years old.  He enlisted all his abilities and awareness of his rights, as well as the local and international media, and declared a “war” on the Israeli state and its laws.

Israel, a superpower, is waging a war on a husband and wife, aimed at preventing them from living together. Israel started this war. “We will not surrender nor give up on our right to fight back, to wage a peaceful, empirical and legal war in order to ensure our family’s well-being. We will see who will win.” says Tayseer. Then he adds, “Israel has even distorted our language and our conception. We talk about a war, about battles, victory and defeat while the entire issue is about a wife’s right to sleep next to her husband, to live in her own home. This is reality, not reason. I doubt whether Eugène Ionesco could have imagined or created such absurdity in his literature of the absurd”.

Lana recalls her fleeting visits to Acre to see her husband. She tells me bitter stories of crossing the borders each time, and about one specific incident that happened in Acre. Tayseer’s car had broken down when he needed to bring Lana home on the second day of her visit (in accordance with the duration of the permit). Lana had to stay for an additional day, while Tayseer went to fix the car. While she was at home, she heard a knock at the door; she was not expecting anyone, other than the security forces. Her heart started racing and she began to sweat. She ran into the closet and hid there.  She heard the apartment door opening, and footsteps walking throughout the house and coming towards the closet. She felt suffocated; they would now take her to prison and then back to Jenin. She would not see her husband again after today, and all her hopes of getting temporary residence were ending. Her file would now be tainted with a serious “criminal security” violation, which was remaining in her marital home a few more hours than was allowed. She was suffocating and felt she would die; she lost consciousness, and when she woke up, there was no one in the house. Later, she found out that those who had entered her house were Tayseer’s friends who had come to visit.

In most cases of marriage between Arabs from the Occupied Territories and Arab citizens of Israel, the husband is usually from the Occupied Territories. However, in this case, Tayseer is the citizen. For that reason they cannot presume that he got married in order to live in Israel, or to carry out sabotage, or any other security violation in Israel. Despite these facts, the Israeli authorities refuse to give his wife Israeli citizenship or even temporary residence.

However, Tayseer succeeded in winning his “war” on Israel. In 2006, he secured the right of temporary residence for his wife from the clutches of the Israeli authorities. This temporary residence needs to be renewed annually. Each year, and for three months before the temporary residence expires, the family goes through a painstaking “battle” of reviews and submission of papers. They have to bear the rudeness and intrusion of security personnel into their personal and private affairs, in addition to the disgraceful offers of a relief from state policy in exchange for betraying their family’s national dignity and patriotism. At times it reaches the point where a security officer advises Lana to divorce her husband. These months of grief finally ended with the “victory” for the couple. They won the right to continue to live together, at least temporarily, for another year. That was their situation until today, April 2012.

Tayseer returned to his PhD studies at Haifa University.  His dissertation was on “Identity”.  He now works as a lecturer in the Western Galilee College in Acre, teaching Arab and Jewish students. He also works as a “creative writing” coach in the Jenin Theater. His wife, Lana, lives with him (always temporarily), and they are raising their two children together; their older son, Adnan, who was born in 2007, and their younger daughter, Yusra, who was born in 2008.

Tayseer is constantly busy with his work, his studies and his social democratic activities, to the end of securing full citizenship for his wife. As he is the only provider for the family, the expense of dealing with these issues affects their household financial capacities, but he doesn’t complain. What worries and bothers their family is securing citizenship for Lana, his wife and the mother of his children.

The issue of citizenship constantly concerns Lana; every year, she is fearful they will refuse to renew her temporary residence. Not only that, she says that, in general, when people read about the problem of family reunification, the first thing they think of is the possibility of banishing the spouse. However, the reality is much more complicated and complex; the lives of the entire family changes, as they are tested financially, socially and psychologically. She and her children are always weighed down by the absence of permanent citizenship, because of this racism and discrimination that reaches the extent of apartheid.

Lana, like other spouses, does not have an Israeli ID because she is a temporary resident, which means that she is deprived from the right to work, drive a car, or have social and health insurance. She is “absent”, while “present” in Israel. She is temporary. She is incomplete. She is just someone’s wife. She has no free personal entity that gives her the right to work, be active, productive and a self-fulfilling member in society. This has a social and psychological impact on her, her husband, and their children.

In Jenin, in a somewhat conservative society, which is under occupation and the siege and bombardment of Israel’s Apache helicopters and buzzing bullets, Lana was a free and independent single woman. She used to work, drive her car, and be socially active. She planned to build a career and earn a higher academic degree. Lana says; “Here I am, in my home in Acre with my husband, a prisoner in my own home. I am confined in the house, despite the fact that I am an ambitious person, I have my goals, I have an academic degree, I want to work and be fulfilled. I want to contribute to the household expenses, and the raising of my children. Even our children are affected by the tense atmosphere in which they live as a result of my temporary residence.”

I met the two children, Adnan and Yusra. They love to travel to Jenin and visit their maternal uncles, cousins, and grandmother. Their father Tayseer is an only child, so they do not have any paternal uncles or aunts, and Tayseer’s mother, their grandmother, is in a nursing home. In spite of this, the children are afraid of going to Jenin with their parents. Adnan says, “The policeman, who has a gun, takes my mother from the car.” Yusra says, “I am scared; the policeman doesn’t take us with my mother. He takes her on her own, and I start to cry.”

Tayseer tells me that the security forces at the Jenin checkpoint always take his wife and her bags to a side room, because she does not have an Israeli ID.  He and the children wait for her in the car. His wife is subjected to a humiliating search, and even a more degrading interrogation. She is sometimes gone for a long time, and the children start to cry. How can you explain to them the reason why the police, who are heavily armed with guns, only take their mother? How can you assure them that she will return to them?

Tayseer and Lana have to traverse a painful, bitter and humiliating road, with their scared and crying children in order to visit her family.  Lana’s family lives in Jenin, and like all the people living in the Occupied Territories, are barred from entering Israel. However, for Tayseer’s family, just like other Arab families, it would be inconceivable not to stay in touch with family and relatives, despite the checkpoints and difficulties. Lana says, “Although Jenin is only 50 km away from Acre, my family is forbidden to visit me, and I am forced to cross painful and bitter miles in order to see them.”

Tayseer said to me: “Our problem now is our children. As they grow older, the tragedy grows bigger. The latest media hype about the amendment to the Citizenship Law, in addition to the media’s visits to our house, and the conversations we share, has aroused Adnan’s and Yusra’s attention. I do not know what they have heard or understood, but they are getting more and more attached to their mother. It’s like an illness. When they are at home, they never leave her alone even for one second. They follow her around the house, clinging to her clothes, and when she sits, they sit in her lap and hold her hand.  I think they understand that someone evil is trying to steal their mother away from them. Yusra used to love to go to kindergarten, but now she cries when we wake her up in the morning. She does not stop crying unless her mother goes with her. At the kindergarten’s door, she screams and cries because her mother is going to leave her alone. When she sees her mother at noon coming to pick her up, she jumps with joy, can’t stop talking and hangs on to her mother hugging and kissing her.”

In one of the recent demonstrations to protest the Citizenship Law’s amendments and their codification by the Supreme Court of Justice, I watched Lana as she was shouting, and giving statements to the media about herself and her husband. She said, “Palestine is my homeland, and we did not extort Jewish land, nor visited them against their will. Israel is the one who usurped our lands, and “visited” us against our will and without permission. Acre is my town and my home, this is my husband, and those are my children. There is no law in the world that can change these facts, nor prohibit the love between members of the same nation. If you meet me outside the borders, I shall return.  I am originally from Saffuriyya village; you expelled my father from Saffuriyya in 1948. Today, I will not let you expel me from my home and keep me away from my husband.”

Lana has broken the barrier of fear, and she is no longer hiding in the closet anymore, Tayseer whispered to me and said, “I am originally from “Al Manshiyya” and “Mia’ar” villages.  If Israel wants to deport us to Jenin in order to keep our family together, we will tell them that we will not leave Acre, the town which has become our home, unless we return to “Al Manshiyya”, or “Mia’ar”, or “Saffuriyya”. Will Israel accept this trade-off?!”

Tayseer’s family is not originally from Acre, nor is Lana’s family originally from Jenin. Tayseer’s family took “refuge” in Acre; his mother was displaced from Al Manshiyya village, and his father from Mia’ar. Both villages were destroyed by the Jewish forces and their people expelled during the Nakba in 1948. Lana’s father and many of her relatives in Jenin are refugees from the village of Saffuriyya, near Nazareth, which was also destroyed during the Nakba. Israel has built a settlement called “Tzipori” on the remains of the village, in order to hide the evidence of their crime, and to accommodate the new Jewish immigrants from around the world, who enjoy the right of citizenship on the ruins of the Arab village.

A refugee in his homeland, whose parents are also both refugees, meets a refugee, a daughter of a refugee family in the Jenin refugee camp. They fall in love, get married, have two children, but still they continue on being refugees. There are still barriers and walls preventing members of one family, one nation, to unite. Tayseer’s and Lana’s only fault is that they were born as Arab Palestinians in their homeland.

Will the world believe this unrealistic and absurd reality? The world believed the fictional story: “Love in the time of Cholera” by the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  So why won’t they believe this real story of Tayseer, Lana and their children Adnan, and Yusra? This story’s heroes are alive. They are the victim, the witness, the novel, and the narrator. Their novel is called: “Love in the time of the Apartheid.”

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For relevant background information and the preface to the report, click here.

To read the first story in our series “The Father is in the Drawer”, click here.

To read the second story in our series “Is there an end to this displacement”, click here.

To read the third story in our series “My Wildest Dream”, click here.

To read the fourth story in our series “The Hidden… The Present … The Family of the Dead… The Living”, click here.

“Stripping Citizenship was reported and written by Samih Ganadri. It was edited and published internally by the Arab Association for Human Rights.  If you would like a physical copy of the full report, please send an email to hra1@arabhra.org.