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Israel's high court upholds ban on Palestinian spouses

Israel's supreme court upholds law banning Palestinian spouses of Arab Israelis from citizenship.

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A Palestinian woman holds a national flag as she stands in front of a line of Israeli soldiers blocking the main road leading to the West Bank city of Jericho on January 10, 2012 as some 60 Palestinians tried to drive in a motorcade on Route 60, the main Jewish settler road in the West Bank, to protest against Israeli curbs on Palestinian movement in the West Bank. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel’s supreme court upheld a law that bars Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens from living permanently inside Israel, the Associated Press reported.

The decision passed by a six to five majority, and Judge Asher Grunis wrote the judgment, stating, “Human rights do not prescribe national suicide.”

The original law was passed in 2003, and civil rights groups called it racist, fearing it would force members of the 20% Arab minority in Israel who were married to Palestinians to emigrate, according to Reuters.

The dissenting justices viewed the freedom of choice in marriage “as being at the heart of democratic principle.”

The Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, reported on Taysar Hatib, an Arab Israeli married to a Palestinian, and he said, "She can’t develop a career – She can’t even drive a car, though she holds a Palestinian driver’s license."

The ruling stated that between 1994 and 2002, 135,000 Palestinians were granted Israeli citizenship, as compared to a few hundred before 1994, the AP said. According to a spokeswoman from the Adalah Arab rights advocacy group, only 33 out of 3,000 applications for exemptions were approved last year.

The law was originally pushed forward during the height of the second Palestinian uprising, when attacks were frequently carried out by militants from the West Bank inside Israel’s borders, said the AP.

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However, Interior Minister Eli Yishai clarified that maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel was also a concern, saying the upheld law would prevent “a situation in which, not too many years hence, we would find yourself [sic] losing the majority, (and) faced with terrorism,” according to Reuters.

In 2007, the law was expanded to apply to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, said the BBC. Palestinian spouses can apply for an exemption if the husband is over 36 years of age or if the wife is over 26 years, said Ha'aretz.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel told the AFP, “It is a dark day for the protection of human rights and for the Israeli High Court.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120112/israel-high-court-upholds-ban-palestinian-spouses