Israeli Supreme Court Affirms Self-Preservation -- Barely
By a razor-thin 6-5 margin, the Israeli Supreme Court recently upheld a provision in the Citizenship Law that denies permanent residency rights to Palestinian spouses of Israelis, under a certain age. Some Palestinian spouses are able to obtain temporary residency permits, but the thrust of the law is to limit the number of mixed Palestinian-Israeli Arab couples living in Israel.
Opponents of the law argued that it is discriminatory. Admittedly, in distinguishing Palestinian spouses, there is a discriminatory element in the law. But since it applies equally on its face to Palestinian spouses of Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews (though as a practical matter there will obviously be many more marriages of the former with Palestinians), it does not distinguish between Israeli citizens on the basis of religion or ethnicity.
The ultimate argument for the amendment to the Citizenship Law under discussion, however, is extra-constitutional: necessity. The provision was first enacted in 2002, after a Palestinian Arab married to an Israeli blew himself up in a Haifa restaurant killing fifteen. In the nine years prior to that, 140,000 Palestinians were granted residency in Israel under the "family reunification" provision of the Citizenship Law. These new residents were responsible for ten per cent of the terrorist acts committed by Arabs resident in Israel.
No state in the world grants citizenship to citizens of states with which it is in an active state of belligerency. That comes close to describing the Palestinian Authority and certainly the Hamas government in Gaza. Even the "moderate" Palestinian Authority, refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and glorifies those who have carried out terrorist attacks on Israel. Since the onset of Oslo, the official Palestinian media and education system have whipped the population into a frenzied death cult celebrating the killing of as many Jews as possible. What sense would it make to offer admission to those who grew up in such an educational system, or to require the Israeli government to determine on a case by case basis that the Palestinian spouse represented a security threat?
But the primary argument in favor of the 2002 amendment to the Citizenship Law is demographic. Since the creation of the State more than 350,000 Palestinian Arabs gained residency in Israel under the Citizenship Law. Negev Beduin were the most successful in exploiting the law, often "uniting" with more than one wife, and sending subsequent wives to deliver in the hospital using the Israeli first wife's identity card. They also did a brisk business in registering Palestinian kids on their identity cards for the welfare benefits. Only when officials in the National Insurance Institute realized that some Beduin women were supposedly giving birth to multiple children every year did the extent of the scam become known.
Though the fertility gap between Israeli Arabs and Jews is narrowing, the Arab rate still remains higher. Continuing to leave the "family reunification" provision as a gaping hole for a de facto Palestinian "right of return" would eventually spell the end of the dream of a state in which Jews remain a large majority. Left-wing proponents of an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines inevitably cite the "demographic threat" of an Arab majority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Well, the same argument supports the validity of the Citizenship Law.
The six justices who voted to uphold the 2002 amendment (a temporary amendment, which is renewed annually), were exercising the most basic human instinct – self-preservation. Even in Europe where the instinct for self-preservation appears to have atrophied in the face of mass Muslim immigration, countries like Holland and Denmark have greatly tightened immigration restrictions, including the grant of residency by virtue of marriage, sometimes employing explicitly racial and economic criteria in doing so.
Of necessity, the instinct for self-preservation has remained stronger in Israel than elsewhere in the West. The Israeli Supreme Court has too often been an outlier in that regard, for instance, outlawing the profiling at Ben-Gurion Airport that made it the envy of the world, and which – surprise – resulted in more searches of Arabs than Jews. The Citizenship Law decision, from that perspective, represents a return to health.
One final irony. Ha'aretz sharply criticized Court President Dorit Beinisch, even though she voted to strike down the amendment, for not having manipulated the process more successfully. She was blamed for not having brought the case for decision prior to the retirement of left-wing justice Ayala Proccacio, and for not having picked a more ideologically reliable judge to replace Proccacio on the panel. That criticism reflects the Left's view that the judicial system is just another political arena, but one where the Left is more likely to prevail than among the population's elected representatives.
Combatting the Terrorists Within
Evelyn Gordon, one of Israel's shrewdest commentators, recently posted an interesting piece on how Israel succeeded in dramatically reducing Palestinian terrorism, in part by removing the social support terrorists had previously enjoyed. She begins with the proposition that most terrorists are not psychopaths, and therefore seek the approval of their own society. At the height of the second intifada, for instance, the Shin Bet interviewed dozens of would be suicide bombers who were caught before they could detonate. It emerged from the interviews that the terrorists' primary motivation was the feeling that they would be lionized by their society.
From that it followed that if terrorists realized that they no longer commanded the respect and admiration of their neighbors they would be less likely to engage in terror. Israel speeded that process by making clear to the general Palestinian population that they were paying a steep price for the terrorists – e.g., a precipitous decline in the Palestinian economy, Israeli reoccupation of territory previously under Palestinian control.
And the Palestinian population then began to remove its support, open or tacit, from the terrorists. As Gordon tells it, "When some of [the terrorists] strolled into a Tulkarm coffeehouse, all the customers fled, and the owner ordered them out. Taxi drivers refused to pick them up, barbers refused to cut their hair. And worst of all, they couldn't get married. As one Palestinian explained, he didn't want his daughter marrying a terrorist because 'I want her to have a good life, without having the army coming into her house all the time to arrest her while her husband escapes into the streets.'"
The 2006 Second Lebanon War had a similar effect on Hizbullah. On the first night of the fighting, Israel bombed the Beirut electrical grid to plunge much of the capital into darkness. And in the course of the month-long fighting, ordinary Lebanese made clear to Hizbullah that they were not particularly gladdened by the destruction of their country as a consequence of Hizbullah's decision to start a war with Israel. That loss of popular support subsequently became an important factor in Hizbullah's lowered profile and reduced aggressiveness after the fighting ended.
Do these examples provide any guidance for other populations suffering from terrorists in their midst?
Last June I was in South Africa for the first Sinai Indaba sponsored by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. My first major presentation was in the form of a debate/discussion with Rabbi Moshe Taragin, a maggid shiur at Yeshivat Alon Shvut in the Gush Etzion bloc. I suppose the audience hoped that we would get things off to a rousing start with sharp exchanges between the chareidi and national religious viewpoint.
If so, our audience went away disappointed. Neither of us were interested in a slugfest, and there was no blood on the floor. But the truth is that Rabbi Taragin showed far greater restraint than I, if only because he had a far more enviable position from which to debate. The knitted yarmulkes and no-yarmulkes in the audience far outnumbered the black ones. Had he wanted to play to the audience he could have done so to great effect. Instead he continually spoke against form, and offered a good deal of fulsome praise for the chareidi community. (His wife is a therapist at MESHI, the remarkable school for severely handicapped children, founded by the late Rebbetzin Lifsha Feldman, about which I have written in the past.)
After our non-debate, we spoke for a half an hour or more in the speakers lounge and exchanged contact information and expressed our hopes to keep up the connection. That was the last I heard from Rabbi Taragin until a few weeks ago, when he invited me to come speak to the American talmidim in Alon Shvut on the chareidi community, in order to temper the furor against the community generated by the goings-on in Ramat Bet Shemesh.
The next day he sent me a nine-minute video of all the chesed work done by the chareidi community, and urged me to distribute it to my entire mailing list.
I was deeply touched by the gesture. But it also forced me to ask myself a question: Had the national religious community been under similar assault in the secular press – as it frequently is -- would I have spent any time looking for videos highlighting the wonderful aspects of that community in order to lessen the public outcry. And if not, why not?