Israel and the Occupied Territories – Families torn apart by discriminatory policies


Thousands of Palestinians are being denied their fundamental right to live as a family by an Israeli law that is due for review at the end of this month.

The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law bars Israelis who are married to Palestinians from the Occupied Territories from living with their spouses in Israel.

In a report published today, Torn Apart: Families split by discriminatory policies, Amnesty International calls on Israel to repeal the law on family unification, which discriminates against Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of Jerusalem who marry them.

“The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law institutionalizes racial discrimination contravening international human rights and humanitarian law. Without the right to family unification, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jerusalem residents can either have their spouse live with them illegally, in daily fear of expulsion, or the whole family must leave the country,” Amnesty International said.

“At the Interior Ministry they told me to either get divorced or to go live in the West Bank. But I love my husband and he loves me and we don’t want to divorce and I don’t want to take my children to live in the West Bank in the middle of a war and insecurity.”
Salwa Abu Jaber, a 29-year-old kindergarten assistant from Umm al-Ghanam in Northern Israel.

Family unification procedures for Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories married to citizens or residents of other countries have also been suspended by the Israeli army since the end of 2000.

The Israeli government has justified the barring of family unification on “security” grounds, arguing that the law is aimed at reducing the potential threat of attacks in Israel by Palestinians. However, Israeli ministers and officials have repeatedly described the percentage of Palestinian citizens of Israel as a “demographic threat” and a threat to the Jewish character of the state. This suggests the law is part of a long standing policy aimed at restricting the number of Palestinians who are allowed to live in Israel and in East Jerusalem.

Amnesty International calls on the Israeli authorities to:

  • Repeal the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law;
  • Resume the processing of family unification applications according to the principle of non-discrimination;
  • Process the backlog of thousands of applications and re-examine applications refused prior to the suspension of the procedure;
  • Provide details to any rejected applicant of the grounds for the refusal so they can challenge the decision.