Cairo Nixes Marriage to Israelis

Egyptian men who marry Israelis will lose citizenship, ruled Cairo's High Court of Justice. Al Jazeera asks INN reporter to comment.

Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 17:27

Overlooking Cairo
Overlooking Cairo
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Cairo's High Court of Justice has upheld a lower court ruling that ordered the Interior Ministry to ensure that Egyptian men lose their rights if they marry Israeli wives.

Administrative Supreme Court Justice Mohammed al-Husseini handed down a decision Saturday that Egypt's Interior Ministry must ask the country's Cabinet to take what steps it must to strip citizenship from men married to Israeli women -- and from their children.

At present, Egyptians marrying Israelis are allowed to retain their Egyptian citizenship, and their children are automatically considered Egyptian citizens as well. The practice parallels that of the Muslim faith, in which custody of the children, and the religious faith, follows that of the father.

But although the High Court upheld a lower court ruling and its decision cannot be challenged further, the judge stipulated that the ministry “present all the marriages to the cabinet to examine each separately,” explained Nabil Al-Wahsh, the attorney who brought the original lawsuit. It is not clear whether or how the government will enforce the ruling.

Last year the Interior and Foreign Ministries appealed a similar decision by the lower court, arguing that the matter should be placed before the country's parliament, rather than be decided in the courts.

Al-Wahsh explained to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite news network that he wanted to prevent the creation of a generation who are “disloyal to Egypt and the Arab world.” The children of such marriages “should not be allowed to perform their military service,” he commented.

Al Jazeera reporter in Cairo, Rawya Rageh, commented that the case has “highlighted the divide between the official Egyptian stance on peace with Israel versus the real sentiment on the street of the Arab world's most populous nation.”

She added that “Popular sentiment in Egypt is primarily determined by the Palestinian situation, and this has given more room to lawsuits filed in Egyptian courts against anything that appears remotely sympathetic to Israel or its citizens.”

Al Jazeera requested a comment on the issue from Israel National News, as INN had reported on the lower court ruling but this reporter, who had written the first article, declined in deference to the journalistic principle of remaining outside and apart from the news story itself.

“It's not clear whether the Egyptian government will indeed enforce the verdict,” commented Rageh. “but for now, the verdict has quenched the thirst of many in an increasingly angry population seeking action against Israel.”

Egypt signed a peace treaty with the State of Israel in 1979, the first Arab nation in the immediate surrounding area to do so. Jordan followed soon thereafter.