Removing Terrorists' Citizenship is 'Totalitarian'

Arab rights group presses Attorney General not to allow controversial deal to release terrorists and strip citizenship.

Natanel Katz, Ari Yashar ,

AG Yehuda Weinstein
AG Yehuda Weinstein

The Adalah Center for Arab Minority Rights on Thursday requested that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein not allow the stripping of citizenship from Arab terrorists with Israeli citizenship.

The request comes amid talk of a compromise deal being offered to the Jewish Home party, by which it would backtrack on its "red line" of leaving the government if Israeli-Arab terrorists were freed, if the terrorists lost their citizenship and were expelled.

In particular, the stripping of citizenship from 14 terrorists, including those convicted of murder, is being discussed as a way to extend the flailing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

While Jewish Home's official stance on the release deal remains unclear, Jewish Home MK and Housing Minister Uri Ariel on Tuesday made indications that it is under consideration. When asked if the terrorists should lose their citizenship if released, he responded: "even if their citizenship is revoked, they should also be expelled."

However, if Weinstein follows the request, Jewish Home may be saved from deciding on the politically risky move by the Adalah Center, a group which was behind an unsuccessful 2012 petition to nullify the "Nakba Law," which blocks funding for groups claiming the founding of Israel was a "catastrophe."

Stripping citizenship is "totalitarian"

Attorney Hassan Jabareen of Adalah and Attorney Oded Feller of the Association for Civil Rights wrote in the letter to Weinstein that the Supreme Court has in the past rejected the request to strip citizenship, even from criminals charged with serious crimes.

They pointed to the examples of a 1996 ruling against a petition to strip citizenship from Yigal Amir, the murderer of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, arguing that it was not an appropriate measure in the case.

Weinstein's predecessor, former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, similarly opined that the authority to strip citizenship due to a "breach of trust" is a rare authority that does not exist in most countries in the world.

The letter argued that the act of stripping citizenship is an extreme measure characteristic of "dark totalitarian regimes." It brought the example of the Soviet Union, which expelled to remote areas those who had their citizenship removed for a "breach of trust."

"In all the history of the state of Israel, only two people have had their citizenship revoked over 'breach of trust' to the state. It's not surprising that in both cases the citizens were Arabs," remarked Feller.

The attorney claimed that in the current discussed deal, the "draconian authority" is being used to send a message "that the citizenship of Arab citizens of Israel is not a foregone conclusion."

The entire discussion of releasing the Israeli-Arab terrorists may be a moot point, however, given that the PA on Wednesday signed a unity reconciliation deal with Hamas, placing the peace talks further in jeopardy. While Israel is mulling responses, it is seen as unlikely that the talks will be cancelled before their April 29 deadline.