As Israel is witnessing yet again, the Jewish state is held to a different standard, one that emboldens critics to take potshots at will. Israel’s parliament on Thursday, citing security concerns, passed a law temporarily halting the practice of granting Israeli citizenship to Palestinians who marry Israeli-Arabs—and the rhetorical barrage began almost immediately.
The Independent of London’s headline typified much of the coverage: “Israel imposes ‘racist’ marriage law.” Anti-Israel types are up in arms because the Knesset pushed through a bill (which expires in one year) that requires Israelis who marry Palestinians either to move to the West Bank or the Gaza Strip or to live apart from each other.
But breathless media coverage notwithstanding, Israel’s law is hardly harsh by international standards.
Most Arab nations are far more restrictive in granting citizenship—though the comparison is not exactly apt since none is a democracy. Many have so-called “grandfather” clauses, which require someone’s grandfather to be a citizen in order for that person to be a citizen. In many Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Syria, there are people whose families have lived there for two or three generations—but as non-citizens the entire time.
European nations are generally less restrictive than Arab countries in granting citizenship, but they don’t automatically grant citizenship to foreigners marrying one of their citizens. And in most countries, such as France and Germany, the newlywed foreigner has to apply for a visa that might not be issued.
Even America, the nation of immigrants, has similar restrictions on foreigners marrying U.S. citizens. Stories abound of foreigners who marry U.S. citizens, only to be denied visas to live in America. But establishing residency is only the first step, as the foreign spouse must go through a lengthy process in applying for citizenship.
But just because Israel’s law is not “racist” by international standards, does that make it the right move? Not necessarily. Though the legislation cleared the Knesset with a two-thirds majority, even members of the right-wing Likud party (which sponsored the bill) had reservations. The hawkish speaker of the parliament, Rudy Rivlin, actually opposed it, saying that it made Palestinians “guilty until proven innocent.”
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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