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Since the establishment of the state of Israel, Palestinians living under its control have faced restrictions on movement, limits on political organization and freedom of expression, employment discrimination, limitations on legal rights, and lower levels of access to resources. Between 1948 and 1966, all Palestinians within the borders of Israel lived under military rule. Since 1967, Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank and Gaza, granting Palestinians few of the rights and privileges afforded to Israeli citizens.
Currently, in the words of former Human Rights Watch researcher Darryl Li, Israel has instituted “a hierarchy of legal exclusion that encompasses the half of the population of Israel/Palestine that is not Jewish, and which is fragmented into citizens of Israel, residents of East Jerusalem, and West Bankers,” with Palestinians in Gaza at the lowest rung. In other words, Israel divides Palestinians into different categories, with different sets of laws governing the rights of each group.
The existence of this legal hierarchy has compelled a number of legal observers to argue that Israel is in violation of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. In this legal context, Crimes of Apartheid are defined as “inhumane acts…committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
Israeli apartheid affects many aspects of Palestinian life, including marriage and family unification. For example, Palestinians with Gaza residency are banned from entering the West Bank for any purpose, including marriage. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza also face huge obstacles to reuniting with family members who were expelled, fled, or were residing outside the country during the June 1967 war during which Israel revoked the right of some 300,000 Palestinians to reside in the newly-occupied territories.
These laws and restrictions have culminated in a more recent episode of direct discrimination toward Israel’s indigenous Palestinian citizens. In 2003, the Israeli parliament passed the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, banning Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza from living with their spouses in Israel. The Israeli High Court extended this once-temporary order on January 11, 2012 by denying human rights organizations’ attempt to overturn the legislation. This ruling affects affects thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel who must now either leave their homes, live apart from their families, or risk living with their spouse illegally.
Despite Israel’s entrenched system of segregation, Palestinians are working to fight for their rights and to remain connected to one another. Taiseer Khatib, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, now faces the potential deportation of his wife Lana, a Palestinian from Jenin, and his children Adnan (4) and Yousra (3). Together they are mobilizing, as are many other Palestinians and civil rights groups, to contest the discriminatory ruling. Taiseer insists, “We have the right to love and live just like any other people in the world.”