In an unprecedented step, an Israeli court has revoked the citizenship of 23-year-old Alaa Zayoud for “breach of loyalty.”
The human rights groups that will appeal the decision to Israel’s high court warn the move is a violation of international law.
In June 2016, Zayoud, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for four counts of attempted murder, for driving a car into a soldier and then stabbing three civilians in October 2015, causing them light to moderate injuries.
Following Zayoud’s sentencing, Israel’s interior minister Aryeh Deri asked a court in Haifa to revoke his citizenship.
In 2008, Israel amended its law to allow courts to approve such requests for “breach of loyalty.”
Zayoud’s case is the first time the 2008 law has been applied.
On 6 August, a judge in Haifa granted Deri’s request, describing the revocation of Zayoud’s citizenship as “suitable and proportional,” according to The Times of Israel.
“For every citizen, alongside his rights, there are commitments,” the judge stated. “One of them is the significant and important commitment to maintain loyalty to the state, which is given expression also in the commitment to not carry out terror acts to harm its residents and their security.”
Citizenship of Rabin’s assassin not revoked
Zayoud, from the Palestinian town of Umm al-Fahm in Israel, only holds Israeli citizenship, which means he will become stateless if the decision is upheld.
This is the first time that an Israeli court has revoked the citizenship of a Palestinian citizen of Israel for “breach of loyalty,” attorney Sawsan Zaher, from the Haifa-based human and civil rights group Adalah, told Ma’an News Agency.
“The court hasn’t even provided an in-depth argument to justify the revocation of Zayoud’s citizenship,” Zaher said. “They are just confirming that this is just about getting revenge. None of it is rational.”
Zaher and attorney Oded Feller, from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, had argued against the revocation, saying the 2008 law was exclusively invoked against Arab citizens of Israel.
“There has never been a request to revoke the citizenship of a Jewish citizen, even when Jewish citizens were involved in serious and grave crimes,” the attorneys said in a statement.
Zaher and Feller note that in 1996 Israel’s high court refused to revoke the citizenship of Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
“Second generation” threat
In fact, the ruling in Zayoud’s case explicitly states that it is meant to target a certain group of Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Zayoud’s mother is an Israeli citizen and his father, from the occupied West Bank, is a permanent resident of Israel.
According to the Israeli publication +972, the ruling describes Zayoud as a “second-generation child of family unification,” a category devised by the Shin Bet – Israel’s secret police.
“Intelligence gathered in interrogations of ‘second-generation children of family unification’ shows that despite being born and raised as Israeli citizens, they still retain a Palestinian identity and they see the State of Israel as an enemy state that is in conflict with their people,” the judge wrote, according to +972.
The judge claims that such citizens live with an “identity tension” that “leads to Palestinian loyalty and nationalist triggers which increase their willingness to carry out acts of terror.”
The ruling explicitly states that revoking Zayoud’s citizenship is “aimed exclusively at so-called ‘second-generation children of family unification’ – to be used exclusively against them and to deter others within that group.”
Against international law
Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel will appeal the decision.
As well arguing that the law is being applied in a discriminatory manner, they say that international law explicitly bars revoking the citizenship of a person if that will leave them stateless.
Meanwhile, Deri has also said that the interior ministry will not renew the residency permit of Zayoud’s father – an apparent act of collective punishment against his family.
In January 2016, Deri revoked the residency status of four Palestinians from Jerusalem for “breach of loyalty.”