High Court Suit: Strip Three Arab MKs of their Citizenship
The three Arab MKs in question are Azmi Bishara, Wassel Taha and Jamal Zehalka, of the Balad Party. During their visit to Syria, they met with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad and leading members of the ruling Baath Party.
Israel Law Center's suit, filed last week by its director, Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, quotes Clause 5 of Israel's Emergency Regulations regarding travel abroad (1948, 1954). The clause states, "An Israeli citizen or resident may not enter [Syria or other specified countries] without permission from the Interior Minister or the Prime Minister" - permission that was not received by the three MKs.
In addition, Clause 11 of the Citizenship Law of 1952 states, "An Israeli citizen who left Israel illegally to one of the [forbidden countries]... shall be viewed as having ceded his Israeli citizenship, and it shall be voided as of the day he left Israel."
Therefore, the ILC concludes, "Their Israeli citizenship was voided as of the day they left Israel, and since a Knesset Member must be an Israeli citizen, they must be dismissed as Knesset Members."
The ILC turned to Interior Minister Roni Bar-On two months ago, asking that the citizenship of the three MKs be revoked. It also turned to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik at the same time, demanding that she act to replace the three MKs in question with those who succeed them on the Balad Party list.
Though Bar-On did not reply at all, Itzik responded that the MKs are protected by their parliamentary immunity, which allows them to travel freely abroad except in time of war. The lawsuit argues at length, however, that parliamentary immunity does not apply to the loss of citizenship - and that even if it does apply in principle, a trip to Syria is certainly not an inherent part of an MK's parliamentary duties that would protect him from the penalties required by the law.
Leitner said, "The time has come to enforce the law against MKs who feel free to visit enemy countries whose goal it is to liquidate the State of Israel, and to meet with leaders who back the most murderous of attacks in Israel. The freedom to travel to these countries granted to these MKs will end now; an Arab MK who wants to join up with the enemy may no longer serve as a Knesset Member."
In the past, the ILC has protested the PA's hanging of Arabs suspected of helping Israel; has petitioned the Supreme Court on behalf of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, seeking to have the government classify him as an American Prisoner of Zion; has represented Jewish families of terrorist victims in monetary damage suits against the Palestinian Authority and Hamas; and more. In one case, for example, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that Hamas must pay $20 million to Yeshurun Gavish, whose brother, parents and grandfather were murdered in their home by a Hamas terrorist.