Summary: HRW, Amnesty and Adalah have resumed their campaign which lacks a comparative framework and reflects blatant political goals.

In its August 2003 edition, NGO Monitor analyzed the political campaigns of a number of human rights NGOs condemning the Israeli Knesset’s adoption of an amendment to Israel’s citizenship law. The purpose of the legislation, which was passed for a one-year trial period, and renewed for 6 months in July 2004, is to control the inflow of Palestinians seeking Israeli citizenship. As noted, this issue arose against the background of the decades long ethno-national conflict and the extreme violence of the past three years. In the past decade (since the beginning of the Oslo process), 200,000 Palestinians have received citizenship under family unification provisions. This constitutes an increase of approximately 20% in the Arab population of Israel in this period, and a major change in the politically and culturally sensitive population balance.

The wider debate that surrounds the amendment poses important questions for all democratic societies, particular in the context of the delicate equilibrium and interaction between individual and collective cultural rights. As the world’s only Jewish state, (compared to many Arab, Moslem and Christian states), Israel has the natural right to adopt policies necessary to maintain its unique historic and cultural identity. In addition, many Palestinians have declared their intention to use the demographic weapon to overwhelm Israel from within, and this dimension cannot be ignored when considering the impact of the movement of a large number of Palestinians to Israel via marriage.

Continuing to ignore the context and impact of the Israeli citizenship rules, these NGOs have renewed their public relations campaigns. For example, Amnesty International released a report on 13 July 2004, "Torn Apart: Families split by discriminatory policies." Amnesty’s failure to recognize Israel’s right to exist as the only state with a Jewish cultural framework is demonstrated by its claim that "The new law must be seen in the context of other existing laws and practices which discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel and against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Such laws include the Entry into Israel Law and the Law of Return…while at the same time denying the right to return to their homes to Palestinians who were expelled, forced to flee…in 1948 and during subsequent conflicts between Israel and neighbouring Arab countries." In a blatantly political action that is reminiscent of the demonization of Durban, Amnesty International condemned the 6 month extension, stating in a 22 July press release "Israel invokes spurious ‘security’ justifications for a law which institutionalizes racial discrimination and violates international law." Amnesty then demanded that Israel "must repeal this law once and for all, and must put an end to discrimination based on ethnicity or nationality."

Using somewhat less emotive language, Human Rights Watch used the public relations tactic of an open letter to Knesset Members on 20 July calling on MKs "to vote against the extension of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order)-2003 and bring an end to this overt form of discrimination." In this political activity, HRW claimed that "Israel’s legitimate security concerns cannot justify the sweeping scope of this law which violates the basic human rights of thousands of citizens and permanent residents." HRW, however, failed to acknowledge any of these security concerns or to propose a viable alternative that would also protect Israeli rights.

This campaign was led by a number of local Arab and Palestinian NGOs, including Adalah, with the Mossawa Center, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Betselem, Hamoked, Shatil (NIF), and the Arab Association for Human Rights, who jointly published an advertisement in the Hebrew edition of Ha’aretz on 16 July which called for a demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s Office, terming the citizenship law "racist and inhumane". On 21 July, Adalah filed a motion for a temporary injunction against the law, which was rejected by Israel’s Supreme Court. The campaign against Israel’s right to determine its own citizenship laws was extended to the British parliament, according to the Mossawa Center, which claimed credit for initiating an Early Day Motion signed by 81 British MPs expressing concern over Israel’s renewal of the citizenship law.

In such actions, and use of terms such as "racist", these NGOs has demonstrated a continuing commitment to the demonization of Israel, exploiting the rhetoric and ignoring the substance of human rights norms.