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UN Calls on Israel to Revoke 'Nationality' Marriage Law - 2003-08-14

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination unanimously called on Israel to revoke a new law that bars Palestinians who marry Israelis from becoming citizens or residents of Israel. Israel says the law is under court review and should not have been placed before the committee.

The 18 independent experts on the committee expressed concern at Israel's new law that prevents Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who marry Israeli Arabs from obtaining residency permits in Israel.

British Human Rights expert, Patrick Thornberry, says that the suspension order of May 2002 has already adversely affected many families and marriages.

"The nationality and entry into Israel law raises serious issues under the International Convention of the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination," he said. "The state party should revoke this law and reconsider its policy with a view to facilitating family reunification of all citizens and permanent residents on a non-discriminatory basis."

The committee oversees global compliance with the 1969 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Israel is one of 169 countries to have ratified the convention.

The committee, which is meeting in regular session, called this emergency meeting to put Israel on notice that it was violating the terms of the treaty.

The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yaakov Levy, says he was dismayed, and called the committee's action highly politicized.

He says the committee was too quick to condemn Israel about a law which is only temporary.

"It is now under review and scrutiny by the Israeli Supreme Court, the highest judicial instance in the land, sitting as the high court of justice," he said. "So, the domestic and internal proceedings have not yet been exhausted and it is much too early for a professional committee to jump the gun, so to speak and to call upon a party who is in the process of deliberating this issue to revoke it."

Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel's population of six million. Since 1993, more than 100,000 Palestinians have obtained Israeli permits through marriage. The Israeli government says the law is necessary to prevent terror attacks.