Does the right to live with the ones you love apply to Palestinians?
By Daoud Kuttab
In the discussions about LGBTQ rights, one recurring slogan is that those who love each other have a right to marry each other. While the right of gay couples to have their wishes addressed by governments, straight Palestinian couples don’t enjoy that right.
The Israeli Knesset reinstated a law that bars Palestinian couples from living together even if one of the partners is a citizen of Israel. Since 2003 Israel using the Palestinian resistance against the occupation passed a draconian law that bars family reunification for straight couples under the false justification that it was doing that for security purposes. This was not a law against certain Palestinians but it was a racist law against every single Palestinian citizen of Israel if the person that they love happens to be a fellow Palestinian from the occupied territories. once married Palestinian couples are not allowed to be reunited in Israel. Jewish couples including illegal settlers living in the occupied territories don’t have such a ban.
The Israeli high court prevented in making this so-called emergency law permanent by demanding that it must be legislated every year. During the reign of right-wing Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Knesset voted the law in. But in the summer of 2021, the law was not renewed due to the opposition of the left-wing Meretz Party and the Islamic coalition partner Ram Party. Netanyahu’s allies opposed the law not for ideological reasons but out of spit against the coalition headed by a former ally of his now Prime Minister Neftali Bennett. Thousands of Palestinian couples rejoiced at the time, but the right-wing Minister of Interior Ayelet refused to respect the decision and put bureaucratic obstacles in order not to process thousands of couples that have been denied the right to be together for years.
However, on March 10th Israel’s interior minister Ayelet Shaked and her right-wing allies reached an agreement with an even more right-wing party, considered racists even by Israeli terms, and was able to pass the law again dashing the hopes of Palestinians.
Progressives around the world have been silent at this breach of a simple human right. Couples who love each other, wish to live with each other, and have the right to travel to the homes of their in-laws whether in Israel or in the occupied territories are legally denied by a US ally- the state of Israel.
Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides the right of creating a family “without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to find a family.” The resolution says that is “the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.” Palestinian couples are clearly discriminated against because they are of a different religion than most Israelis.
As the world is united in its opposition to the Russian military bullying the courageous people of Ukraine, the world is correctly standing up to this naked violation of international law.
The Russian dictator Putin has justified the war on Ukraine on the basis of defending Russian values. In his February 24th speech that preluded the beginning of the war, Putin claimed that Ukraine and its western supporters aim “to destroy our traditional values and force on us their false values that would erode our people from within.”
Ever since winning electoral victory for a third presidential term in 2012, Putin’s government has totally embraced “traditional values” as their guiding domestic and foreign policy. In accords to these traditional values of Russians, the idea of citizen’s rights, feminism, multiculturalism, and atheism is identified not only as foreign to Russia’s values but as existential threats to the nation.
Under this corruptive thinking the goal of protecting Russian children from “predatory homosexuals” as well as from “harmful LGBT” ideology motivated both the ‘2013 gay propaganda law’ and the 2013 “Dima Yakovlev law,” which banned U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children.
The war on Ukraine has exposed many double standards of western countries and western media who were opposed to the nonviolent boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) of Israel, but demanded the boycott and sanctions of Russia. Many in the west including progressives supported or turned a blind eye to Israeli occupation, its human rights violations, and apartheid laws against Palestinians. Yet today everyone in the west both conservatives and liberals is celebrating the bravery of Ukrainian resistance fighters. Their leadership is deservedly getting standing ovations while Palestinian resistance and their leaders are routinely dubbed as terrorists.
It is true that in recent years thanks to the bravery of progressives like congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez, Ilana Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and others including many progressive Jews this blind support for Israeli has been changing slowly.
Nevertheless, the political, financial, and military support for Israel has continued even after its current Prime Minister has publicly boasted about refusing to meet or negotiate with the Palestinian leader.
But the fact that in March 2022 Israel would get away with passing a racist law seems hard to fathom. This law bans family reunification based on the idea that every Palestinian must be a terrorist and therefore can’t be allowed to live with their Israeli Arab spouse is unacceptable.
The same forces that are opposing Russian military actions and the same progressive that have called for the right of gay couples to be married because they love each other, must apply the same logic to straight Palestinian couples who also love each other and simply want to be able to live with each other legally.
Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Follow him on Twitter@daoudkuttab