Einat Weizman is an actress living in Tel Aviv. She has a Masters in Culture Research and Political Communications from Tel Aviv University and writes regularly for Maariv.
[Hebrew version here.]
Earlier this month (on March 3 2010) an expanded panel of High Court of Justice judges debated the petition against the “Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law (Temporary Provision).” This is a “temporary provision” that for the past eight years, hour after hour, has been preventing Israeli citizens from being united with their spouses who are residents of the West Bank and Gaza, by barring the latter from entering Israel and residing therein. The law, which the court refrained from disqualifying in the past on the grounds that it serves a “temporary security purpose,” is presented as security legislation, but it is not intended to protect the residents of Israel against enemy attacks. Its purpose is to protect the vision of the Jewish state against the “demographic threat.”
This is part of the ethno-biological war that the state is waging, in which law and bureaucracy serve as the main weapons. In addition to the many people who have been directly harmed by this war, Israeli democracy can also be counted as one of its victims. The law illustrates in practice the inherent tension in the oxymoronic term “Jewish and democratic state.” In the clash between the two, the legislator has revealed that he prefers a Jewish and demographic state, and to hell with democracy.
In order to soften the long-standing temporary provision, it includes a framework for recognizing irregular cases-a “humanitarian committee,” intended to determine which of the married couples does not pose a danger to the state. But even this “humanitarian” exception shows the ethno-biological significance underlying this legislation, since the few who receive the sought-after permit to stay in Israel are usually ill and elderly people, so that only Palestinians who are incapable of producing offspring are entitled to reside in our midst. All the others are free to fulfill their love-but not in the state of the Jews.
The greatest threat that the law seeks to protect against is not the threat posed by the Palestinians who wish to be unified with their loved ones, but rather the threat posed by their potential offspring, who might, heaven forbid, exercise their rights and even vote. In order to prevent the realization of this horrific vision, the vision of democracy, the law tries to ensure that such children will not be born.
This law, like many others, illustrates the fact that the entire issue of marriage in Israel is subjugated to demographic thinking. This is an attempt by the state to control biology. It is expressed not only in mobilizing the law to protect against the threat posed by the Palestinian womb. In a state that wages battle in the field of biology, it is not surprising that the issue of fertility treatments, genetic fertilization and fetal tissue treatments is one of the most advanced in the world. The Citizenship Law, which was written and intended for the Palestinian population, is only part of an entire legal-technological complex aimed at the political manufacturing of nationality.
This is the flip side of the politics dealing with death and who should be killed, the politics of life-which life the state wishes to create and which life it seeks to prevent. The demographic war is a known matter, but it does not end with the numerical balance between Jews and non-Jews. A key element lies in the effort to prevent the creation of “hybrids,” Jewish-Arabs or Arab-Jews.
For the most part, the Israeli citizens who have been separated by the temporary provision from their family members in the West Bank or Gaza, are Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship (“Israeli Arabs”). But in some cases, this refers to mixed couples who have been waiting for many years for approval of family unification. These are usually Jewish women who fell in love with Palestinian men, and wander from one ministry to another in the hope of winning the state’s approval for a unification that is “out of the question.”
The policy of separation is not only walls that rise several meters high, but also microscopic walls that are built by the state at the level of the chromosomes of DNA. Alongside with the restrictions on Jews marrying non-Jews, the state is working to separate them from their closest neighbors and from their genetic codes, and actually trying to keep them from an exciting and attainable resolution to years of conflict. If, after more than a hundred years of Zionism, it would allow the freedom to create a new, mixed nation, that nation’s demands would be completely different and would require different politics, and a different situation.
Photo: Alon Schuster