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Israeli Court rejects Israeli citizenship of non-Jews

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by Saed Bannoura

Twenty percent of the population of Israel could be affected by a court ruling in Haifa on Tuesday in which a judge ordered that only Jews should be allowed to have Israeli citizenship, and non-Jews, even those born and raised in what is now Israel, should not be allowed to claim Israeli citizenship.

The ruling rejected an appeal by Uzzi Ornan, who claims no religious faith, but was born in what is now Israel. It is unclear what impact this will have on the Christian, Muslim and atheist citizens of Israel, which constitute around twenty percent of the population.

Tuesday's court decision also brings into question the Israeli government's claim that it is both a Jewish and democratic state. As the plaintiff in the case, Uzzi Ornan, told reporters Tuesday, “A judge appeals to Jewish law, and the ruling shows that Israel is a Jewish community and not a civilian state.” Orman and others say that this verifies that Israel is a Jewish state, and not a democratic one.

In his ruling, Judge Daniel Fisch appealed to Jewish religious law, and the 'Right of Return' which allows anyone born of a Jewish mother anyone in the world to claim Israeli citizenship. The displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population by this and other Israeli laws was not mentioned by the judge.

The state prosecutor's office stated, “The fact that the petitioner is listed in the Population Registry according to his declaration as a person with no religion does not affect his being a Jew according to halachic test determined in the Law of Return.”

Because Ornan was born to a Jewish mother, he was ruled to be a Jew, despite his claim that he is agnostic, and therefore not Jewish. His citizenship was thus ruled to be based on his religion (Jewish), not the fact that he was born in Jerusalem.

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