Skip to main content

Israel strips Palestinian of citizenship for attack on soldiers

Rights groups say move against Alaa Zayud will make him stateless
Zayud injured four soldiers and three civilians in a 2015 attack (screengrab)

An Israeli court has moved to revoke the citizenship of an Palestinian-Israeli who killed two Israeli soldiers, in a move that sets a "dangerous precedent", according to rights groups.

Alaa Zayud, 22, from Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, was convicted last year on four accounts of attempted murder for ploughing a car into Israeli soldiers and stabbing three civilians in October 2015.

Israel's interior minister, Aryeh Deri, then intervened asking Haifa magistrates' court to apply a 2008 law that allows for the revocation of the nationality of those involved in "terrorist activities".

On Sunday, the deputy president of the court, Avraham Elyakim, handed down a ruling which he claimed was "suitable and proportional".

"For every citizen, alongside his rights, there are commitments," Elyakim said. "One of them is the significant and important commitment to maintain loyalty to the state, which is given expression also in the commitment to not carry out terror acts to harm its residents and their security.

Aryeh Deri said the move 'strengthens the deterrent' (AFP)

"We cannot allow an Israeli citizen to impact the lives and dignity of other Israeli citizens, and whoever decides to do so in acts of terror removes himself from the general society of the country," he added.

Deri welcomed the ruling, saying it "strengthens the deterrent and strengthens our campaign to protect the security of the country".

"The decision states unequivocally that anyone who harms the state or its citizens can't be a part of it."

But rights group have said that they will appeal against the ruling in Israel's supreme court that and that it was an example of discriminatory policies targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel.

"We brought to the court the data that showed Jewish Israeli terrorist attacks with religious or nationalist intentions," Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer for Israeli rights group Adalah told MEE. "The ministry of interior never asked for their citizenship to be revoked. "

Zaher said the decision has set a legal precedent that can now be used against other Palestinians.

"It is not just from a legal point of view, because it will lead to a slippery slope that will lead to the targeting of more Palestinians who have committed acts that are less severe than acts that Zayud has done."

Zaher pointed out that the only other time an Israeli citizen faced losing their citizenship was in the case of Yigal Amir, who assassinated the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995.

On that occasion, the supreme court ruled against the decision arguing that "citizenship was one of the most basic fundamental rights".

Adalah will also launch an appeal with Israel's supreme court before the measure comes into affect in October when Zayud will be given temporary citizenship that requires renewing on a regular basis.

Zaher said they hope that the court will cancel the decision but that "law and politics are so intertwined in Israel". 

"We don't know. He's a Palestinian."

Israel is party to the 1954 UN Conventions on Statelessness, which ensures a minimum set of rights for stateless people.

Israel has also signed the 1961 convention which says a state "shall not deprive a person of its nationality if such deprivation would render him stateless" but does allow for the revocation of citizenship in exceptional circumstances. However Israel has not ratified the convention in its parliament which means it is ineffective inside the country

Zaher said that Ayoud's case was in violation of international law because it was not serious enough to warrant citizenship revocation. "You cannot cancel citizenship on criminal grounds. He was indicted in an attempt but he did not kill anyone. He was sentenced for 25 years. Attempting to strip his citizenship is a form of puishment or revenge," Zaher said.

"The political message that is being delivered through this case is that the citizenship of Arab citizens is a favour that has been granted by the state that is not to be taken for granted and that every time they do something [wrong] they will be stripped of their citizenship."

Human Rights Watch's Palestine director, Omar Shakir, said on Twitter: "Israeli court today revoked citizenship for first time ever; Palestinian Alaa Zayoud left stateless, a violation of international human rights law."

Since a wave of violence erupted in October 2015, more than 290 Palestinians or Arab Israelis and 47 Israelis have been killed, according to an AFP toll.

Israel has a stated policy of bulldozing the homes of convicted terrorists in the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip to act as a "deterrence".

Deri said that he would not renew the residency permit of Zayud's father, who is married to an Israeli citizen, but is not a citizen himself.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.