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Major PMW success: PMW initiated law passed by huge Knesset majority

Itamar Marcus  |

Yesterday, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) adopted a law that was initiated, formulated and originally written by Palestinian Media Watch. While the current Israeli Knesset is highly polarized, PMW’s law was adopted by broad, possibly unprecedented, consensus of both the coalition and the opposition, with 94 out of the 120 Knesset members of voting in favor of the law.

The “Law to cancel the citizenship or residency of a terrorist who receives a payment for the commission of an act of terror,” provides that an Israeli citizen or resident who fulfills three cumulative criteria - Convicted of a terror offense; sentenced to actual prison time; requests and receives a payment from the Palestinian Authority as a reward for their acts of terror -  will be stripped of their Israeli citizenship or residency.

Before the final vote on the law, Israeli Minister Avi Dichter, specifically noted the PMW’s contribution:

Israeli Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Avi Dicter: “The problem was a very serious problem: Israeli [Arabs] who engage in terror, including those who murdered Israelis, receive a status of Palestinian Authority employee the day they enter prison in Israel, from the day of their arrest until the end of their lives. Whether in prison or outside of prison, they are PA employees because they are terrorists. Here I owe a word of praise to the Palestinian Media Watch institute and to the one responsible for legal matters there [PMW Director of Legal Strategies] Maurice Hirsch, who truly invested day and night to gather the information that truly shines light on a phenomenon that we have been living alongside, living alongside it for years, and allowing it to pass.”

[Knesset Channel (Israeli public TV), Feb. 15, 2023]

The underlying rationale of the law is that the PA sees all the imprisoned terrorists - including the Israeli Arab terrorists to whom they pay a special addition - as Palestinians, as soldiers and as the “fighting sector” of Palestinian society. The terrorists also see themselves as Palestinian soldiers. When an Israeli citizen or resident carries out an act of terror, acting as a soldier of a foreign and hostile entity, and then receives a payment from that foreign entity as a reward for his participation in terror, that person is fundamentally breaching his duty of loyalty to the State of Israel, and is, by his own actions, demonstrating that he should no longer be considered to be and “Israeli.”

Research presented by PMW during the Knesset committee discussions on the bill showed that it would in no way be unique to Israel. Rather, that it reflected broad international consensus and was grounded in international law.

International law

International law recognizes the right of countries to strip persons of their nationality in certain circumstances. The issue that arises is whether that person holds, or is entitled to, an alternative status. Accordingly, article 8(1) of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness 1961 provides that as a general rule, countries should not deprive a person of their citizenship in a manner that would render him stateless.

Article 8(2) and particularly article 8(3) provide the exceptions to this general rule. According to article 8(3) a country may strip someone of their citizenship, even if that decision leaves the person stateless, inter alia, if the person acted “inconsistently with his duty of loyalty “ to the country and “in disregard of an express prohibition by the Contracting State rendered or continued to render services to, or received or continued to receive emoluments  from, another State.”

When an Israeli terrorist carries out an act of terror against Israel and Israelis on behalf of the Palestinians, he is clearly breaching his “duty of loyalty.” When that terrorist then receives a payment - referred to in the convention as an “emolument” - from the PA as a reward for his acts of terror – receiving a payment of this nature is specifically prohibited by Israel’s Anti-Terror Law – Israel is certainly within its rights under the convention to strip that person of his citizenship or residency even if that person is left stateless.

State practice

In addition to the provision of article 8 of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness PMW also presented the findings of a study that examined the legal provisions in 190 countries regarding stripping people of their citizenship.

The study showed that of the 190 countries examined, 134 countries have provisions to strip persons of their citizenship based on one form or another of disloyal conduct. In 98 of those 134 countries, there is no provision that would prevent stripping the person of their citizenship in a manner that would leave him stateless.

What PMW hopes the law will achieve

The PA ‘Pay-for-Slay’ terror reward policy is widely recognized as a means to incite, promote incentivize and reward terror. Using this policy, the PA does its utmost to ensure that Israeli Arab’s feel a greater affiliation with being “Palestinian” than with being “Israeli”. The additional payment that the PA pays specifically to Israeli terrorists, provides not only an extra and added incentive to participate in terror by also as a bridge between the PA and the Israeli Arabs.

In the course of the discussions, PMW exposed information it had received, and told the Knesset committee that there are currently about 1,000 Israeli Arab terrorists in prison who are receiving reward payments from the PA - 300 Israeli citizens and 700 Israeli residents.

As such, and in an effort to remove the potential financial reward the Israeli Arab terrorist would see, the primary goal of the law is deterrence, placing a clear and substantial price on participating in terror and taking payments from the PA as a reward.

Is PMW’s goal realistic?

Following the initial approval of the bill in the Knesset committee, the PA TV expert on Israeli affairs, Fayez Abbas, already realized the potential threat of the law and already recommended that the PA stop paying the terror rewards to the Israeli terrorists:

Official PA TV “Israeli affairs expert” Fayez Abbas: “An [Israeli] law passed in an initial reading to revoke [the Israeli] citizenship and residency of people (i.e., terrorists) who carry out operations (i.e., terror attacks) against Israel and receive money from the Palestinian Authority. According to this law, if you received money they revoke your [residency or citizenship]. If you didn’t receive it- I recommend not to pay them money.”

[Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, Jan. 31, 2023]

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