A right-wing member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, called for revoking the citizenship of Hagai El-Ad, the director of Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, in response to El-Ad’s recent criticism of Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, MK David Bitan, who serves as the Knesset’s coalition chair and as the whip for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, stated, “I examined whether, legally speaking, if I can ask the interior minister to revoke the citizenship of B’Tselem’s executive director.”
He continued: “I checked, and there’s no legal avenue for doing so today,” Bitan continued, “but we must strip his citizenship.”
— Alan Hart (@alanauthor) October 23, 2016
Referring to El-Ad’s appearance at a special meeting at the UNSC when he slammed numerous Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank, particularly illegal settlement building, Bitan called El-Ad’s actions a “blatant breach of trust by an Israeli citizen to the state,” saying that “as such, he should find another nationality.”
In response to Bitan’s comments, B’Tselem released a statement saying, “For nearly 50 years Palestinians have not had citizenship or rights. Now the coalition chairman, the messenger of the Prime Minister, wants to cancel of the citizenship of those who speak out against this reality.”
The statement added that the MK’s threats would not deter B’Tselem’s work, nor the “hundreds of thousands of Israelis who oppose the occupation.”
Coalition head aims to remove B’Tselem head’s citizenship – ‘He should go find another country where he could b… https://t.co/Qa2meRfVxW
— Sir_Templar (@Sir_Templar) October 23, 2016
According to Israel National News, MK Zehava Galon of the left-wing Meretz party blasted Bitan for his comments, calling them “dangerous,” adding that “in a democratic country, citizenship is a basic right. It is not a gift granted to those who are favorable in the eyes of the chairman of the coalition.”
In his speech to the UNSC, El-Ad highlighted that 2016 has been the worst year on record for the demolition of Palestinian homes, saying that “Israel has systematically legalized human rights violations in the occupied territories through the establishment of permanent settlements, punitive home demolitions, a biased building and planning mechanism, taking over Palestinian land and much, much more.”
— B'Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) October 18, 2016
Following El-Ad’s speech, Netanyahu accused the group of “denying Jews our rights, spreading lies, and distorting history to recognize and condemn the actual barriers to peace,” and said he would act to prohibit national service volunteers from working with B’Tselem. However, the group was only ever allotted one such volunteer, and said that the position was not currently filled by anyone.