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Israel revokes citizenship of 'hundreds of Palestinian Bedouins' Open in fullscreen

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Israel revokes citizenship of 'hundreds of Palestinian Bedouins'

The Bedouin community faces Israeli state policies of dispossession, displacement and home demolitions. [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 August, 2017

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Israeli authorities have revoked the citizenship of hundreds of Palestinian Bedouin in Israel's Negev desert in recent years, leaving many stateless and without recourse to appeal the decision.

Israeli authorities have revoked the citizenship of hundreds of Palestinian Bedouin in Israel's Negev desert in recent years, leaving many stateless and without recourse to appeal the decision.

Since the establishment of Israel in 1948 the Palestinian Bedouin community has faced state policies of dispossession, displacement and home demolitions.

More than half of the 160,000 Bedouins in Israel's Negev desert live in villages not recognised by the state, leaving them deprived of water, electricity, and other basic infrastructure.

In recent years, Israeli authorities have also begun revoking the citizenship of Bedouin residents, according to a new report in Haaretz.

The main reason given by Israeli authorities is that their citizenship was granted in error and must therefore be rescinded, instantly changing their status from citizen to 'permanent resident'.

In most cases it occurs during ordinary bureaucratic procedures such as changing an address, obtaining a birth certificate or renewing an identity card.

Most individuals have often been registered as citizens for decades and have all voted and paid taxes, while some have even served in the army.

"I went to the Interior Ministry to renew my identity card," Mahmoud al-Gharibi from a village near Beersheva said.

"There, without any warning, they told me they were rescinding my citizenship since there was some mistake."

As permanent residents they can vote in local, but not national, elections, and are entitled to social benefits but not an Israeli passport.

If they leave Israel for prolonged periods of time they can lose their residency status.

'No one explains anything'

Arab Bedouin community members are then forced to begin the entire citizenship process from the beginning, effectively being treated as if they have just arrived in the country despite a presence which long outdates the Israeli state itself.

"No one explains anything and all of a sudden your status changes," another Bedouin resident told Haaretz.

"You go in as a citizen and come out deprived of citizenship, and then an endless process of foot-dragging begins."

The complaints have increased exponentially in recent months, with residents effectively being left stateless.

The process is entirely in Hebrew, a language that many of the Palestinian Bedouin community do not speak.

In recent months, Aida Touma-Suliman, a politician with the Arab Joint List party, has received numerous appeals from Bedouin citizens who have been stripped of their citizenship.

"The ministry is blatantly violating the law," Joint List MP Touma-Suliman told Haaretz.

"It's unacceptable that in one family living under one roof, half the children are citizens while the other half are residents or people with indeterminate status."

A lawyer from the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, Sausan Zahar, recently filed an appeal to Israel's interior minister and attorney general, asking them to cancel the policy.

The petition said that the cancellation of Bedouin citizenship has been going on since at least 2010.

An Israeli Knesset committee published a report last year following a spike in citizenship requests which found that as many as 2,600 Bedouins were stripped of their status due to "erroneous registration".

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