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Israeli minister moves to revoke citizenship of Palestinian charged with murder

Feb. 21, 2017 6:24 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 22, 2017 6:09 P.M.)
(AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel’s interior minister and founder of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, Aryeh Deri, has officially begun the process of attempting to revoke the citizenship of a Palestinian citizen of Israel who has been accused of carrying out a "nationalistically motivated" shooting in January, despite the fact that the trial and sentencing over the case has yet to begin.

Israeli news website Ynet reported on Monday that Deri sent a letter to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, asking for permission to begin the revocation proceedings against 21-year-old Muhammad Shinawi, a resident of the coastal Israeli city of Haifa, who was charged earlier this month for two shootings on Jan. 3 that left one Israeli injured and another dead.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement at the time that Israeli police, in collaboration with the Shin Bet intelligence agency, carried out a joint investigation into both cases, and “strongly suspected that this was a terror attack.”

“The suspect...decided that he was going to carry out an attack and kill as many people as possible,” Rosenfeld wrote. “The suspect admitted to police investigators that he carried out the shooting attack with (a Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle) that he had in his possession and that the attack was nationalistic.”

Israeli officials regularly use the terms “terrorism” or “nationalistic attack” when designating acts of violence committed by Palestinians against Jewish Israelis.

Ynet quoted Deri as saying that “there is no need to elaborate on the importance of Israeli citizenship, which carries with it the duty of loyalty between the citizen and his country and the country to the citizen."

"The use and abuse of status in Israel -- especially that of the citizen --in order to kill another Israeli citizen is inexcusable. I am determined to revoke the status of those Israelis," the minister added.

According to Ynet, there have only been three cases to date in which Israeli citizenship was revoked for “acts of terror,” due to the “complexity of the process.” The new site added that in his letter to Mandelblit, “Deri noted that there are two procedures for denying citizenship, either by appealing to Administrative Court or by a ruling from the court which originally held a hearing on the criminal procedure, in this case the Haifa District Court.”

Ynet added that Shinawi's attorney, Sami Shalata, criticized Deri’s efforts, specifically for moving forward before the start of the actual trial and sentencing against the accused.

"In order to begin the process of revoking citizenship, you must wait until the end of proceedings, including conviction and sentencing. This is very far off. I think this kind of influence on the court in inexcusable, and I believe that our court system should act according to justice despite the pressures," Ynet quoted Shalata as saying.

The minister’s efforts to revoke the legal status of a Palestinian were not his first. Last month, Deri decided to revoke the Jerusalem residency status and the corresponding social benefits of 13 family members --including the mother -- of Fadi al-Qunbar, who was shot and killed after carrying out a truck attack that left four Israeli soldiers dead.

Al-Qunbar's relatives, who have denied having advanced knowledge of any plans to carry out an attack, reside in the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal-al-Mukabbir in occupied East Jerusalem, which is located adjacent to the settlement where the attack took place.

"This is a decision that signals a new era against terrorism and terrorists who use their status to carry out attacks against citizens. From now on, there will be zero tolerance towards those who are involved in terrorism against Israel," Deri as saying at the time.

While punitive residency revocation has not been implemented in this way before, more than 14,000 Jerusalem residencies for Palestinians have been revoked for other reasons since Israel illegal annexed East Jerusalem in 1967.

Over the years, “successive Israeli governments have cleverly chosen the timing of new regulatory turning points to broaden the scope of residency revocations, manipulating temporary crises to do so,” think tank al-Shabaka wrote in a report last year.

The beginning of a wave of political unrest in October 2015 was seized as an opportunity to set a new legal precedent for residence revocation, the report said, when the Israeli security cabinet issued a decision to the effect that "the permanent residency rights of terrorists will be revoked," without defining who was a "terrorist."

It argued that Israel’s aim in the policy of residency status revocation was to create “new Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons, taking advantage of every opportunity to do so and exploiting temporary crises to promote permanent measures."

“The Israeli government is describing these actions as regular law enforcement measures, but analysis shows that they are part of its ongoing policies of forced displacement, with the aim of making long term demographic changes and maintaining an overwhelming Jewish majority in Jerusalem.”

Israel has meanwhile come under harsh condemnation over the past several years for its response to attacks committed by Palestinians on Israelis, which rights groups have said amounted to “collective punishment” and represents a clear violation of international law.

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