Women, men and children from all over the country came to the Knesset today to protest the “anti-family reunification law” which may or may not pass this year. A position statement signed by 100 women representing various organizations was presented. Behind the law’s racist attempt to prevent Palestinians from marrying Israeli citizens and settling within Israel’s borders are stories of heartbreak and struggle. Especially hurt by this law are women, who may find themselves raising children alone and without the benefits of rights or the ability to attain so much as health care for themselves. And if they are divorced or widowed, the situation may become even more dire. The position paper included several examples, to remind the Israeli public and Knesset members that the law breaks up families and hurts women in ways that are inexcusable:
Sivar (a pseudonym), a Palestinian woman from Hebron, is divorced and the mother of three. She is not entitled to welfare services. While her children, as Israeli citizens, are entitled to child benefits and child support, the National Insurance Institute refuses to transfer these funds to her bank account, and instead deposits them in the account owned by her brother-in-law. Sivar has to beg her sister-in-law for that money every month.
Women like Sivar are not entitled to Social Security benefits, income supplements or unemployment benefits, legal aid, driver's license, and more.
Sivar and others in her situation can have their children taken from them with no legal recourse, and they may find themselves relying on spouses, even after the divorce, for their basic rights. Such women may refrain from divorcing spouses, even when they are abusive, because the alternative may look worse.
This is the case with Iman (not her real name), a mother of two children who are Israeli citizens. Iman has been in Israel for more than a decade and she experiences severe violence at the hands of her husband. He incessantly threatens that if she does not act as he pleases, he will arrange for her deportation. Thus she is under his full control and lives in fear of losing all contact with her children.
This sort of abuse can protract the problem of polygamy, giving second wives, often young women who have had little say in their marriages, little redress and nowhere to turn when problems arise.
When spouses are forced to live on two sides of the border, women often experience difficulty in dealing with authorities in a foreign language, hardship in navigating the bureaucracy needed to get a border pass and aggression on the part of the border guards that let them cross. That is only one of the reasons that women choose to remain as undocumented noncitizens.
Israel is a signatory on international humanitarian aid agreements, yet Palestinian women can never qualify for humanitarian aid in Israel, even when their lives are in danger if they are returned to their native countries.
This is the case with Rula (also not her real name), a Palestinian woman who is five months pregnant, and who is in danger of being murdered by her family in the territories. Since she has no relatives in Israel, she has no possibility of applying for any sort of residence status, and she is forced to live in Israel in poverty with no medical or financial support for the impending birth.