The Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, headed by MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), held on Monday a deliberation under the title of ”The transparent – women with no status”.
The committee chairwoman opened the meeting by saying that ”The word transparent expresses the status of women in the eyes of the establishment. Today we discuss this important issue, in the absence of many women who cannot even pass through the gates of the unicameral national legislature. The majority of these women are Arab Palestinians and some are from Ethiopia”.
Touma-Sliman referred to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (temporary order), which was enacted in 2003 at the height of the Second Intifada. She noted that: ”This provision, which was passed by the Knesset 14 times [to extend as an emergency measure under Israel’s Family Unification Law], prevents citizens of Israel from living with a partner. At any given time, some of the women without status are forced to live in hiding, with no opportunity to leave the house, study, work or develop, as they live under the threat of being caught. Other women without status are married to men who cannot live in this country because they are residents of the territories or Arab countries. These women are not recognized as single parents, even though the country forced them to live as such”.
(MK Aida Touma-Sliman)
”With the help of this draconian law, the state is creating a ticking bomb,” she continued. ”The state increases the frustration of people who cannot continue living as transparent people and feel like the country is closing in on them. All humans have the right to fall in love and live with whoever they wish, but the country prevents that”.
Rinat Leon-Lang, head of a WIZO women`s shelter, presented the story of ”T”, a women who got married in Ethiopia to an Israeli citizen, and has a one and a half year old daughter. T has been living in a battered women`s shelter for almost a year, due to the abuse she experienced from her husband, and she will soon have to leave the shelter.
Leon-Lang noted that ”In Israel, women depend on their husband in order to gain citizenship, but because T left the home where she was abused by her husband, the procedure in the Ministry of the Interior stopped. We witness a situation today in which women face a dilemma whether to return to their abusive husband so they won`t leave their children who live in Israel, or to leave and move away from their children too. In addition, these women do not have a work permit, cannot work, and have no basic rights in the State of Israel”.
Social worker Samah Salaime, founder of Na`am/Arab Women in the Center, presented the case of a woman who is married to an Israeli citizen, but has been residing in the country for 19 years under approval temporary permit which needs to be renewed every year. Another case presented by Salaime is of an 18 year old living in the south, who was born in Nablus, her grandfather was accused of being a collaborator and their house was burnt down. The family was moved to Israel, the men gained status, but the young woman was left with nothing. ”She cannot marry or work, she cannot continue with her life – she is transparent”, said Salaime.
Mazal Cohen, Deputy Director of the Registry Department in the Population and Immigration Authority, also addressed the issue of abused women and said that when the case of an abused woman who lives in a shelter is raised at the committee, she normally receives a temporary status.
Lawyer Tehila Harel from the Population and Immigration Authority`s legal department added that, ”In addition to the general procedures, there are specific cases which are examined in the framework of a humanitarian committee. On average, some 30 cases are examined each month.
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp) said he expects the Ministry of the Interior and the Population Authority to ”thoroughly examine this topic. It cannot be that you tell us there are procedures and values and say that some fall between the cracks. The eyes surely cannot be shut”.
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) added that during a visit to Lod she met with women who have no status who shared their stories with her. She argued that ”there was not one woman there who met the criteria presented by the said offices` representatives. The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which restricts family reunification, is a racist mark in the State of Israel`s book of laws, which determines a different law for the Arabs”.
MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) stated that ”In 2003 MKs Eli Yishai and Gideon Ezra said that the reason for the provision is demographic, to prevent the right of return. When they realized that it may be rejected by the High Court of Justice, they changed their argument and brought in the director of the Shin Bet (General Security Service). Since then, every year, the provision is extended, due to a winning argument by the defense. When we see that the humanitarian committee makes inhumane decisions, we witness the absurd. This provision is the most racist, severe and harsh provision in the Knesset`s book of laws, which considers every Arab love story a conspiracy against the Zionist entity”.
Hilda Kadsa, from the Na`am/Arab Women in the Center organization said ”If we are to deal with the status of women, we must consider their difficulty in opening a bank account. In these cases women depend on the husband, and if the child benefits enter the account of their husbands, then we have not supported these women at all”.
MK Touma-Sliman concluded the meeting by saying that ”Government offices belittle the Knesset committees by sending clerks with no answers, this shall not continue – we will tackle this issue”.
In addition, she has asked the Ministry of Welfare to present by September its decision on how to deal with the issue.
Touma-Sliman also addressed the National Insurance representatives and said ”you have found a way to rob children`s money from mothers. Find a way to pay back the money they deserve with the use of a bank account or without”.
”I also call on all women who are married to a resident of the territories – submit a request to be recognized as single parents. If the country wants you to live, the country must pay for it”.