Partners for Progressive Israel condemns in the strongest terms recent statements by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman of the Coalition David Bitan threatening to revoke the citizenship of B’Tselem’s executive director, Hagai El-Ad, in retaliation for the latter’s testimony about the occupation before the United Nations Security Council.
As Jews and members of an organization with a long history of affiliation with the Zionist movement we express our particular revulsion at these threats by Israeli government officials. Israel is still a democracy. Hagai El-Ad has broken no law. Yet the rightwing nationalist parties that lead the current government threaten a punishment only used by dictatorships in retaliation against a citizen for exercising his democratic right to speak.
Need we remind the government of a Jewish state that revocation of citizenship is contrary to international law? It is abhorrent as well because of the Jewish experience in the twentieth century, in which we were the first people to experience widespread condemnation to statelessness as a prelude to the Holocaust. The right of return also remains of paramount importance to Jews everywhere. Can Israeli citizenship or the right of return be conditioned on political behavior deemed satisfactory to the current government, subject to revocation at any time?
B’Tselem finds itself the subject of government persecution for challenging the Occupation before the United Nations. The Occupation is unsustainable in terms of the continuation of Israel as a Jewish state and corrosive to Israeli democracy. Acquiescence to it cannot be a condition either of the citizenship of Jews in Israel or of the exercise of the Right of Return from the diaspora. With this latest threat to Mr. El-Ad, the current Israeli government is on its way to repudiating the basic principle of Zionism itself as it further cuts away at Israeli democracy.