Israel's supreme court drew criticism Thursday, after it upheld a controversial law that makes it all but impossible for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to join spouses in Israel dpa reported
Human rights groups five years ago petitioned against the law, arguing it is "racist" and violates the basic right to family life.
The High Court of Justice in Jerusalem, in a 6-5 decision, late Wednesday rejected the petition, accepting the state's counterargument that the law is necessary, since Palestinian militants could take advantage of family reunifications to obtain Israeli identity cards and move freely within Israel.
The court has lost its power "in the struggle against racism," slammed lawmaker Zahava Galon, of the left-liberal Meretz party.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), one of the petitioners, in a statement Thursday spoke of a "dark day."
"The court has failed to uphold basic human rights," it charged.
The law was first adopted by the Israeli cabinet in 2002, at the height of the Palestinian intifada (uprising) and a wave of suicide bombings in Israeli cities, and ratified by the Knesset in 2003. It was effective for one year but has been extended by parliament again and again.
Under it, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who are married to an Israeli citizen cannot apply for citizenship or permanent residency status.
A 2005 amendment enables Palestinian men aged over 35 and women over 25 to receive special entry permits, but these need to be extended every few months. They also limit the holder's options to work and to receive health and social insurance.
It was the second time the supreme court rejected petitions against the law. In 2006, the court also upheld it on a 6-5 vote, agreeing that the measure served a temporary security purpose.
ACRI says it effects thousands of Israel's Arab citizens who are married to Palestinians. Some live in forced separation. Some have had to move to the West Bank or Gaza, while others live in Israel with temporary visas for their spouses.
Israel, with a total population of 7.8 million, has a minority of 1.6 million Arab citizens.