AFP Clarifies On Israel’s Family Unification Law

CAMERA’s Israel office today prompted Agence France Presse to correct its mischaracterization of an Israeli law that prevents West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians married to Israeli citizens from gaining Israeli citizenship. Today’s initial story (“Israel ban on Arab family unifications lapses after PM loses vote,” 5:50 am GMT) had erred:

A ban in force since 2003 on Arab citizens and residents of Israel extending their right to their Palestinian spouses came to an end on Tuesday after lawmakers failed to extend the controversial measure.

But the law does not apply only to Arab citizens of Israel. It applies to any Israeli citizen, including Jews, who married Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip. As Haaretz accurately reports:
The citizenship law prevents Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza who marry Israeli citizens from living permanently in Israel with their spouses and denies them a path to citizenship.
Similarly, Reuters rightly reports:
Israel’s new government faced its first big defeat in parliament on Tuesday, failing to renew a controversial law that prevents Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who marry Israeli citizens from gaining citizenship themselves. (Emphases added.)
 
“Umm Forat,” recently revealed as Israeli Jew Sari Bashi, has not been able to get citizenship with all of the accompanying rights for her Palestinian husband, Osama. Mya Guarnieri, another Jewish Israeli married to a Palestinian, wrote in The Washington Post about how the law affects her marriage. 
In practice, most of those affected are Arab citizens of Israel as only a small percentage of Israelis who marry West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians are not Arab, but it is inaccurate to characterize the law as applying only to Arabs.
To AFP’s credit, the news agency’s updated article on the issue, published after CAMERA reached out to editors, opens with a precise characterization of the law (“Israeli PM suffers defeat over family unification ban,” 9:54 am GMT):
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett suffered defeat Tuesday as lawmakers failed to extend a law that denies Israeli citizenship and residency rights to Palestinian spouses from the West Bank and Gaza.
The Associated Press, for its part, also published a story today which in the first paragraph mischaracterized the law as applying to Israel’s Arab citizens specifically (“Israel blocks law that keeps out Palestinian spouses“). It states:
Israel’s parliament early on Tuesday failed to renew a law that bars Arab citizens from extending citizenship or residency rights to spouses from the occupied West Bank and Gaza, in a tight vote that raised doubts about the viability of the country’s new coalition government.
Buried 21 paragraphs later, in the story’s final sentence, is the following disclosure:
The citizenship law also applies to Jewish Israelis who marry Palestinians from the territories, but such unions are extremely rare.
Moreover, Associated Press captions yesterday also echo the false characterization of the law’s relevance only to Arab citizens.

Israeli Arab women gather for a protest ahead of a vote by Israel’s parliament on renewing a law that bars Arab citizens of Israel from extending citizenship or even residency to spouses from the occupied West Bank and Gaza, outside the parliament building in Jerusalem, Monday, July 5, 2021. Israel’s new government faces an early challenge in deciding whether to renew the temporary law first enacted in 2003. Critics say it’s a racist measure aimed at limiting the growth of the Arab minority, while supporters say it’s needed for security reasons and to preserve Israel’s Jewish character. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

 

Israeli Arab women hold a sign during a protest ahead of a vote by Israel’s parliament on renewing a law that bars Arab citizens of Israel from extending citizenship or even residency to spouses from the occupied West Bank and Gaza, outside the parliament building in Jerusalem, Monday, July 5, 2021. Israel’s new government faces an early challenge in deciding whether to renew the temporary law first enacted in 2003. Critics say it’s a racist measure aimed at limiting the growth of the Arab minority, while supporters say it’s needed for security reasons and to preserve Israel’s Jewish character. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The second image and caption are particularly problematic. Instead of correcting the misinformation in the protesters’ sign — “What would you do if this law is ONLY against Jews [sic] families in other countries?!” — AP’s caption amplifies the falsehood, misleadingly citing “a law that bars Arab citizens of Israel from extending citizenship or even residency to spouses .  . . ”
Moreover, the heading accompanied both images, “Israel discriminatory law,” is extremely prejudicial, taking a side in a controversial issue. AP declined to clarify the captions.