Israel moves to strip citizenship, residency of would-be IS fighters
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Israel moves to strip citizenship, residency of would-be IS fighters

Interior minister says unprecedented decision is ‘message of deterrence to anyone thinking of joining terrorist groups’

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Khalil Adel Khalil, a resident of East Jerusalem, sentenced to two years in prison for joining the Islamic State group in Syria. (Courtesy Shin Bet)
Khalil Adel Khalil, a resident of East Jerusalem, sentenced to two years in prison for joining the Islamic State group in Syria. (Courtesy Shin Bet)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Sunday moved to strip two residents of East Jerusalem of their Israeli citizenship and residency status for their involvement with the Islamic State terror group.

Deri asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to revoke the citizenship of Luqman Atun, 24, who is a resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Tsur Baher. Atun flew to Turkey in October 2014, but didn’t have enough money to be taken to the Syrian border.

The interior minister also requested that the permanent residency status of East Jerusalemite Khalil Adel Khalil, 26, be revoked. Khalil was convicted in December 2015 of attempting to join the Islamic State and seeking to fight for the group in Syria.

Permanent residency is the status of most of East Jerusalem’s approximately 300,000 Arabs, who are not Israeli citizens, although they can apply for citizenship if they so choose.

The Israeli news site Ynet reported that Deri’s request was the most advanced move taken so far to strip Arabs in Israel of citizenship or residency for connection with the Islamic State.

Previous interior ministers have called for similar measures against Israeli IS recruits, but no action has ever been carried out.

In his letter to the attorney general, Deri wrote, “There is no need to elaborate on the importance of Israeli citizenship, which includes a duty between the citizen and his country and the state and its citizens.

“Against the background of increasing global terrorism, we must fight with all our power the phenomenon of those who choose to join terrorist organizations,” the letter continued. “The revocation of the citizenship of those in question has a real message of deterrence to anyone who is considering joining a terrorist organization.”

In one of his first moves in his second stint as interior minister, Deri released a memorandum in January outlining an amendment to the not-yet-passed citizenship law, which would have given him the authority to revoke the citizenship of Israeli citizens who join the Islamic State.

Six Arab Israelis, four of them teachers, who were arrested by the Shin Bet for supporting the Islamic State (Courtesy/Shin Bet)
Six Arab Israelis, four of them teachers, who were arrested by the Shin Bet for supporting the Islamic State. (Courtesy Shin Bet)

In November 2015, after a group of seven residents from the northern Israeli Arab town of Jaljulia were charged with plotting to make their way to Syria and fight alongside IS, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for revoking their citizenship.

“Whoever joins Islamic State will not be an Israeli citizen, and if he leaves the country’s borders he will not return,” Netanyahu said, and noted that the concept of revoking citizenship for those who join IS was becoming more accepted in the international community.

According to some estimates in January, 100–150 Israeli citizens are said to have traveled abroad to fight with IS.

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