Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Citizenship: The Shin Bet's Latest Weapon

The Israeli Shin Bet lent its support today to revoking the citizenship of Israelis convicted of loyalty-related crimes. Shas MK Eli Yishai, who proposed the policy, claims it would act as a deterrent to would-be traitors.

So the idea is that the best way to mitigate the negative effects of isolation...is to isolate.

Not to mention that this is the same party pushing for a loyalty oath on the grounds of preserving "democracy." Evidently, it's democratic to impose ideas on minorities by signed oath, but not democratic to preserve the rights of radical fringe groups. To be sure, many of these groups tacitly profess violent action against the State of Israel. But even those who seek to destroy states are given protection in liberal democratic societies.

Perhaps more importantly, the definition of a "loyalty-related offense" is a discussion usually had in reference to authoritarian regimes like Syria, not a liberal democratic state like Israel. Is protesting a government policy a loyalty-related offense? Is supporting Arab candidates for office a loyalty-related offense? Jews tend to have a bad track record in societies who believe in defining the opposition out of citizenship. It's concerning that an Israeli MK would make such an Orwellian proposal.

Of course, the Israeli right is the Israeli right, and it says what it says. The Shin Bet, however, cannot afford to be ideological. When the lives of innocent people are at stake, there is little time for a state to indulge in the ideological delusions of radical partisans. Yet in supporting this policy, that is precisely what the Shin Bet is doing.

The most effective way to deter would-be terrorists or traitors to the state is to give them a sense of self-identity within Israeli society. Mainstreaming minority communities gives them a reason not to reject the establishment in a way that leads to terrorism. It gives them a stake in the well-being of the state, and an incentive to use political, rather than violent, action.

The Israeli police have already recognized the importance of creating this trust between minority communities and the state. Their understanding needs to be pervasive throughout the Israeli security establishment in order for the state to achieve true sustainable security.

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