Lawyer Yossi Nakar, the son of parents who immigrated from Iraq in the early 50s, discusses in News 1 whether individuals born in Iraq and their descendants can, as in the case of those of Ashkenazi origin, get back their citizenship and passports. (With thanks: Iraqijews)
Many Ashkenazim of my acquaintance in recent years have been busy trying to obtain a European passport. Offices were established the length and breadth of the country to return Romanian, Polish and German etc passports to Israeli civilians ( and Mossad itself is trying to acquire foreign passports for its employees, if you believe the Dubai police chief and some foreign media).
What about me? My parents immigrated from Iraq in the early Fifties. Why were we Iraqi citizens by birth left out of the race is to obtain foreign passports?
In 1950, Iraqi Jews were permitted to leave Iraq within a year provided they renounced their citizenship. From the Jewish community in Iraq, which numbered 150,000 in 1947, there were only 6,000 people left after 1951. The travel documents of Jews who left Iraq were stamped that they may not return to Iraq.
However, the new Iraqi constitution gave hope to correct this historical injustice. Haven’t the Jewish people suffered enough?
According to the new Iraqi constitution, approved in a referendum on 15 October 2005, an Iraqi is any person born of an Iraqi father or mother. An Iraqi is a citizen by birth, cannot just give up his citizenship and also may hold other nationalities (except for those in senior security positions).
According to the new Iraqi constitution, any person whose citizenship was revoked, may request it again. The constitution provides the legal framework.
But the Iraqi Citizenship Law dated 3 March 2006 poses difficulties to the Jews from Iraq and their children regarding getting back their citizenship rights.
Article 18 (1) of the Iraqi Citizenship Law states that all Iraqis whose citizenship was revoked – for political, religious, racial or sectarian reasons – will be eligible to apply to regain citizenship. If a man who lost his citizenship – for political, religious, racist reasons – dies, his children, who lost their citizenship due to loss of their father’s citizenship (the text of the law talks about a father and not a parent), may apply for citizenship.
But here’s the fly in the ointment. Article 18 (2) of the Iraqi citizenship law of 2006 states that the rights under section 18 (1) of the aforesaid gives no benefit to those who lost their citizenship under the Law No. 1 of 1950 and Law No. 12 of 1952. What is the Law No. 1 of 1950 (title: Supplement to Ordinance Cancelling Iraqi Nationality)? This is the law governing the status of most Jews in Iraq in the early Fifties of the last century. Section 1 of No. 1 of 1950 states that the Council of Ministers has the right to cancel the Iraqi citizenship of Iraqi Jews who voluntarily ask to leave Iraq.
On the face of it, it seems that the new Iraqi citizenship law contradicts the new Constitution which determined that every person whose citizenship was revoked may request it again.
Section 90 of the new Iraqi constitution gives the Federal Supreme Court the authority to examine the legality of laws and regulations in force: apparently it is possible to submit an appeal to the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court, arguing that the denial of citizenship to Iraqi Jews and their descendants is invalid.
Before we start complaining of Iraqi racism towards Jews, the State of Israel is demonstrably not free of racism. Section 2 of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), 2003, states that in spite of what is stated in Article 7 of the Citizenship Law, the Minister of the Interior can deny a resident of the area or a citizen or resident of a state specified under the Citizenship Act a permit to reside in Israel according to the Entry to Israel Law, and the commander of the region will not give a permit to reside in Israel if he deems it necessary for security reasons.
If anyone is looking for an Iraqi lawyer to petition the Supreme Court in Iraq, arguing that the new Iraqi citizenship law is unconstitutional, we should remember that according to Israeli citizenship law, the Israeli citizenship of a person who has citizenship of an enemy state can be revoked. Iraq is still considered as a enemy.
So my fellow Israelis of Iraqi origin, it seems we’re stuck here in this country by right not by grace, just like our Arab cousins. If our friends of Polish, Romanian, German or other European origin can leave Israel and go back “home”, as suggested by Helen Thomas, the former White House correspondent, we Iraqis currently have nowhere to go. Khaled Meshal please note… (If you have an idea for solving the problem, Mr. Meshal, I am open to suggestions).