From Prof Uzzi Ornan
Dear Editor or Writer,
Two Types of Citizenship – court action against the Israeli Government
According to the Israeli Law of Citizenship from 1952, citizens in this country are divided into two groups: Jews are "citizens by Law of Return", non-Jews are "citizens by Law of Residency".
I thought you may be interested to know that I initiated a court action demanding my right to be a citizen by residency rather than by religious affiliation, since in 1948 I officially declared that my Nationality in not Jewish and I do not have any religion.
I had again some dealings with the Interior Ministry in 1962. When it ended I had good reason to believe that my citizenship is indeed according to Law of Residence in Israel (I was born at the British mandate). But in 2008, by chance, I discovered that my status has been changed without my knowledge or consent. After much correspondence the ministry explained that this was done because it was found out that my mother was Jewish (!). I demand now to have my citizenship status corrected, and started this law suit accordingly.
The case is to be heard on 27.2.2012 at the District Court in Haifa. I will be represented by Advocate Josef Ben-Moshe. Please find some more details in the English edition of "Haaretz" at the end of this letter.
A day before the opening of the hearing, February 26th, the court announced that the demand by the Government is to abolish my suit without hearing. It was promised that the court will examine it and "in a few days will give its decision". Until now (April 15th) we have not got any decision.
Wishing you best regards for the season and very good New Year,
Emeritus Prof, Hebrew Linguistics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
Visiting Prof, Computer Science, Technion, Haifa
5, ha-Galil Street.
Haaretz Published 04:11 10.10.11
Losing his religion, and fighting to keep it that way
Decades before Kaniuk, Uzzi Ornan received 'no religion' status. Now he wants the state to recognize his right to citizenship because of where he was born, and not his mother's religion.
ByRevital Hovel Tags:Jewish World
Decades before the court ruling last week ordering the Interior Ministry to register author Yoram Kaniuk as "without religion," Prof. Uzzi Ornan, the founder of the League Against Religious Coercion in Israel, succeeded in being registered on his identity card with that same status. From the founding of the state, Ornan refused to be registered as a Jew and was defined as a "Hebrew" and "without religion."
Today, however, Ornan is fighting for the ministry to recognize him as an Israeli citizen not on grounds of being Jewish but because he was born in this country. The ministry flatly refuses.
In 2008, Ornan and a friend founded a party by the name of Orr ("Light") which aims at separating religion from state. At that time, Ornan was required to provide documentary evidence proving he is an Israeli citizen. When he applied to the Interior Ministry, he received a document stating that he is an Israeli citizen but it added that Ornan was a citizen under the Law of Return.
Ornan asked the ministry to strike the clause, but met with an adamant refusal.
"An examination has revealed that you were born to a Jewish mother and therefore you received your status on the basis of the Citizenship Law, on the basis of the Law of Return and not on the basis of living here," he was told.
The response infuriated him.
"These examinations are exactly what they did in another regime in Europe," Ornan said. "There they examined not only the mother but also the grandmother. That is plain racism and I'm not prepared that someone will treat me in a racist way in the state for which I fought. In all my searches, I have not found a single Israeli law according to which your ministry is authorized to carry out an examination about my family origin. On the contrary, the Interior Ministry has a declaration from me, from 1962, which I signed and in which I declared that I am a citizen on the basis of living in this country. I am not a Jew. I have the right to define my identity on my own and I shall not agree that someone from the government will decide for me what my nationality or religion is, especially since it contradicts what I declare."
Ornan added that giving somebody citizenship on the basis of their mother's identity does not jibe with democratic society.
"The state does not have the power to categorize me as a Jew, despite my opposition, with the argument that my mother was Jewish," he said.
The 88-year-old Ornan was born and grew up in Jerusalem. During the British Mandate, he fought in the Irgun pre-state militia and was deported to Eritrea in 1944 when someone informed on him to the British authorities.
In 1948, he was registered during the first census of the new state and made sure that he would not be registered as being Jewish either by religion or nationality. In the clause dealing with religion, he wrote that he was without religion, and in that of nationality he wrote "Hebrew." In those days, the Interior Ministry accepted that and did not ask a lot of questions.
"In 1948, there was no question about it," Ornan said. "The general atmosphere was that this is a free and democratic country. True that at the time they had power but no one tried to correct my nationality as Jewish. Today Yoram Kaniuk is fighting for that. I met with him a few weeks before he submitted his request to be considered "without religion" and I said to him: You should be considered Israeli. That is the name of your country and therefore your nationality is Israeli."
In 1962, Ornan once again went to the Interior Ministry with a request to issue him a passport when he wanted to go to London to complete his doctorate.
In the forms requesting the passport, he was asked to declare that he was a citizen on the basis of the Law of Return. Ornan explained to the official in the ministry that this was not the case and that he was a citizen because he was born and lived in this country, and he made a declaration in this vein to him.
"The official said to me that on the basis of that declaration I would not receive a passport," he recalled. "Nevertheless, the passport came within a reasonable amount of time and it stated that my citizenship was Israeli, without any reservations. From childhood I was taught that we would establish a state that would be a democratic state and in which all the citizens are equal. What is happening today is that there is no state here but rather a Jewish community that is not in Poland but in Palestine. This community draws a distinction and a separation between those who are Jewish and those who are not Jews. Today the people from this community control everything."
Ornan says he believes the purpose of the distinction is to keep Arabs from moving to Israel.
"The problem is that, in order to be an Israeli citizen, the agreement of the Chief Rabbinate is required. The Chief Rabbinate decides who is going to be an Israeli because apparently an Israeli can only be a Jew," he said.
The Population Authority said in response that "Ornan was born before the establishment of the state to a mother who was recognized as a Jew and therefore he was granted citizenship on the basis of the Law of Return. Beyond that, our detailed response will be submitted to the court."
Link to original printing: