Israel to revoke ex-MK’s citizenship

Israel’s Interior Ministry is in the process of revoking the citizenship of a former Arab member of Knesset (MK) over alleged spying.

Former MK Azmi Bishara is accused of allegedly passing information to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In a letter to the internal security service Shin Beth’s senior officials, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said the move was necessary, accusing Bishara of contacting Hezbollah and visiting ‘enemy states’ of Lebanon and Syria, assisting them in exchange for money.

Sheetrit asked Shin Beth chief Yuval Diskin and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz for their advice on the case as soon as possible, a ministry spokesman said on Friday.

The move follows a similar bid by the right-wing opposition Likud party, which filed a petition three months ago, urging for Bishara to be stripped of his nationality and pension rights for ‘treason’.

The Israeli High Court, however, turned down the appeal, arguing it had no legal standing to revoke the ex-MK’s citizenship or to block his pension benefits.

Bishara’s party, the National Democratic Assembly (Balad), has condemned the new proceedings against the former deputy, describing it as ‘vindictive, racist and in violation of international law’.

Israel “has never and will never strip any of its Jewish citizens of their nationality whatever they do,” AFP quoted Balad MK Jamal Zahalka as saying.

“Even Yigal Amir, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, was not stripped of his nationality as the legal provisions for revoking citizenship are aimed solely against Arabs,” he complained.

In June, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) approved a bill that would provide legal basis for revoking the nationality of any lawmaker “suspected of harming state security.”

The bill endorsed in a parliamentary vote has raised outrage among Arab-led parties who described the bill, which still has to pass three more votes before it becomes law, as ‘racist’.

Bishara fled Israel in April 2007 amid allegations that he advised Hezbollah and directed its rocket attacks against Israel during the 33-day war in the summer of 2006.

Bishara – well known for vigorous campaigns for the rights of Israel’s Arab minority – has repeatedly dismissed espionage allegations, accusing the Israeli authorities of framing him in a bid to silent one of their most outspoken critics.