Israel's Knesset, or parliament, has passed a law which would enable the court system to revoke the citizenship of anyone convicted of spying, treason or helping the enemy during times of war.
The bill, which was passed by 37 to 11 at a late-night session on Monday, was initiated by two Knesset members (MKs) from the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The new legislation empowers the Israeli court system to revoke the citizenship of anyone convicted on charges of "terrorism," espionage, helping the enemy during time of war or any other act which harms national sovereignty.
"Without loyalty, there can be no citizenship," Lieberman said just minutes after the bill was passed, in comments reported by the Jerusalem Post. "Any person who harms the country cannot enjoy the benefits of citizenship and its fruit."
The law is part of Lieberman's "no loyalty, no citizenship" campaign which he pushed during the run up to the 2009 elections, which is widely understood to target Israel's Arab minority.
"MKs have made it clear that even though the wording of the bill is broad, it is very clearly aimed at Israel's Arab citizens, and sends them a message that their citizenship is not guaranteed," said Ronit Sela, spokeswoman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
In passing the bill, the parliament was sending "a very severe" message to the Arab community which makes up around a fifth of Israel's citizens, Sela told Agence France Presse.
"The vote in support of this bill shows that the Knesset has lost sight of a very important principle: that citizenship is not a prize that is given or taken away, it is a person's protected right," she said.
Israel's 1.3 million Arab citizens, who make up 20 percent of the population, are Palestinians who remained in the country following the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, along with their descendants.
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