A report released on Monday by the Association for Civil Rights (ACR) in Israel accused the ministry's Population Authority of "topping the list of dubious state authorities that violate the basic rights of Israeli inhabitants who are not Jewish".
The 46-page report charged that the authority strives to prevent non-Jews from obtaining residential status, sometimes in brazen violation of the law.
"For a long time now, we have been witness to the distress of many thousands of people whose dignity has been trampled upon, whose possibility of personal or family stability has been wrested from them," the report read.
"The Population Authority has done everything possible to make the life of thousands of inhabitants miserable," it added.
In its analysis, the ACR pointed out that the most discriminated-against group are Palestinians who are denied residential status in Israel even if they are married to an Israeli spouse.
Israel prevents some non-Jewish
families from living together
The report said that ministry workers had made every conceivable effort to deny decent family life to Israeli citizens married to Palestinians.
According to Arab Knesset member Muhammad Baraka, if an Israeli Arab male citizen marries a woman from the West Bank or Gaza Strip, he will either have to give up his Israeli citizenship, which means leaving the country, or get a speedy divorce.
The couple has a third choice, to stay apart, one living in Israel and the other living in the occupied territories.
"Nothing like this happens anywhere in the world, and the reason is racism, sheer racism," said Baraka in a recent interview with Aljazeera.net.
However, gross discriminatory practices are by no means confined to Palestinians and Arabs.
As an example of the discrimination, the ACR cited the case of an Israeli Jewish woman who married a non-Israeli, non-Jew. When she sought to arrange for him to receive residential status, she was told she was married to a non-Jew and that she would have to prove that her marriage is authentic and that this would take a long time to ascertain.
The letter from the authority read:
"According to your letter, you have been married to a non-Jew. This is a classic example of a case in which the marriage needs to be checked out over a long period of time to see that it is not fictional. It is regrettable that you did not marry a citizen of Israel. But I never the less wish you all the best and success in your marriage."
Some Arab brides are prevented
from joining their husbands
According to the report, when issuing birth certificates to babies, the Israeli interior ministry discriminates when the father is not Jewish.
In such cases the ministry issues a document declaring that the Jewish woman is the mother of the child and gives the baby an ID number. However, the father's name does not appear on the document, even if he declares he is the father.
In the case of the marriage of an Israeli man and a non-Israeli, non-Jewish woman, the ministry does not issue any document and the baby is not a citizen of Israel and his parents are not officially his parents.
The Israeli interior ministry called the ACR report "inflammatory".