On April 7, 2011, HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a petition, demanding that Israel's Interior Ministry stop revoking residency permits given East Jerusalem Palestinians.
After its June 1967 annexation, life for Palestinian residents became an ongoing cycle of neglect, discrimination, poverty, shortages, and persecution, compounded by the encircling Separation Wall and worsening daily hardships.
Moreover, though no longer, as permanent Israeli residents, they were afforded the right to live and work in Israel without special permits. However, permanent residency, unlike citizenship, passes on conditionally to children. For example, marrying someone without one and/or the other requires applying for family unification to live together. In fact, Israel treats East Jerusalem Arabs as foreigners, whose rights can be summarily revoked, denied, or severely restricted any time for any reason by civil or military order.
As a result, residents endure repeated investigations and inquiries to keep proving their legitimacy, letting authorities arbitrarily deny it. In addition, time and expense are involved, including for services and applications that can take months or years to be considered.
Moreover, many Palestinians live outside Jerusalem's municipal boundaries with no Israeli residency status. Severed from the West Bank by the Separation Wall, they're trapped in East Jerusalem in limbo. In October 2007, Israel denied them permanent residency, issuing only temporary permits under military authority.
Even getting them involves cost and bureaucratic red tape, and those with them may live in their homes, but not work or drive in Jerusalem. Nor can they get education, health, or other services. As a result, they've been ghettoized under severe, unrelenting duress as foreigners in their own homes on their own land in their own country.
HaMoked and ACRI want Israel's Interior Ministry to amend the current law to include special protection clauses for Palestinians residing in annexed areas, including East Jerusalem and Golan, so they may exit and enter their country freely.
They differentiate them from immigrants who acquired residency through marriage to an Israeli citizen who would still have to keep proving their "center-of-life" status in the city.
Current law lets Israel's Interior Ministry revoke residency status (and issued permits proving it) for natives or immigrants who lived outside the country for seven or more years, or who acquired citizenship or permanent residency abroad.
Moreover, authorities regularly revoke residency permits without notice or hearings, those affected denied their right to challenge what's already happened. As a result, they learn after the fact that they're barred from their homeland.
Most East Jerusalem Palestinians are permanent residents. Thus, revoking their status arbitrarily infringes on the rights of many thousands who wish to study, work or live abroad for any purpose. In recent years, revocations rose sharply under an undeclared ethnic cleansing policy to Judaize all Jerusalem by removing its Arab presence.
Thousands are now affected annually. In fact, almost 50% of all post-1967 revocations occurred from 2006 - 2008.
Petitioning Israel's High Court of Justice for Redress
On April 7, HaMoked and ACRI petitioned Israel's High Court on behalf of Mahmoud Qarae'en, a 26-year old East Jerusalem Silwan resident and ACRI field researcher for its Human Rights in East Jerusalem project. He told the Electronic Intifada publication:
"People feel that they are under siege. I cannot do anything to risk the possibility of not coming back (home). We should be treated as (Jerusalem's) indigenous people....We are not guests. We are from here and we should be able to leave and come back (freely) if we choose."
HaMoked's April 7 petition on his behalf asked Israel's High Court:
"to determine that with respect to East Jerusalem residents, for whom this piece of earth is home, permanent residency visas cannot expire, even following extended period of living abroad or the acquisition of status in another country."
Current laws originated in the High Court's Awad case:
HCJ 282/88 - Awad v. Yitzhak Shamir, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior et al in May 1988 in which it ruled that although Israel annexed East Jerusalem and gave its residents permanent status, it may be revoked due to "center-of-life" transference elsewhere.
As a result, the Interior Ministry used the ruling repressively against Palestinians, penalizing them for leaving the city or accepting status abroad by denying them unrestricted reentry.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, the policy became known as the "Quiet Deportation" practice of revoking residency for thousands of East Jerusalemites. Receiving only an after-the-fact form letter, they were told their permanent resident status expired for settling outside Israel. In 2008, nearly 4,600 Palestinians were affected.
The joint petition claimed the status of East Jerusalem residents differs from elsewhere in Palestine because after annexation, its residents forcibly became permanent Israeli residents. Under the Awad decision, they got it by law permanently.
Moreover, East Jerusalem is belligerently occupied. Under international law, its residents are protected persons, entitled to appropriate guarantees. Applying Israeli law to the city doesn't abrogate them. In addition, for women who settle abroad or in the West Bank with their husbands, their family and city of origin remain vitally important, including as a refuge in case of divorce or separation.
Israel's Interior Ministry turned "Awad" into a "legal cage," imprisoning East Jerusalemites, denying them free movement within or outside the city. As a result, HaMoked and ACRI petitioned the High Court to rule permanency can't expire, no matter how long residents live or work abroad or if they acquire foreign status.
Israel's Repressive ID/Permit System
Nonetheless, Israel's longstanding ID/permit system for all Palestinians is used repressively to revoke residency status, especially in East Jerusalem. It's one of many ways employed to make greater Israel ethnically pure, including by military order.
Israel requires all permanent residents and citizens over 16 to have color-coded ID cards (called te'udat zehut) for West Bank and Gazan Palestinians, as well as East Jerusalem ones, Israeli Arabs and Jews.
For Palestinians, they dictate where they may live, work, and move, or be allowed through West Bank checkpoints, to Israel or Gaza. Doing so requires hard to get permits, easily cancelled without notice.
Jews have blue IDs, Palestinians either Israeli-issued orange ones (in Hebrew) or nearly identical Palestinian Authority-issued green ones with a PA seal on top, that include the following information:
-- name and ID number;
-- father and mother's names;
-- date and place of birth;
-- marital status;
-- gender; and
Prior to 2005, ethnicity was also included. It's still available on request from state registrations.
A separate document includes:
-- current and previous addresses;
-- previous names;
-- citizenship, including for permanent resident citizens of other countries;
-- name, birth date and ID numbers for spouse and children; and
-- electoral polling stamp.
In theory, Jerusalem Palestinians may move freely within the city and through most of the West Bank. In practice, harsh security measures prevent it, as well as their right to work in Israel, pay taxes, and get national insurance benefits. In addition, as explained above, their Jerusalem residency isn't guaranteed.
Israeli Arabs are citizens, their ID cards identifying their religion. Again theoretically, they have free access to the West Bank and Jerusalem. In practice, they're stopped, questioned, delayed, and denied access to West Bank cities and East Jerusalem by military order. The Separation Wall and Gaza's siege add other impediments.
In contrast, Israeli and settlement Jews have unrestricted free movement throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, unimpeded by the Separation Wall or repressive military orders, not applicable to them under civil law.
Rarely does Israel's High Court rule favorably for Palestinians. Even then, government authorities do what they please, at times through newly passed repressive laws to assure no rights for anyone not Jewish, especially Palestinians.
A Final Comment
On April 14, ACRI's President Sami Michael expressed alarm about dark Knesset forces "persist(ing) in their attempts to restrict the freedoms of speech and assembly; nationalist politicians try(ing) to enhance the alienation and exclusion of Israel's Arab citizens;" and the repressive occupation "tak(ing) an ever-stronger hold, trampling human rights values and pushing us ever further into estrangement from one another."
Nonetheless, despite racist legislation, assaults on free expression, oppressing migrant workers, and enforcing occupation harshness, he cited popular uprisings across Middle East/North African countries as a hopeful sign, perhaps "inspir(ing) Israel's human rights defenders as well."
The struggle is universal, never succeeding easily, quickly, or so often not at all. For sure, not without sustained, determined effort, no matter the odds. In America, Israel and Occupied Palestine, they're daunting.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.