(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Two human rights organizations filed a petition with the Supreme Court on
Thursday to end the Interior Ministry’s ability to revoke the residency status
of east Jerusalem residents.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel,
and Hamoked: The Center for the Defense of the Individual, claim there has been
a sharp increase in the number of east Jerusalemites who have had their
residency revoked over the past decade.
According to their research, an
average of 109 people had their residency revoked between 1967 and 1995. In
1996, that number jumped to 739 – then to 1,067 the following year.
the ensuing years, the number of residency revocations fluctuated between a few
hundred, to a thousand. However in 2008 – the most recent year for data – 4,577
people from east Jerusalem had their residency revoked.
Arabs living in
neighborhoods in Jerusalem that are over the Green Line are considered
“residents” rather than “citizens” of Israel. They hold blue Israeli identity
cards, but cannot vote in national elections.
Arab residents can also
have their residency revoked for spending significant periods of time abroad for
work or school, or by gaining residency in another country.
claims that the Interior Ministry is enacting a “Quiet Deportation” of Arab
residents from east Jerusalem by using residency revocations as a “brutal and
destructive bureaucratic tool.”
Sabine Haddad, the spokeswoman for the
Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration, and Border Authority, said that the
ministry operates “according to the law, and not according to
She added that the Ministry would uphold whatever the
According to Hamoked, the Interior Ministry’s
interpretation of residency stems from a 1988 court ruling in the Awad case –
which found that although Israel gave permanent residency status to east
Jerusalem inhabitants, this residency can be revoked if there is a transfer of
East Jerusalemites who want to maintain their residency
must return frequently to prove that the city remains their
ACRI and Hamoked argue that east Jerusalem residents
should not lose their residency status – even after living abroad for
significant periods of time, or gaining another residency – based on
international humanitarian laws.
The organizations also noted that
“abroad” includes the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
This issue makes it
particularly difficult for east Jerusalem residents who marry someone from the
Because the spouse cannot gain Jerusalem residency, east
Jerusalemites who choose to live in the West Bank with their spouses could risk
losing their own residency, and thus be barred from visiting their family and
home in east Jerusalem.
Both Hamoked and ACRI have been unsuccessful in
previous attempts through the courts to regain the residency status for someone
who has had it revoked because the revocation has always been found to be legal,
given the current laws.
With this petition, they are attempting to change
the policy itself. The current petition was filed on behalf of 26-year-old Silwan
resident Muhammed Qua’ari, who does not have plans to travel abroad, but who
would nevertheless be affected by the current law if he did want to travel
“The wholesale revocations of residency permits of east Jerusalem
residents clearly contradicts international law, according to which every person
has the right to return to their homeland regardless of civil status,” said
Hamoked attorney Leora Bechor. “The Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are
‘protected residents,’ with the right to continue living in the place they were
born, and to return as they wish.”
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