The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday overturned a decision by the Interior Ministry to reject the request of a Palestinian woman living in east Jerusalem without a permit to appeal her case to the interministerial committee for humanitarian matters.
The decision of the ministry official who refused to bring the woman's case before the interministerial committee on the grounds that it was not a humanitarian matter was wrong, Judge Yonatan Adiel wrote.
"We are talking about an elderly woman living alone who had lived abroad for many years," he wrote. "According to the woman's account, which was not contradicted by the state, despite the fact that she is an American citizen, she never worked or earned a living there. When she lived in the United States she lived with her brother, who supported her, and after he died she had no way of supporting herself there. On the other hand, she has a family who provides housing and financial support [here]. In these circumstances, I believe that there are humanitarian considerations regarding this woman."
The woman, Rasmiya Abu Nia, was born in Jerusalem in 1944 and moved to Nicaragua with her husband in 1965. She returned to Jerusalem in 1970 and lived without a permit for 10 years. In December 1980 she was granted resident status.
However, the following year, she officially divorced her husband and moved to the US to live with her brother. In 1992, she received US citizenship, thereby automatically losing her resident status in Israel. In 1998, after her brother and sister-in-law died, she returned to Jerusalem and began living here illegally.
In December 2005, Abu Nia applied to the Population Registry to give her back her resident status. When the request was rejected, she asked for permission to appeal to the interministerial committee.
However, an internal committee turned down this request before it could get to the interministerial committee, on the grounds that it did not involve humanitarian matters and that she had known she would lose her resident status when she became a US citizen.
Abu Nia's lawyer, Andre Rosenthal, argued that she had moved to the US because her brother had ordered her to do so, that she could not support herself in the US, that she was alone and that almost all of her family lived in Jerusalem.
In response to the affair, attorney Oded Feller, who is in charge of citizenship and residential status issues for non-Jews on behalf of The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, wrote in a personal blog: "The policy of the Interior Ministry is not to grant long-term temporary or permanent permits, let alone citizenship, to anyone who is not Jewish. The ministry has never clarified what constitutes humanitarian circumstances and what are the special considerations necessary to grant non-Jews resident status in Israel."