Gov’t strike leaves tens of thousands of Arabs in east Jerusalem unable to leave country

Margalit: Week-long Interior Ministry strike ‘paralyzes Palestinian life’

Aerial view of Jerusalem in snow (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Aerial view of Jerusalem in snow
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
A week-long labor strike by the Interior Ministry’s east Jerusalem branch has resulted in tens of thousands of east Jerusalem Arab residents being unable to leave the country, and in danger of being deported for not updating their residency permits, a city official said on Tuesday.
The strike, initiated by workers demanding increased pay and better working conditions, directly affects the nearly 400,000 Arabs living in east Jerusalem who must obtain paperwork from the ministry to exit or remain in the country.
According to Meretz city councilman Meir Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio, the strike has “paralyzed Palestinian life” in the capital.
“For Palestinians, this is a disaster, and the problem is that unlike Jews living in Jerusalem, the Palestinians are so dependent on the Interior Ministry for many basic issues,” he said by phone.
Moreover, he contended that the strike was a textbook example of why the ministry needed to alter its policies so Arab residents no longer bore the brunt of its dysfunctional internal affairs’ consequences.
“What the government needs to do is create a new model of relationships between the Palestinians and the Interior Ministry so they will not be so dependent on their services,” he said.
Although a sign on the door of the closed east Jerusalem office instructed Arab residents to go to the ministry’s west Jerusalem branch for assistance, Margalit said the western office was not authorized to issue the necessary forms.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry, condemning the strike as “illegal” and an egregious money grab, issued a statement claiming the employees were demanding to be paid for an extra hour of work even when they were not actually working.
“This is a direct blow to accepted civil service norms,” the statement said.