'Stateless' east Jerusalem journalist released from Israeli prison

After being denied the status of official resident, Palestinian journalist Mustafa Kharuf has been released from prison after being arrested earlier this year.

Mustafa and family (photo credit: COURTESY HAMOKED)
Mustafa and family
(photo credit: COURTESY HAMOKED)
Jerusalem-based journalist Mustafa Kharuf was released last week after being detained in Givon Prison as an “illegal alien” for nine months pending deportation after the Ministry of Interior rejected on security grounds his repeated requests to obtain residency status in Jerusalem.
Kharuf, 32, works for Turkey’s Anadolu news agency. Last July, Israel tried to deport the stateless Palestinian to Jordan but authorities in Amman refused to accept him.
Born in Algeria to a Palestinian father from east Jerusalem and an Algerian mother, Kharuf and his family returned to east Jerusalem in 1999. Although born in Algeria, he never received citizenship from that country.
Kharuf’s mother was given an identity card by Israel’s Ministry of Interior permitting her to reside in Jerusalem, but not citizenship. Some 97% of east Jerusalem Palestinians who request Israeli citizenship have their application rejected. While the Interior Ministry says the years-long delays are the result of the volume of requests by east Jerusalem’s 350,000 Palestinian residents, lawyers are convinced the backlog is a deliberate policy to prevent the city’s Arabs from becoming citizens.
Kharuf is married to an east Jerusalem woman and is the father to a two-year-old girl, who, like her mother, has permanent Israeli residency but not citizenship.
Kharuf’s case is highly unusual, Jessica Montell, executive director of HaMoked, the east Jerusalem-based Center for the Defense of the Individual, told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s unique and extreme because he was held in prison for nine months.”
Montell pointed out that Israel’s High Court of Justice has recognized east Jerusalemites as an indigenous population with a unique status. “Mustafa is a member of this population. We welcome his release, but Israel must properly grant him the legal status to which he is entitled so that he can live in Jerusalem without fear of deportation,” she said.
On September 25, the Tribunal for Review of Custody of Illegal Aliens ruled that the journalist must be released if he is not deported within a month, HaMoked said.
“Under the terms of his release, Mustafa has three weeks to obtain legal status or else he must leave the country; this despite the fact that being stateless means he has nowhere to go,” the center added. “A new request to give him status under family reunification procedure has been submitted, but the chances of it being approved within the tight schedule set by the Tribunal are slim. HaMoked will now apply to extend this period.”
Kharuf said that he was happy to be reunited with his family. “My baby girl has grown up without me,” he said. “My wife has had to cope on her own. Why? Just because they refuse to recognize me as a Jerusalemite Palestinian. Jerusalem is the only home I have in the world. I’m happy to finally be going home to my family. But I know that my ordeal is not over yet, because they [the Ministry of the Interior] still refuse to let me live legally in my home.”
Lawyer Adi Lustigman, who represents Kharuf on behalf of HaMoked, said that Israel’s failed attempt to deport the journalist “strengthens oor claim that Jerusalem is his only home, and Israel must find a humane solution for him and his family. His parents, brothers and sisters live in Jerusalem. His wife and daughter also live in the city. All of them have Israeli status.”