Israel demands loyalty from Palestinians in Jerusalem

New law allows Israel to deport, cancel residency status of Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Mahfouz Abu Turk
APA images

Israel passed a law on 7 March that would permit the revocation of people’s residency status in occupied East Jerusalem if they should be found in “breach of allegiance” to Israel.

The law, sponsored by the Israeli government and ratified in the Knesset, allows the cancellation of residency permits on three grounds: for betraying Israel’s “trust,” for being granted residency status on the basis of false information, or for posing a danger to public safety in the eyes of the interior ministry.

It is clearly aimed at Palestinians, since Jewish residents of Jerusalem have Israeli citizenship. Under international law, however, it is illegal to impose on Palestinians “an obligation of loyalty to the occupying power, let alone to deny them the permanent residency status on this basis,” according to legal advocacy group for Palestinians in Israel, Adalah.

Israel occupied the eastern side of Jerusalem in 1967, but is effectively in illegal possession of the whole city since it was originally designated an internationally administered corpus separatum under a 1947 UN partition plan.

The law “is intended to result in the illegal expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem” and is a “severe violation” of their basic rights, stated human rights groups HaMoked, Adalah, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel in a joint statement.

Since 1967, Israel revoked the residency status of more than 14,000 Palestinians from East Jerusalem – usually because they have temporarily moved elsewhere to study, work, be closer to family or get married, or sometimes as a punishment for their relatives’ suspected actions.

It is unprecedented that Palestinians can now legally lose their residency on the basis of disloyalty, however the interior ministry should define that.

The law would also apply to Palestinians who attack Israeli soldiers, according to Israeli newspaper Times of Israel.

Attacking soldiers, including stone-throwing, is considered a “terror offense” under Israeli law, but it is completely legal under international humanitarian law for an occupied people to resist against their military occupation, even violently.

Permanent residency

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in June 1967, and formally annexed it in 1980. There are about 420,000 Palestinians living there.

Israel gave Palestinians already living there “permanent residency” identification cards and started treating them as foreign immigrants, rather than an occupied people that Israel violently imposed itself on.

Permanent residency holders are not citizens of Israel, and often carry no other citizenship or passport. They are essentially stateless.

The new law allows Israel to both cancel their residency status and deport them.

Collective punishment

The new legislation comes after the Israeli high court accepted a petition against the residency revocation of four Palestinian young men accused of breaching “allegiance to the State of Israel” in September 2017.

The four young men were accused of stone-throwing and armed attacks.

The petition to revoke their residencies was filed by Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, but was later rejected under the premise that there was no law that granted the interior ministry authority to revoke residency status for breach of loyalty.

Interior ministers have long revoked the residency of Palestinians in East Jerusalem for other reasons, especially those suspected of attacks, as well as their relatives as a form of collective punishment.

Thus it was for relatives of Fadi al-Qunbar, 28, for instance, who was shot dead after he ran a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers at the East Talpiot settlement near Jerusalem in January 2017, killing four and injuring 13.

Israel revoked the Jerusalem residency status of 12 of his family members, including his mother. They also filled his home with concrete, filed a $2 million lawsuit in damages against his family, detained some of his relatives and is still withholding his slain body hostage.

The policy of revoking the Jerusalem residency of Palestinians is blatantly discriminatory, and is never applied to Jewish suspects or their relatives, no matter what crimes they commit. Jewish residents of the city are Israeli citizens, not holders of the “permanent residency,” therefore the law cannot apply to them.


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