[News] Israel's dangerous new transfer tactic in Jerusalem
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 13 10:52:24 EDT 2016
*Israel's dangerous new transfer tactic in Jerusalem*
April 13, 2016
/Al-Shabaka is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is
to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and
self-determination within the framework of international law./
/This policy brief was authored by al-Shabaka Policy Adviser Munir
Nuseibah, a human rights lawyer and academic based in Al-Quds University
in Jerusalem. He is an assistant professor at Al-Quds University's
faculty of law, the director and cofounder of Al-Quds Human Rights
Clinic, and the director of the Community Action Center in Jerusalem./
*Israel* is adept at creating new Palestinian refugees and internally
displaced persons, taking advantage of every opportunity to do so and
exploiting temporary crises to promote permanent measures. Today it is
using the recent violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) to
introduce a dangerous new twist to its long-standing residency
revocation policy to force Palestinians out of East Jerusalem.
This new concept –"breach of allegiance" to the state of Israel – is now
being used to revoke the residency of Palestinian Jerusalemites, in
addition to possible demolition of their family homes. The Israeli
government is describing these actions as regular law enforcement
measures, but analysis shows that they are part of its ongoing policies
of forced displacement, with the aim of making longterm demographic
changes and maintaining an overwhelming Jewish majority in Jerusalem.
The Israeli legal system and the military establishment have, since
1948, used several methods to minimize the number of Palestinians in the
areas that fall under Israeli control, as I have described in an earlier
Al-Shabaka policy brief (Decades of Displacing Palestinians: How Israel
Does It.) These measures have included armed force, restrictions on the
civil status of Palestinians, restrictions on building, and
dispossession of property (especially real estate), among others forcing
the majority of the Palestinian population into becoming refugees or
The latest Israeli shift marks a turning point that is likely to produce
thousands of new population transfer victims. It is the third such
regulatory turning point in Israel’s efforts to “thin out” Jerusalem’s
Palestinian population, as will be discussed below. Forced displacement
of Palestinians is part of Israel’s legal system: This needs to be
understood and more forcefully countered by the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO) and the international community as it is being done
by human rights organizations in a new campaign.
Turning Points 1 and 2: “Center of Life”
Israel's ongoing policy of residency revocation is grounded in the
increasingly explicit position that the Palestinians in Jerusalem are no
more than foreign immigrants who can be easily transferred outside what
Israel considers its sovereign territory. After Israel occupied and
illegally annexed East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, it
considered Palestinian Jerusalemites "residents" in Israel, without the
right to vote in the Israeli Parliament, so as to avoid adding large
numbers of non-Jews to its citizen body. As time passed, the Ministry of
Interior, with the consent of the Israeli Supreme Court, developed
creative ways to revoke this tenuous status. As a result, since 1967
more than 14,000 Jerusalem residencies have been revoked, most of them
after the so-called peace process started in the early 1990s.
Successive Israeli governments have cleverly chosen the timing of new
regulatory turning points to broaden the scope of residency revocations,
manipulating temporary crises to do so. Two high-profile cases helped
shape the pillars of the present residency revocation regime. The first
was the case of the peace activist Mubarak Awad, who moved to the United
States in 1970, where he married an American citizen. Awad was active in
promoting nonviolent resistance before and during the First Intifada,
the popular Palestinian uprising between 1987 and 1991. In 1987, he
applied to the Ministry of Interior to renew his Jerusalem ID card only
to learn that his Israeli residency had been revoked as a result of his
stay in the US and the fact that he had received American citizenship.
In hindsight, this is especially ironic now that some 15% of the
settlers displacing Palestinians in the OPT are Israeli American Jews.
Awad subsequently filed a petition in the Israeli Supreme Court where he
explained that his right to live in his hometown should not be
compromised as a result of his stay abroad. He argued that Palestinian
Jerusalemites should have an irrevocable residency status since they
could not be considered mere immigrants to Israel. The Supreme Court
rejected his argument and approved the revocation of his residency. In a
statement that defies belief, the Court noted that his political views
were a consideration that the Ministry of Interior took into account
when it decided to revoke his residency.
To support this argument, the ministry had attached the opinion of an
Israeli Security Agency (Shabak) official, who went by the alias
"Yossi," to the effect that Awad advocated a one-state solution and
called for civil disobedience. While the Court did not explicitly ground
its decision on this opinion, it frequently referred to it in its
verdict. Creating a new precedent, the Court determined that residency
status could be denied when a resident's "center of life" was no longer
in Israel. Beyond Awad’s personal tragedy, what is particularly
important is that this legal precedent was subsequently used to deny the
residency status of thousands of Jerusalemites.
In 1995, the Supreme Court issued another pivotal verdict against
Fathiyya Shiqaqi, the wife of Fathi Shiqaqi, founder of the Islamic
Jihad Movement. A Jerusalem resident, Shiqaqi was forced to move with
her deported husband to Syria in 1988. Six years later she returned to
Jerusalem and sought to renew her ID card and register her three
children. The Ministry of Interior rejected her request and ordered her
to leave the country. Up to this date, Israel had revoked residencies
subject to a written ordinance by the ministry if the resident was
absent for seven straight years or received a foreign permanent
residency or citizenship. Although Shiqaqi’s case did not meet these
stipulations, the Supreme Court still approved the revocation of her
residency, given that Shiqaqi lived abroad with her husband and her
"center of life" was no longer in Israel.
After this second turning point thousands of Palestinian residents who
lived outside Jerusalem’s municipal borders in the West Bank, Gaza or
abroad began losing their residency status. This large number of victims
of forced displacement were not necessarily involved in any political
activity. The revocation of their residency depended solely on the
"center of life" criterion.
These two important cases seem to have been carefully chosen. In Jewish
Israeli society, very few would empathize with the plight of an academic
calling for civil disobedience or the wife of an Islamic jihadist.
However, once these precedents were in place, the entire Palestinian
population of Jerusalem came under threat.
Turning Point 3: "Breach of Allegiance"
The latest turning point in Israel’s revocation policy has its roots in
the revocation by the Israeli Ministry of Interior of three elected
members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) as well as the
Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, in 2006. The ministry claimed
that they had violated their "minimal obligation of loyalty to the State
of Israel" by their election to the PLC and their affiliation with
Hamas. Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations were outraged
by the introduction of “allegiance” as a new legal civil status
criterion, and the case has been pending at the Israeli Supreme Court
since 2006. Should the Supreme Court approve this measure, Israeli
authorities will be equipped with a new pretext for forced displacement,
as Hasan Jabarin, director of the Haifa-based human rights organization
Adalah, has stated.
However, the recent outbreak of violence in the OPT provided Israel an
opportunity to act without having to wait for the Supreme Court’s
verdict. As early as October 14th, 2015, the Israeli "Security Cabinet"
issued a decision to the effect that "the permanent residency rights of
terrorists will be revoked," without defining who was a terrorist. One
week later, the Ministry of Interior notified four Palestinians,
suspected of committing violent acts against Israeli citizens (three of
them were accused of throwing stones), that the minister was considering
using his discretionary power to revoke their residencies because the
criminal acts they were accused of showed a "clear breach of allegiance"
to the state of Israel. In January 2016, the ministry issued official
residency revocation decisions against the four Jerusalemites.
Thus, it is no longer enough for a Palestinian Jerusalemite to be
actually living in Jerusalem and to maintain his/her center of life in
the city. Palestinian Jerusalemites are now expected to commit to the
new undefined criterion of "allegiance." The Israeli human rights
organization HaMoked, which is based in Jerusalem, has challenged this
new policy in the Israeli Supreme Court. However, the Court has not yet
decided the case. Similarly, the case of the four Palestinian political
leaders whose residency was revoked in 2006 is still pending.
No one knows yet how many residencies have been revoked according to the
relatively new criterion of "allegiance," but at least a few more cases
are pending in the Supreme Court. HaMoked has made an application based
on the freedom of information act to force the Ministry of Interior
reveal this information.
It is worth noting that international humanitarian law forbids the
expectation of allegiance from a population under occupation. Thus,
justifying a residency revocation due to a "breach of allegiance" is
counter to international law. Furthermore, there is no justification to
revoke the residency of anyone suspected of an act of violence because
the Israeli criminal court system already punishes any violent – as well
as many non-violent – acts committed by Palestinians.
From a broader legal and historical perspective, Israel should remember
that forced displacement is a war crime when implemented in an occupied
territory and a crime against humanity if it is widespread or
systematic. The Israeli government’s latest measures combined with its
existing ones would meet the criterion of systematic displacement
tantamount to a crime against humanity.
Resisting the Policy of Forced Displacement
The struggle against residency revocations in Jerusalem has mostly taken
place in Israeli courtrooms and has, in general, so far been lost. The
attempts by several Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations
to argue at the Israeli Supreme Court that Jerusalemites are not
immigrants but natives who have an unconditional right to live in their
own city have failed. The Israeli Supreme Court has maintained that a
Palestinian Jerusalemite's right to live in East Jerusalem should
continue to be at the discretionary power of the Minister of Interior.
The current right wing government of Israel is using this discretion to
fast-track the removal of as many Palestinians from Jerusalem as possible.
In addition, there are no clear counter measures on the diplomatic and
international levels against Israel's punitive acts. The PLO has secured
the recognition of the State of Palestine by the UN General Assembly,
and then joined a number of important human rights and international
humanitarian law conventions including the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court (ICC). However, it is not yet clear what
use the State of Palestine is planning to make of this status and these
conventions to resist residency revocations in Jerusalem.
Most of the advocacy after Palestine joined the ICC has been focused on
crimes that took place during the war on Gaza, which is obviously
important. However, I would argue that the issue of forced displacement
is no less important. In Jerusalem and in other parts of the West Bank,
forced displacement is part of Israel’s legal regime. It is given
expression through Israeli laws, administrative orders and court
decisions. In the specific case of Jerusalem, Israeli administrative and
legal institutions do not even consider international law arguments
because Israel considers Jerusalem to be Israeli and not occupied territory.
Israel needs to get a strong message from international legal
institutions and diplomatic circles that, regardless of the Israeli
definition, the international community considers Jerusalem occupied and
the transfer of its civilians as a criminal offense.
Against this background, several Palestinian human rights organizations
in East Jerusalem and elsewhere across the West Bank (Al-Quds
University's Community Action Center, St. Yves, Jerusalem Legal Aid and
Human Rights Center (JLAC), the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights
in Jerusalem, Badil, Al-Haq and Al-Quds Human Rights Clinic) have
recently launched a campaign to resist Israel's new transfer policies
against Jerusalemites. The campaign began by taking this issue to the UN
Human Rights Council to raise it before international diplomats and
human rights practitioners.
The campaign has decided to focus on ending punitive residency
revocations because this has not yet been approved by the Israeli
Supreme Court, making it easier to challenge. If, however, the Court
decides that this policy is legitimate, it will be enshrined in the
Israeli legal system and will most likely displace many additional
Palestinians from Jerusalem.
Palestinian official institutions as well as civil society organizations
should work hard against systematic Israeli policies of forced
displacement. While Palestinians in general feel that international law
has not served the Palestinian cause well, this should not be used as an
excuse to give up on the legal struggle. This struggle should not only
be aimed at Israel’s legal institutions and their discriminatory
policies, but it should also be taken to the international level. The
Israeli Supreme Court itself might reconsider its endorsement of
discriminatory policies if it feels it is under scrutiny.
Whether the pressure of the local Palestinian campaign will reverse the
policy of punitive residency revocations remains to be seen. What is
certain, however, is that the rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem need
much more attention and the issue of residency revocation in Jerusalem
needs to be on the agenda. Palestinian lawyers, human rights
organizations and officials should take advantage of the momentum
offered by Palestine's accession to a number of human rights treaties to
increase their pressure on the international community. It is past time
for the international community to meet its obligation to take all
measures available to end the crime of forced transfer, hold accountable
those responsible for such policies and reverse their effects by
providing reparations to the victims, including their right to return to
their homes. Focused campaigns on single-issue rights may be more
effective from an advocacy point of view than general campaigns that aim
to raise awareness about multiple injustices.
The views expressed in this article are the authors and do not
necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.
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