On August 8, 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report detailing the manner and reasons Israel systematically strips East Jerusalem’s native Palestinian inhabitants of their residency status. According to the report, nearly 15,000 Palestinians from East Jerusalem have had their residency permits revoked by Israel over the last fifty years—since the beginning of the occupation in 1967.
HRW states that Israeli authorities “have justified most revocations based on a failure to prove a ‘center of life’ in Jerusalem but, in recent years, they have also revoked status to punish Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis and as collective punishment against relatives of suspected assailants.” It is not clear why Palestinians, who are indigenous to East Jerusalem and whose families have lived there long before the creation of the State of Israel, must “prove” their “center of life” in the city, whereas Israeli residents are not required to do the same. By making this impudent demand on Palestinians, Israel is tacitly rejecting their historic tie to the land in order to justify a “discriminatory system [that] pushes [them] to leave their home city in what amounts to forcible transfers, a serious violation of international law,” according to HRW.
The report states that although denial of residency has been taking place since 1967, the majority of cases in which Palestinians are stripped of their living permits have occurred since 1995. More recently, for example, Israel has stripped Palestinians in East Jerusalem of their residency status for failing to meet a “minimal obligation of loyalty to the state of Israel.” As HRW correctly notes, this is in direct defiance of international law, which “expressly forbids an occupying power from compelling people under occupation to pledge loyalty or allegiance to it.”
While Israelis continue to illegally settle in East Jerusalem with the assistance and encouragement of their government, Palestinians are forced to navigate their own city as strangers in limbo, and are constantly at risk of being expelled for not having permits to stay or build new homes. Citing the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the HRW report indicates that hundreds of “unauthorized” homes belonging to Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been bulldozed by Israel since January 2012. To make matters worse, the Israeli government severely discriminates among Palestinians and Israelis in allocating funding to the city:
According to the Israeli rights organization Ir Amim, only 10.1 percent of the 2013 municipal budget was allocated for projects and spending in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, though Palestinians are 37 percent of the population. As a result, most Palestinian neighborhoods have poor infrastructure and inadequate health, recreation, and educational services, compared with Israeli neighborhoods, which have well-paved roads, numerous parks and playgrounds, adequate refuse collection, and sufficient places for children in schools. Seventy-six percent of East Jerusalem Palestinians live below the poverty line, according to the Israeli organization Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
As Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, is quoted as saying in the report, “Israel claims to treat Jerusalem as a unified city, but the reality is effectively one set of rules for Jews and another for Palestinians.” Indeed, as many Palestinians often state, the tragic exodus of 1948 (or Nakba) was not a fleeting moment in history, but is rather an ongoing phenomenon that recreates scenarios of expulsion, destruction, and misery. East Jerusalem is a poignant, everyday reminder of this reality.
Read the full report here.