OCCUPIED JEURSALEM, (PIC) +-
Israel has revoked the status of at least 14,595 Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem since 1967, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a new report issued Tuesday.
Israel’s revocation of the residency status of thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem over the years illustrates the two-tiered system Israel maintains in the city. The residency system imposes onerous requirements on Palestinians to maintain their status, with significant consequences for those who don’t, the organization added.
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. The discriminatory system pushes many Palestinians to leave their home city in what amounts to forcible transfers, a serious violation of international law, according to 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,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Entrenched discrimination against Palestinians in Jerusalem, including residency policies that imperil their legal status, feeds the alienation of the city’s residents.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed eight families in Jerusalem whose residency has been revoked between March and July 2017, reviewed status revocation letters, court decisions, and other official documents, in addition to speaking to their lawyers.
One man whose residency Israel had cancelled said he had to scale Israel’s separation barrier to attend a family wedding in another part of the West Bank. Another said Israeli authorities refused to issue birth certificates to his five children, all born in Jerusalem.
Other Jerusalem residents without residency status interviewed described being unable to legally work; obtain social welfare benefits; attend weddings and funerals; or visit gravely ill relatives abroad, for fear Israeli authorities would refuse to allow them to return home.
Residency revocations, alongside decades of unlawful settlement expansion, home demolitions, and restrictions on building in the city, have increased unlawful settlement by Israeli Jewish citizens in occupied Jerusalem while restricting growth of the occupied Palestinian population.
This reality reflects the Israeli government’s goal of “maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city,” as stated in the Jerusalem municipality’s master plan: “Jerusalem Outline Plan 2000”, and limiting the number of Palestinian residents.
Originally setting a target “ratio of 70% Jews and 30% Arab,” planners later acknowledged that “this goal is not attainable” in light of “the demographic trend” and adjusted to a 60-40 target. Palestinians constituted 37 percent of Jerusalem’s population in 2015, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.