UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

Dr.Munir NUSEIBAH from Al-Quds Human Rights Clinic speaking at our first side event on forcible transfer at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC31), described the historical context of residency revocations in occupied Jerusalem since 1967, and the recent punitive measures being considered by the Israeli Supreme Court.

After each successive Palestinian uprising or ‘Intifada’ that aims to resist occupation, Israel capitalises on the waves of anger and discontent to introduce ever stricter residency conditions to reduce the number of Palestinians living in Jerusalem and to deter those wishing to move to the city. When Jerusalem was occupied in 1967, Israel annexed the land, but could not annex the population. It gave the natives of Jerusalem permanent residency status, but not citizenship, and according to section 11a of the Entry into Israel law:

“The minister of the Interior may at his discretion cancel any permit of residence granted under this law.”

Palestinians, including those who were born in Jerusalem, were now at risk of losing their residency status at anytime and from passing that right of residency to their children. In 1985 Israel introduced a set of rules and stipulated that if any one of the following conditions were met, residency in Jerusalem would be revoked:

  • If a person leaves the country for the duration of 7 years.
  • If a person receives permanent residency abroad.
  • If a person receives citizenship status abroad.

To see how they were applied and further developed, it is important to understand the legal judgements that were made against two prominent Palestinians from Jerusalem, who petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court after their residency status had been revoked:-

1. The first case is that of Dr Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian - American psychologist who now lives in the United States.

In 1970 Mubarak Awad left Jerusalem to study for a Phd at an American university and later married an American citizen. He received U.S. residency status followed by U.S. citizenship. Apart from his professional work he was also a peace activist and in 1988 returned to Jerusalem to renew his residency status, only to discover that it had been revoked. He then petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court and his lawyers argued that he was born in 1942 in the city of Jerusalem, having grown up there, and that Israel had occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and gave him permanent residency status. They also said that he cannot be stripped of his birth right or the right of return, and he should be entitled to a constitutional residency status that cannot be revoked. Unfortunately the petition was rejected and the ‘automatic revocation’ of his permanent residency status was upheld as the conditions for revocation outlined above had been met.

2. The second case concerns the wife of the co-founder of the Islamic Jihad movement Fathi Shiqaqi.

Fathi Shiqaqi was deported to Lebanon and ended up living in Syria, but his wife, Fathiyya returned to Jerusalem in order to renew her worn out ID card and to register the children. Her application for renewal was rejected and she petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court arguing that she had abided by Israeli law and returned within 6 years. During the proceedings, the Israeli Supreme court discussed her husbands political activities but did not base their final judgement on security concerns. They applied a new condition in order to revoke her residency status. If she could not prove that her ‘centre of life’ was in Jerusalem then her residency status would be revoked. Following this judgement, the rate of residency revocations for ordinary Palestinians increased rapidly. Up to 2014, a total of 14,481 residency revocations were recorded but more than 11,000 occurred after this ruling in 1995. Since then Israeli authorities investigate aspects of Palestinian life, such as whether there is milk in the fridge or clothes in the wardrobe to establish whether or not their 'centre of life' exists in Jerusalem.

It is no coincidence that these judgements against prominent Palestinian figures, because of there involvement or connection to movements that resist occupation, are opportune moments for Israel to apply ever stricter residency conditions on the general Palestinian population in Jerusalem. Keeping this point in mind, after the 2006 Parliamentary legislative elections in Palestine, a number of Hamas candidates were elected as MP’s and one as the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs. In retaliation, Israel revoked their residency status and applied a new condition stating that they 'lacked the minimal obligation of loyalty to the state of Israel’, and in 2015, the Israeli Supreme Court stated that a number of Palestinians had lost their residency rights because ‘there was a blatant breach of allegiance to the state of Israel’.

If the ‘lack of loyalty and allegiance to the state of Israel’ are considered as legitimate reasons to revoke Palestinian residency rights in occupied Jerusalem, then this situation is very worrying for the Palestinian population. It is therefore extremely important to raise this issue now at an international forum such as HRC31, in order to stop these occurrences of residency revocation from becoming cemented in Israeli law.

To conclude, Simon REYNOLDS our moderator reminded the audience that many of the issues being raised during the presentations, result from the application of Israeli law within the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT). From a legal perspective such extension of Israeli law or by an occupying power of their own legislation into occupied territory is prohibited, unless it benefits the occupied population. As we continue to hear about the negative impact these laws have on Palestinians, we must consider whether such legislation can be assumed to be of benefit to the occupied population.

For further information on Al-Quds Human Rights Clinic please follow the link

Legal Clinic

Provides pro-bono legal services for addressing the discriminatory policies affecting Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

Social Work Unit

Empowers the community through social outreach, university volunteers, education, a women’s program, and children’s program.

Advocacy Unit

Mobilizes local and international actors to challenge Israeli policies that threaten the Palestinian community in Jerusalem.

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