HASS: Reason for panic in Jerusalem 30Jul13 July 30, 2013


by Amira Hass     -      Haaretz    -     29 July 2013

Real panic seized the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem last week: People who renewed their ID cards at the Interior Ministry in East Jerusalem in July discovered that two new items had been added to the usual identification details. The first, “Status,” next to which it says “Permit for permanent resident”; and the second, “Valid until,” and next to it a date 10 years from the day the document was printed. A photograph of the new ID card made the rounds on Facebook, and some people concluded that the expiration date relates to their status as permanent residents of Jerusalem. 

So first of all an “all-clear” signal: Those two additions appear not only on the new ID cards of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, but on every new ID card, due to new regulations that were passed in May 2012 and that took effect on July 1st of this year. They also require replacing the card if it is tattered or if there has been a change in the personal information. The expiration date has no connection to status. The status of a permanent resident, like that of a citizen, is not canceled when the ID card expires.

That is what they promise at the Population, Immigration and Border Authority. They also explained that the addition of “Status” on the ID card is directed “this time” at temporary residents, and not at Palestinian permanent residents. It is meant to prevent temporary residents – who are primarily not Palestinian – from continuing to live in the country undisturbed and using its ID card even after their residency right has expired for various reasons. The addition of “Status” on the ID card will make it easier to locate them. But due to the rule of standardization, every addition appears on all the ID cards, be those of citizens, permanent residents or temporary residents.

To exploit every opening

In short, they said at the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, there’s no reason for panic. Really? The 46 years of “united Jerusalem” prove that Palestinian residents of the city have every reason in the world to suspect any presumably innocent administrative or bureaucratic change, and to assume that the Israeli authorities are planning to exploit every opening and pretext to continue with their consistent policy, which is no secret: to expel as many Palestinian Jerusalemites as possible from their city and homeland. And the Jewish Israeli public cooperates, for the most part, through its lack of interest.

In order not to be expelled, the Jerusalemites must also prove to Interior Ministry officials that the center of their lives is in the capital (which is very stingy when it comes to supplying housing, municipal services and job opportunities for Palestinians). The officials, who enthusiastically obey the commands of their government masters, require the Palestinians to bring sackfuls of proof and documents and papers. Every request to the Interior Ministry is an opportunity for an official to harass the Palestinians a little more and to demand another document, another proof, another bureaucratic, legal and emotional Via Dolorosa.

Palestinian Jerusalemites were defined as permanent residents in June 1967, with the annexation to Israel of about 70 square kilometers of the area of the occupied West Bank (encompassing East Jerusalem and the Old City). In 1974 the new “regulations for entry into Israel” were applied to them, as though they were non-Jewish immigrants (to whom the Law of Return does not apply), rather than people whose families lived in the city and the country long before the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, and the date of entry into Israel of senior ministers and prime ministers.

Act of aggression

From the start, defining them as permanent residents was an act of aggression. The aggression increased over the years, when Israeli governments (Labor and Likud, without discrimination) gradually added new regulations and procedures, which proved once and for all that the Palestinian Jerusalemite is only a “conditional resident.”

This gradualism is illustrated on the “timeline” that appears on the website of the Israeli Center for the Defense of the Individual (Moked Lehaganat Haprat): (http://www.hamoked.org.il/Timelineaspex?pageid+timeLineNews).

It’s a must-read, and there is not enough room here to cite the information. It should only be emphasized that Supreme Court justices were not at all distressed by the government’s policy, and even abetted it in their rulings. In 1988 they (headed by former Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak) strengthened the state’s viewpoint when they ruled that a Palestinian Jerusalem resident born in 1943 is legally in the same position as a non-Jewish immigrant to Israel. In other words, the state is allowed to expel a Palestinian Jerusalemite if he has lived abroad for seven years or more, or if he has other citizenship/residency. In March 2012 the justices once again adopted this viewpoint, when they recommended to the Center for the Defense of the Individual and to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel that they forgo a petition arguing that the restrictions regarding permanent residency effectively imprison Palestinian Jerusalemites in their city, and interfere with their normal lives.

The panic surrounding the obligation to renew ID cards every 10 years is a reminder of the perilous situation of all Palestinians under Israeli rule, including Jerusalemites and Palestinians who are citizens of the state. They are all living in the shadow of a constant threat on the part of the authorities: a home will be demolished, a policeman will harass, a document will be revoked, land will be confiscated, families and friends will be cut off from one another, a livelihood will be lost due to the lack of a travel permit, a judge will hand down a disproportionate punishment, a person will be killed or injured by representatives of “law and order” or by civilians, the Knesset will pass a new hostile, discriminatory law.

The panic also indicates that the Jerusalemites do not anticipate a positive change in the relations between Israel and the Palestinians in the coming decade – for example, that Israel, perhaps under pressure from university law schools and leading writers and historians, will declare that their permanent resident status is irrevocable. Certainly the Jerusalemites cannot imagine now that within 10 years they will in any case be residents of the capital of a Palestinian state, and citizens of that state, or citizens with equal rights in one democratic state. 

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