Israel Increases Policy of Confiscation of East Jerusalem Identity Cards

By Meehan, Maureen | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 30, 1996 | Go to article overview

Israel Increases Policy of Confiscation of East Jerusalem Identity Cards


Meehan, Maureen, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Israel Increases Policy of Confiscation Of East Jerusalem Identity Cards

Naja G., a Palestinian born in East Jerusalem and living in the West Bank city of Ramallah since 1989, lost her purse while shopping recently. When she applied to the Israeli Interior Ministry to replace her Jerusalem identity card, officials there told her she was no longer entitled to it and therefore had also lost her right to reside in the city of her birth.

Since the beginning of the peace process, Israeli policymakers, aware they would soon be entering negotiations with the PLO over the status of Jerusalem, have stepped up their efforts to change the city's demographics before the talks get underway, according to Palestinian analysts.

Applying the so-called Law of Entry to Israel -- not to be mistaken for the Law of Return which only applies to Jews -- Israel has dramatically increased its ongoing policy of ID card confiscation and cancellation of resident status of East Jerusalem Palestinians who live abroad or outside the city's municipal limits. In the past two years the number of ID card confiscations has grown from hundreds to thousands -- and the practice, illegal under international law, is expected to increase under the new right-wing Israeli government.

Although Israeli law never explicitly defined the West Bank or Gaza Strip as foreign territory, the enactment of this regulation against Jerusalemites who reside outside the city boundaries in the West Bank or Gaza is viewed by Palestinians as a gross violation of their inalienable residence rights.

According to the 1952 Law of Entry, which defines entry to and residency in Israel as a privilege and not a right, the approximately 180,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites are categorized as "permanent residents of Israel."

If Palestinians live outside Israel for more than seven successive years or become permanent residents or citizens of another country, they are liable to lose their permanent resident status in East Jerusalem.

Israel seized East Jerusalem from Jordan in the June 1967 war at the same time it captured the West Bank from Jordan, Gaza from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

Unlike Gaza and the West Bank however, Israel unilaterally and illegally "annexed" East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. According to international law, which forbids the acquisition of territory by force, East Jerusalem remains occupied territory. Also under international law, people of annexed territories should be given automatic citizenship by the annexing state.

The Israeli government, whose aim has been to increase the Jewish population in East Jerusalem and decrease the Palestinian population, obviously had no intention of granting citizenship to tens of thousands of Palestinians. Instead, it made East Jerusalem Palestinians a standing offer to take Israeli citizenship, knowing that few would accept.

"To ask for Israeli citizenship is the worst kind of humiliation as well as an acquiescence to annexation," said Miral Assuli. …

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