Israel: Jerusalem Palestinians Stripped of Status

Israel’s revocations of the residency status of thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem over the years illustrates the two-tiered system Israel maintains in the city, Human Rights Watch said today. The residency system imposes onerous requirements on Palestinians to maintain their status, with significant consequences for those who don’t.

Between the start of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 and the end of 2016, Israel revoked the status of at least 14,595 Palestinians from East Jerusalem, according to the Interior Ministry. 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.

“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Human Rights Watch interviewed eight families in Jerusalem whose residency has been revoked between March and July 2017, reviewed status revocation letters, court decisions, and other official documents, in addition to speaking to their lawyers. The identity of several interviewees has been concealed to protect their privacy and prevent possible reprisals from authorities.