Photo Credit: nborun via Flickr
A street in eastern Jerusalem

Israeli authorities have in recent years revoked the status of Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem under the amended Law of Entry for violating their “minimal obligation of loyalty to the state of Israel,” according to a new report issued Tuesday by NGO Human Rights Watch.

“First used against four Hamas members elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, authorities have, following an October 2015 government decree, invoked this justification against individuals accused of physically attacking Israelis and against the suspects’ families,” according to the report.

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On March 6, 2017, the Knesset amended the Nationality Law, 5712-1952, authorizes the Administrative Court, in response to a request by the Minister of Interior, to cancel the Israeli nationality of any person if the nationality has been acquired more than three years earlier based on false information; or if the person has committed a breach of loyalty towards the state, as long as he/she will not become stateless as a consequence of the cancellation; and if he/she becomes stateless, the person will be granted a permit of permanent residence as authorized by the Minister of Interior.

The amendment in question was the focal point of some debate in Israel this month, when a Haifa district judge accepted the request of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to revoke the citizenship of an Israeli Arab terrorist, who would become stateless following his 25-year prison sentence.

According to the new report, “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.”

The report spells much hope for Israelis who believe in establishing a Jewish majority in their capital city. Residency revocations, alongside home demolitions and restrictions on building in the city, have increased settlement by Israeli Jewish citizens in eastern Jerusalem while restricting growth of the Arab population, according to the report (after we removed from it the inevitable pejorative terms).

“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,” the report notes. “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.”

So, a few more revocations of citizenship, a few more home demolitions, and the 70-30 ration could be within reach, which is all good news if you want a solid Jewish majority in all of Jerusalem.

The report argues that since residency revocations often force Arabs to leave eastern Jerusalem, they constitute a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits forcible transfers and displacement of civilians in an occupied area. It’s an imaginative legal argument that probably couldn’t pass muster in a real court, since it seeks to aggregated many different individual decisions into a fictitious, organized act of government. Also, Israel defies the notion that eastern Jerusalem is “occupied,” since it was taken by war from an illegitimate invader, whose sovereignty there was never sanctioned by the UN.

The report includes interviews with eight Arab families who were “victims” of Israel’s aggressive policy to enhance the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. The most glaring interview, buried among all the others, is with Abed Dawiat, a resident of Sur Baher. By now few of us recall that Dawiat’s was the official first act of terror that started the current on-again, off-again lone-wolf intifada.

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah 5776, September 13, 2015, Dawiat, then 18, threw rocks at the car of Alex Leblovitch, an Israeli citizen, leading to his death. In January 2016, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri wrote Dawiat’s attorney: “The decision to revoke the permanent residency status is made following the murderous terror attack committed by your client […] On that day at noon time, your client met with other activists who have jointly decided to throw stones at vehicles driven by Jewish drivers on a major traffic route in Jerusalem on Rosh Hashanah eve, as a ‘retaliatory action’ and as an act of solidarity with the Temple Mount incidents. Thereafter, your client, together with others, deliberately threw stones at vehicles which were driving along the major traffic route in Jerusalem. As a result of these deeds, an Israeli citizen, the late Mr. Alex Leblovitch, was killed and another person was seriously injured.

“Said terror attack was committed by your client by taking advantage of the freedom of movement in Israel which derives from the fact that he has permanent residency status in Israel and holds an Israeli identification card. A permanent residency status in Israel is based on a material connection between the resident and the state, in the sense that the state regards itself obligated and responsible towards the resident and in the sense that the resident carries the burden associated with said connection and coexistence and is obligated in the most basic sense not to act against the state or take action which undermines its existence.

“In this context, in view of the host of rights and obligations arising from a permanent residency status, the residency status requires basic commitment and loyalty in view of the fact that residency, and all the more so permanent residency, is not a status which only grants rights without any obligations and as such it embodies practices which pertain to the collection of duties and obligations of the person who holds said status and who wishes to continue to hold it.”

The Human Rights Watch report offers only a sketchy mention of the reason for the revocation of residency, and even that is peppered with enough “allegedly” moderators to turn an act of murder into, literally, adolescent mischief. Then the report adds: “Dawiat accepted a plea bargain for a $28,000 fine and an 18-year jail sentence, which he is serving in Nafha Prison. He has challenged his residency revocation in front of the High Court of Justice; if that petition fails, he will not be permitted to live with his family in Jerusalem when he finishes serving his sentence.”

Boohoo.

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