A new bill to be introduced in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, next week would permit the cancellation of a person’s permanent residency on grounds of “disloyalty” to Israel.
Last October, the prime minister’s office announced that the government had decided to revoke the residency of “terrorists,” a policy that would almost exclusively affect Palestinians living under military occupation in East Jerusalem.
When Israel occupied East Jerusalem in June 1967, formally annexing it in 1980, it decreed that Palestinians living there were “permanent residents,” as if they had moved to Israel as immigrants, rather than Israel violently imposing itself on them.
This residency status is vulnerable to revocation and requires Palestinian Jerusalemites to fulfill certain conditions to maintain it that are never applied to Jews.
Under international law, Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is null and void.
While more than 14,000 Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem have had their residency revoked since 1967 – usually because they might have temporarily moved elsewhere to study, work, be closer to family or get married – none has yet lost their residency for alleged acts of “terror” or disloyalty.
In 2011, Israel did expel several members of the Palestinian Legislative Council from Jerusalem on the grounds that they belong to Hamas. It also regularly bans Palestinians from the city on grounds of “security.”
A handful of Palestinians have been threatened with revocation for breach of loyalty, but their cases are still subject to court proceedings.
In advance of a legislative meeting on 17 January, when the new bill is to be discussed, the Israeli human rights organization HaMoked has written to Yehuda Weinstein, Israel’s attorney general, to emphasize the illegality of the law.
HaMoked warned that the bill, proposed by lawmaker Oren Hazan, will not only seek to legalize the revocation of the permanent residency of those convicted of “disloyalty,” but also of their relatives and spouses.
Hazan, who admitted last year to fabricating information in an attempt to discredit a group that documents Israeli abuses against Palestinians, is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Disloyalty is not defined in Hazan’s bill, nor is it clear why Palestinians living under military occupation owe any duty of loyalty to their occupiers.
The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from forcibly transferring civilians from their homes.
In 2011, Israel approved the Citizenship Law, that allows courts to revoke the citizenship of those convicted of treason, terrorism or espionage.
However, citizenship can only be revoked in cases where the person has dual citizenship.
Palestinians in East Jerusalem with permanent residency are not citizens of Israel and often carry no other citizenship or passport.
In the meantime, Israel’s high court has refused to intervene on behalf of four Palestinians from East Jerusalem whose residency Israel is threatening to revoke.
In November, Silvan Shalom, then interior minister, notified four Palestinian young men, who are currently in Israeli custody for allegedly committing attacks, that he intends revoke their residency under the 1952 Law of Entry, which he claimed allows him to revoke the residency of individuals who “breach allegiance to the State of Israel.”
HaMoked filed a petition with the high court on behalf of the four men to challenge the revocation. Israel responded that the petition was premature since the interior ministry had not yet made a final decision regarding their cases.
Punishment without trial
The four Palestinians whose residency is in jeopardy are currently in prison awaiting trial. Two of them carry Jordanian citizenship, according to HaMoked’s court filings, while two are stateless.
Three of the Palestinians are accused of manslaughter by throwing stones at cars, allegedly causing one driver to have a heart attack and fatally crash his vehicle.
The policy of revoking the Jerusalem residency of Palestinians is as blatantly discriminatory as Israel’s practice of punitively destroying the homes of relatives of Palestinians accused of attacks. Neither revocation of residency, nor punitive demolitions are ever applied to Jewish suspects or their relatives, no matter what crimes they commit.
On 7 January, the high court ruled in favor of the state, that the men’s court challenge could not take place before the interior ministry had issued a final decision on their expulsions.
At the same time, the court acknowledged the serious implications of such a move.
“There is no doubt that the revocation of permanent residency visas of East Jerusalem residents raises constitutional and administrative issues of great weight,” the court wrote.
It remains to be seen whether these legal concerns will stand in the way of Israel’s ever harsher measures against Palestinian Jerusalemites.
As it has with the punitive demolitions, Israel’s highest court has often acted as an enabler and champion of Israel’s abuses of Palestinians rather than a check on them.