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Friday, 15 October. 2021
 
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Jerusalem –Jerusalemite activists and their families are facing another threat on the back of their alleged participation in the latest uprising, this time the possible forced displacement and expulsion of dozens of families. Israeli authorities have informed these activists and administrative detainees of their decision to rescind theirs and their families’ health, social and economic rights, which will ultimately result in the loss of their permanent residency rights in Jerusalem.

Ziad Hammouri, Director of the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, says this is an extremely dangerous, albeit expected, development. He explains that such measures began 15 years ago against Jerusalemite prisoners and detainees, the first such case being that of Shadi Shurafa from Wadi Joz. Fortunately, the center was able to raise the case in court and succeeded in suspending the order.

Hammouri maintains the allegations in these new orders are deceptive in nature. For example, former prisoner, Nasser Abu Khdeir, a resident of Shufat, has never lived in the West Bank. He was arrested more than once and always returned home after each release, even being put under town arrest. However, when he recently sought treatment at his health clinic and was informed that his and his family’s medical insurance had been revoked, on claims he was no longer a resident. When he went to the Israeli National Insurance to inquire about his status, he was told they had sent him a notification on May 1, which was put into effect two days later, without further warning.

Hammouri concluded: “In the case of Abu Khdeir, we could refute all of the claims they made, most importantly that he is residing in the West Bank. We expect, however, that this claim will be replaced by another, namely lack of allegiance to the state of Israel, which was the charge made against Hamas PLC members from Jerusalem who were deported to the West Bank and lost their residency rights.”

Attorney Midhat Deeba, one of a team of attorneys working with detainees from the recent uprising, says the revocation of health insurance and residency rights is an old/new tactic the Israeli interior ministry has resorted to whenever it deems the case as a “security issue.” He notes that recently, there have been at least 15 administrative detention orders against Jerusalemite activists, a considerable increase in a short period of time.

Deeba pointed out the illegality of the recent revocations given that the recipients did not receive any formal notification in this regard, especially since it denies them their right to appeal the decision within the legal period of 30 to 45 days.

Furthermore, Deeba says the National Insurance records claim the Israeli interior ministry had sent the orders regarding cancelled health insurance “by mail”. The problem is that the PO boxes were either incorrect or fake numbers. Deeba confirmed this, saying his team had cross-checked these numbers on the post office website, which revealed that they were fake and were used as a means of circumventing the law so the recipients would not be able to appeal within the allotted time permissible by law.

Deeba stressed how these orders are in contravention of international humanitarian law, which bars the occupying authority from altering the status of occupied residents. He continued that action could be taken with human rights organizations against these unjust measures and also complaints could be filed with the International Criminal Court.

Nasser Abu Khdeir – a case study

Prisoner Nasser Abu Khdeir from the town of Shufat, north of Jerusalem, is a perfect example of this Israeli measure, which also affected his wife, former prisoner Abeer Abu Khdeir, their daughter and son Anan, who was arrested by Israeli forces a week ago.

Abu Khdeir, 60, has spent many years in Israeli prisons. In the years that followed, and even when he decided to run in the now-postponed Palestinian general elections, Abu Khdeir has remained a target of Israeli authorities. He has been under town arrest, been banned from entering the West Bank and most recently, has been warned by Israeli intelligence services not to run in Palestinian elections on the PFLP or Hamas ticket.

Abu Khdeir tells his story: “About two weeks ago, I went to the clinic but was informed that my health insurance had been cancelled along with that of my wife’s, on claims that I live in the West Bank. This means I will lose my residency rights in Jerusalem and eventually my Jerusalemite ID card. Ironically, I recently received an order barring me from entering the West Bank for six months. Before that, I was under an order barring me entry from all Jerusalem neighborhoods except my place of residence. Since I was born 60 years ago, I have never resided outside of Jerusalem, except when I was a ‘visitor’ in their prisons. I was born in Jerusalem and made a promise to myself that I would only die here”

Still, Abu Khdeir warns that these unjust measures should not be lightly, having affected over 20 former prisoners, activists and their families so far. “Who knows, this number could go up to 50 in no time,” he says. “If this turns into a daily measure, we will see hundreds if not thousands being stripped of their residency rights and forcefully displaced from the city where they were born.”

Revocation of residency rights

Hammouri estimates the number of Jerusalemites who lost their residency rights and had their full health, social and economic rights revoked since Israeli occupation forces began implementing this policy at the beginning of the 90s, is somewhere near 20,000 people at a rate of 800 to 1,000 residents a year. The peak of this policy, he notes, was following the brutal killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in 2014.

Several years ago, the Israeli High Court rejected an appeal submitted by the Citizens’ Rights Association and the Center for the Defense of the Individual, Hamoked in which they demanded a “halt to the policy of residency [ID] revocation from Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.” The appellants also demanded Jerusalemites are granted “protected resident status” from the standpoint of making a distinction between their status as the indigenous residents of the city and that of foreigners who immigrated to the country and gained permanent residency.

The Israeli interior ministry considers anyone who moves outside of Jerusalem, including to the rest of the West Bank or the Gaza Strip as the same as moving “outside of the country” even though Israel recognizes the Oslo Accords, which stipulate that Jerusalemites are an integral part of the Palestinian people in these areas. In this manner, many Palestinians have lost their legal status even though they live only several meters from their own homes.

There has been a considerable increase in the policy of residency revocation for Jerusalemites since 2006, as part of Israel’s policy to lower the Palestinian population in occupied Jerusalem, revoking approximately 15,000 ID cards.

 
 
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