The confiscation of ID-cards of Palestinian Jerusalemites has become normal, as normal as land confiscation, house demolition, and settlement construction. Efforts in 1996 and 1997 to raise this issue among local and international decision makers powerful enough to force Israel to stop the forceful eviction of the native Palestinian population from their hometown have failed due to lack of concern and over-riding political considerations. In 1997, more than 600 Jerusalemites and their families thus lost the right to live in the city. A yet unknown number of Jerusalemites are slated for a life in exile in 1998, the year of public commemorations suggesting that the Palestinian Nakbe is an issue of the past ...
NEW EFFORT AT TACKLING JERUSALEM ID-CARD CONFISCATIONS IN THE ISRAELI LEGAL SYSTEM
A group of Israeli organizations and lawyers (Hotline-Center for the Defense of the Individual, ACRI-Association for Civil Rights in Israel, PHR-Physicians for Human Rights, AIC-Alternative Information Center, DCI-Defence for Children International-Israel Branch, and Atty. Lea Tsemel) are attempting to challenge - once more - the Israeli policy of ID-card confiscations by taking the issue to the Israeli court system. Their petition was submitted to the Israeli High Court on 6 April 1998. The following day, the Court obliged the Israeli Ministry of Interior to respond within 60 days and issued temporary restraining orders for the cases included in the petition. The Ministry’s initial answer is expected for mid-June 1998. This answer, as well as the legal procedures that will follow, will be crucial for determining whether or not the use of legal channels will remain an option for protecting Palestinian residency rights in Jerusalem in the future.
The petitioners face a difficult task. Israeli High Court records show the consistent approval by the Court of old and new Israeli policies aimed at denying protection of the residency rights of the native Palestinian population in 1967 occupied East Jerusalem. Thus, the Court has ruled in favor of the Israeli Interior Ministry in all essential petitions raised since 1988 (Mubarak Awad/1988, Sheqaqi/1995, Bustani/1997, Ameera/1997). In these past cases, the High Court established that the right of Palestinians to live in Jerusalem:
- is not a constitutional right, but conditioned by physical presence in the city;
- may be lost, even if the person abides to the Entrance to Israel Regulations of 1952 and 1974 (i.e. even if the person stays abroad less than seven years, holds a valid re-entry visa, and does not hold citizenship/residency rights elsewhere) - for "other facts which are not mentioned in these Regulations";
- may be lost, even if a person - in Palestinian terms - does not leave the country but continues to live in another area of 1967 occupied Palestine, outside the Israeli municipal boundaries of Jerusalem;
- may be canceled even if a person left Jerusalem against her/his will and as a result of Israeli policies applied in the past (e.g. the policy according to which, until 1994, female Jerusalemites were not eligible to apply for family reunification for their husbands).
Working against a reality full of unfavorable legal precedents, the petitioners carefully prepared their argument over a period of more than one year. The current petition includes 11 Palestinian families, residents of Jerusalem. All of them have either received written notification stating that their resident status "had expired" or had their ID cards taken away physically. The cases include youth whose application for an ID card was rejected, women who returned with their families to Jerusalem in 1994, as soon as they were eligible to apply for family reunification for their husbands, and persons who applied for US citizenship. Their right to live in Jerusalem was canceled, despite the fact that all of them had valid documents, can prove physical presence in the city at least since 1994, and have not left since then.
The petitioners argument includes the following major points:
- Changes in official rules and regulations must be published prior to implementation;
- Persons whose ID cards are slated for confiscation must be offered a chance of appeal in the framework of a hearing which precedes the decision to confiscate their ID card;
- Retroactive implementation of previously unknown regulations contradicts lawful procedure; ID cards of women prevented from living in Jerusalem with their husbands until 1994 cannot be confiscated now for their involuntary absence in the past.
- Trips abroad for short periods must not be interpreted as absence from the city in legal terms.