|Violations of Palestinian
Residency Rights in Jerusalem Continue (An AIC Report from the Field)
During the period between
July 17 and September 11, 1994, the AIC team for Palestinian Residency
& Family Reunification carried out a series of field-days in East Jerusalem
in order to offer concrete assistance to the local population in these
crucial times of ongoing military closure, political uncertainty, and massive
Israeli intervention for the “Israelization” of the city. Moreover, the
information gathered from the direct encounter with peoples’ problems and
concerns added an important dimension to current human rights efforts in
Jerusalem. It is important to note here that this program dealt with the
problems of Jerusalemites still living IN the city; we did not meet those
Jerusalemites who currently reside outside the municipal boundaries, and
therefore their specific problems are not represented in the below analysis
The program opened with a
field day in Al-Hakawati theater located in the center of East Jerusalem,
followed by field work in Shoafat RC, Al-Essawiyeh, Silwan, and Jabbal
Mukabber, and the team offered advice to 136 documented cases.
1. In spite of the
new policy declared by the Jerusalem Interior Ministry in April 1994, according
to which husbands of female Jerusalem residents are now eligible to family
reunification, it is still unclear, 6 months later, whether the ministry
is actually implementing this new policy. The denial of family reunification
for husbands of female Jerusalem residents (109 cases) has remained the
major problem encountered in the field. In most of the cases (106) the
husband is from the surrounding West Bank.
Most of the women consulted
did apply in the past, when the ministry’s stand was that Jerusalem women
are not eligible for family reunification, because “according to the norms
and values of Arab culture, wives go to live with their husbands (in the
West Bank)”. Applications in the past were mostly submitted through lawyers,
others applied individually, others never bothered to apply. Only 18 of
those who applied received an official refusal, the rest never received
The majority of the women
were informed of the Interior Ministry’s new April 1994 policy (see above).
With the exception of those who already have a new pending application,
all the women were advised to submit a new family reunification application
with the required evidence of their actual residence in Jerusalem, and
the human rights institutions will have to monitor the ministry’s responses
in the coming 6 months.
2. While husbands
holding foreign passports are issued six-moth visit permits following their
wives’ application for family reunification, husbands who are residents
of the West Bank cannot obtain such permits. They have to apply for entry
permits to Jerusalem at their local civil administration. Evidence gathered
in the field shows that the civil administrations refuse to issue Jerusalem
entry permits to most of the husbands of Jerusalem residents (approximately
70% denied for “security” reasons). If permits are granted, they are issued
until 7:00 p.m. only, a fact which obviously infringes upon the right of
these families to live united in their homes.
3. Jerusalem women
still face immense difficulties in registering their children at the Interior
Ministry, if their husbands hold a West Bank ID. With 49 documented cases,
this was the second biggest problem encountered.
In February 1993, the Interior
Ministry confirmed to human rights organizations that it would accept registration
by the child’s mother and clarified the required procedures. Since then
the ministry has more than once reconfirmed this stand. However, Jerusalem
women continue to be misinformed by the ministry clerks, and many women
eventually fail to cope with the endless bureaucratic procedures.
An additional factor which
strongly contributes to the scope of the problem is that the Interior Ministry
has not implemented its promise to instruct all Jerusalem hospitals (including
the Arab hospitals) to transfer birth certificates of any child born in
the city directly to its registration department. The result is an absurd
situation: While Palestinian Jerusalemites who give birth in an Israeli
hospital in West Jerusalem have a fair chance of registering their child
as a resident of the city, because they follow the standard procedure of
informing the Interior Ministry of any new birth as required by the Israeli
law, Palestinian children born in one of the Arab hospitals in East Jerusalem
have almost no chance of qualifying as future Jerusalem residents. Due
to the ministry’s negligence, the administrations of Al Makassed, Mutaljah/Augusta
Victoria, Hilal al-Ahmar, and al-Dijani hospitals do not transfer birth
certificates automatically, but instruct the parents to pick up the certificates
from their respective administrations and to take care of the child’s registration
personally. Once a Jerusalem mother arrives at the Interior Ministry with
her child’s birth certificate, she is either confronted with a long list
of bureaucratic demands, or simply told that she cannot register her child
The direct result of the
problem described above is not only that numerous Palestinian children
born in Jerusalem remain unregistered (30 cases), or are registered on
their father’s ID card in the West Bank against the wish of their parents
(17 cases). Jerusalem mothers who do not succeed in registering their children
at the Interior Ministry also forfeit their right to state maternity payments
(700 NIS) and the monthly child allowance paid by the National Insurance
Institute (NIS 130 per child), a fact which has strong implications on
many economically troubled Jerusalem families.
4. Unregistered children
are officially non existent children, and they do not qualify for Israel-issued
ID cards in the future, when they reach the age of 16. While parents may
not consider this a very serious matter, hoping that within the coming
decade a political solution for Jerusalem will be found, there is another
much more immediate problem: Unregistered children face difficulties in
obtaining public education (17 cases recorded, approximately 40 children).
Following earlier interventions
by human rights institutions, the Jerusalem municipality as the responsible
authority for public education confirmed that “all children living in Jerusalem
have the right to public education”. According to the regulations valid
until early September 1994, unregistered children had to be accepted by
the public educational institutions, however, their parents were required
to pay an admission fee of NIS 350 (US $ 120).
Although the fees required
by the municipality’s educational department are less than the fees demanded
by private schools in East Jerusalem, they add up to a prohibitive amount
for parents of five children and more.
Despite these instructions,
municipality-run kindergartens and schools in East Jerusalem continue to
refuse admission of unregistered children, frequently on grounds that there
are no places available for them in the schools.
In September 1994, dozens
of Palestinian children, registered and un-registered, have not yet found
a school willing to accept them. As long as the Jerusalem municipality
is not ready to take full responsibility for the implementation of the
law of free and public education, and increase the number of classrooms
in the East Jerusalem public education system, this problem will remain
unsolved (see also above).
Private education in East
Jerusalem is very expensive (US $ 400 - 700), and therefore not a viable
option for many families, especially those with a large number of children.
Given the large number of children rejected by the public school system,
the political leadership in East Jerusalem is called upon to make urgent
arrangements with the private schools under its influence, so that they
will accept unregistered children under privileged financial conditions.
Such a temporary measure, combined with legal pressure on the Israeli authorities
demanding improvements in the public education system, are necessary in
order to stop whole families from leaving the city in order to obtain education
for their children outside.
5. Interior Ministry
clerks continue to inform Palestinian parents, who, for some reason failed
to register their children within the period of 14 days required by the
law, that “late registration” free of charge is possible only within 1
or 3 years after the child’s birth. Parents who wish to register their
children after this period are instructed to apply for family reunification
and pay NIS 350 (US $ 115), although this practice contradicts Israeli
law stating that parents are entitled to register their children free of
charge until they reach the age of 16.
6. Problems with “lost
IDs” (revoked by Israeli authorities) ranked third among the problems
encountered in the field (21 cases); all have pending applications for
the reinstatement of their IDs at the Interior Ministry.
7. Problems with family
reunification applications by male Jerusalemites for their non-resident
wives ranked fourth (6 cases). Although this is a small number, it clearly
shows that people continue to face difficulties even with what is considered
the most unproblematic type of family reunification.
8. In addition to
the findings above, field evidence confirmed again that the Interior Ministry
is extremely slow in handling applications for family reunification and
the reinstatement of “lost IDs”. The data gathered show that most of these
applications remained unanswered for a period of one year and more!
9. Moreover, the special
problems of Palestinian neighborhoods located on the municipal borders
have remained unsolved even 1 1/2 years after the imposition of the military
closure on Jerusalem. Among the neighborhoods most strongly effected are
Anata, Za’im, and Sheikh Sa’d in Jabbal Mukabber.
In the past, the lands of
Sheikh Sa’d served as grazing grounds for the cattle of Jabbal Mukabber
residents. In the course of the 1967 annexation of Jerusalem, these lands
were defined as belonging to the West Bank and persons living in Sheikh
Sa’d were issued West Bank ID cards. The rest of Jabbal Mukabber was included
in the new Jerusalem municipal boundaries.
Sheikh Sa’d does not have
any roads connecting it directly with the West Bank, and access to the
neighborhood is only possible by passing through Jerusalem/Jabbal Mukabber.
For reasons of practically maybe, Sheikh Sa’d was integrated into the municipality’s
water and electricity system, and the authorities did not hesitate to collect
municipal taxes (Arnona) and fees for water and electricity in exchange.
Since March 30, 1993, the 6,000 residents of Sheikh Sa’d have needed Jerusalem
entry permits in order to leave or to enter their neighborhood. All those
who cannot obtain permits remain confined to their homes, and during periods
of total closure when regular permits are not valid, the whole community
is under house arrest. For 1 1/2 years, the authorities have remained unable/unwilling
to find a special arrangement for this community which has become trapped
in a series of administrative measures that disregard its most basic needs.