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 of data. 

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 any answer. 
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 in Jerusalem. 
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.

 
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issue no. 10