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A view in East Jerusalem of how the Wall divides neighborhoods

A view in East Jerusalem of how the Wall divides neighborhoods

Jerusalem is a city like no other. It remains at the forefront of the Israel/Palestine conflict. However in many instances this goes unnoticed. This conflict does not often manifest in violence. Instead it takes form in the seemingly legitimate acts of state bureaucracy and law.

Whilst these acts may seem purely administrative in nature on the surface, on the ground, the reality reveals something different. These administrative acts are as destructive to the maintenance of a Palestinian presence in and claim to (East) Jerusalem as the Wall (aka the ‘Apartheid Wall’ or the ‘Security Fence’). These acts render spatial distance irrelevant. The city of Ramallah is only some 14 miles from Jerusalem, however in reality the distance is much greater. These administrative acts place the city of Jerusalem at a distance over which most Palestinians cannot overcome. Despite international recognition that (East) Jerusalem is to be the capital of a future Palestinian state the reality is that for most Palestinians Jerusalem is a world away.

Demographic Balance

The importance of the city of Jerusalem to Israel cannot be overstated. After taking control of East Jerusalem (the Palestinian segment of the city) in 1967 one of the first acts of Israel was to officially annex and subsume it into the (Israeli) Municipality of Jerusalem. In 1980 the state went one step further. It enacted a Basic Law (equivalent in status to a state constitution) that provides ‘Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.’ Both acts were condemned by the international community.

However these are probably some of the more mundane acts of Israel in seeking to consolidate its control over Jerusalem. As fast as East Jerusalem was subsumed into Israel its focus turned to the ‘Judaization’ of the city. Israeli settlements were quickly established as land was confiscated from Palestinians under the legal guise of being for ‘public purposes’.[1] This process was in part guided by the state policy to keep the ‘demographic balance’, requiring that the city’s Jewish population was not to fall below 73.5% Jewish nor the Palestinian population rise about 26.5%.[2] This policy remains in force today; abet it now provides for a Jewish population of 65% and a Palestinian population of 35%.

With this objective in mind Israel has instituted a raft of policies as to residency and movement into and about Jerusalem. These policies seek to make the city out reach for most Palestinians.

Movement into Jerusalem

For many Palestinians their ability to enter Jerusalem very much comes down to chance. In reality this chance is more likely zero to none for most. However there are a few Palestinians that have what the Israelis may consider the privilege of being able to enter and/or live in Jerusalem. These Palestinians are ‘permanent residents’ of Jerusalem and holders of Blue IDs.

In the wake of the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem a census was conducted. Those Palestinians that were present at the time of the census were granted permanent residency status (approximately 66 000). This permit is known colloquially as a Blue ID (denoting the colour of the ID’s cover). [3] Despite being permanent residents of Jerusalem, Palestinians that hold a blue ID are still perceived as ‘foreigners’.[4] Their status and rights to live and work in Jerusalem are not secure. They can be rescinded at the discretion of the Minister for the Interior. [5] The reality is that there is nothing ‘permanent’ about ‘permanent residency’.

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Palestinians who hold permanent residency must demonstrate that Jerusalem is their ‘centre of life’. [6] This requirement must be satisfied on a continual basis by way of documentary evidence. They are required to produce rental agreements, home ownership documents, tax receipts, school registration and receipts of medical treatment in Jerusalem.[7] The Israeli authorities are known to arrive unannounced at a person’s house early in the morning, inspecting the bedroom and seeing if it is still warm so as to ensure the veracity of a claim for permanent residency. Unable to produce the relevant documentary evidence or their absence during an unannounced inspection, Palestinians risk having their permit residency revoked. This has been described by some as the ‘quiet deportation’.[8]

Israel has instituted a raft of policies as to residency and movement into and about Jerusalem. These policies seek to make the city out reach for most Palestinians.

The revocation of permanent residency is not a rare occurrence. From 1967 to 2008, 13 000 Palestinians had their permanent residency revoked. Moreover the number of revocations in the two years between 2006 and 2008 was the same as for the period 1967 to 2005.[9]

Those who do not possess a blue ID must submit an application for a permit. Obtaining these permits has becoming increasingly difficult for Palestinians over the years. [10] This became even more apparent to me after a brief conversation with a colleague. I asked if they had been to our organisation’s other office located in Jerusalem. They explained they had not, they did not a Blue ID and thus they were not permitted to travel into Jerusalem. Similarly, I spoke to a young boy who said that he had never been to Jerusalem. He explained that it was easier for him to travel overseas than to obtain a permit to see Jerusalem. For most Palestinians (i.e. those without a permit or blue ID) Jerusalem is an impossible destination; it is a world away.

What makes this even more perplexing is that there have even been reports of animals obtaining a Blue ID so as to enable them to travel to Jerusalem. [11] Yet the same right is not afforded to the animal’s Palestinian owner.

Those Palestinians without a Blue ID who wish to reside in Jerusalem could make an application for a permit on the basis of family reunification.[12] This is commonly the situation when one of the partners in a relationship does not hold a Blue ID. However, this process was ‘temporarily’ suspended in 2000 and it is unlikely that we can expect to see the assessment of applications resume any time soon.[13

Children that have one parent that does not hold a Blue ID are not afforded permanent residency automatically. [14] Even where the child is born in Jerusalem, parents have been unable to register the birth.[15]

The inability of Palestinians to venture into their Jerusalem often does not make the headlines of the nightly news. It is cloaked in the apparent legitimacy of bureaucratic process and law. These policies clearly demonstrate that Palestinians are not welcome in Jerusalem, in their own city. They provide that (East) Jerusalem, despite its international designation as the capital of the future Palestinian state, is out of reach for the Palestinians. For the Palestinians Jerusalem might as well be a world away.

_Raff-Piccolo

Raffaele Piccolo

  • [1] Souad R. Dajani, Ruling Palestine: A History of the Legally Sanctioned Jewish-Israeli Seizure of Land and Housing in Palestine (Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions and BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights, May 2005) 132.
  • [2] Souad R. Dajani, Ruling Palestine: A History of the Legally Sanctioned Jewish-Israeli Seizure of Land and Housing in Palestine (Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions and BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights, May 2005) 126.
  • [3] Natalie Tabar, The Jerusalem Trap: The Looming Threat Posed by Israel’s Annexationist Policies in Occupied east Jerusalem (Al-Haq, 2010) 13.
  • [4] Anne B Shlay and Gillad Rosen, ‘Making Place: The Shifting Green Line and the Development of “Greater” Metropolitan Jerusalem’ (2010) 9(4) City & Community 358, 376-377.
  • [5] Natalie Tabar, The Jerusalem Trap: The Looming Threat Posed by Israel’s Annexationist Policies in Occupied east Jerusalem (Al-Haq, 2010) 13.
  • [6] Natalie Tabar, The Jerusalem Trap: The Looming Threat Posed by Israel’s Annexationist Policies in Occupied east Jerusalem (Al-Haq, 2010) 14.
  • [7] Natalie Tabar, The Jerusalem Trap: The Looming Threat Posed by Israel’s Annexationist Policies in Occupied east Jerusalem (Al-Haq, 2010) 14.
  • [8] Anne B Shlay and Gillad Rosen, ‘Making Place: The Shifting Green Line and the Development of “Greater” Metropolitan Jerusalem’ (2010) 9(4) City & Community 358, 376-377.
  • [9] Nathan Derejko, Aggressive Urbanism: Urban Planning and the Displacement of Palestinians within and from Occupied East Jerusalem (The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, December 2009) 29.
  • [10] Natalie Tabar, The Jerusalem Trap: The Looming Threat Posed by Israel’s Annexationist Policies in Occupied east Jerusalem (Al-Haq, 2010) 18.
  • [11] Helga Tawil-Souri, ‘Colored Identity: The Politics and Materiality of ID Cards in Palestine/Israel’ (2011) 29(2) Social Text 67, 78.
  • [12] Natalie Tabar, The Jerusalem Trap: The Looming Threat Posed by Israel’s Annexationist Policies in Occupied east Jerusalem (Al-Haq, 2010) 15.
  • [13]Israel Extends for Another Year the Law that Prevents Palestinian Family Reunification (1 April 2014) Palestine News Network (English) <https://english.pnn.ps/index.php/politics/7244-israel-extends-for-another-year-the-law-that-prevents-palestinian-family-unification>.
  • [14] Nathan Derejko, Aggressive Urbanism: Urban Planning and the Displacement of Palestinians within and from Occupied East Jerusalem (The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, December 2009) 27.
  • [15]Elodie Guego, ‘Quiet transfer’ in East Jerusalem nears completion (6 September 2006) Electronic Intifada <https://electronicintifada.net/content/quiet-transfer-east-jerusalem-nears-completion/6412>.