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From the field

Unacceptable decision: Israel’s HCJ approves deportation of Nadia Abu al-Jamal and her children

Nadia Abu al-Jamal and her children. Photo: courtesy of the family
Nadia Abu al-Jamal and her children. Photo: courtesy of the family

On 22 July 2015 Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) allowed the state to deport Nadia Abu al-Jamal – and effectively, her three children as well – from their home in East Jerusalem. Justices Rubinstein, Joubran and Hendel dismissed the argument that the decision should be struck down, inter alia for being vengeful measure. They also denied the possibility of rescinding the deportation on humanitarian grounds. At the request of Israeli human rights NGO HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, the state agreed to defer the deportation until after the Muslim festival of ‘Eid al-Adha which will be celebrated in early October.

The justices issued a short, two-paragraph ruling. The legal argument boils down to a single sentence, in itself a quote from a judgment handed down more than a decade ago: “This court has already ruled that under such circumstances, in the absence of a family unit ‘a foreign resident does not have a right to receive status in Israel by virtue of his children, because a minor is dependent on his parents and his parents are not dependent on him' (Justice Hayut), all based on previous judgments”.

The justices made their decision despite being fully aware of its harmful impact on Abu al-Jamal’s children, aged three, four and six, all permanent residents of Israel. In their ruling, the justices did try to soften the blow by noting that the state was not preventing the children from living in Jerusalem, although they assume the children would prefer to join their mother, as if such young children can really choose where they live. They also note that the state would “favorably consider” any application the mother makes to accompany her children on visits to their father’s family or for medical appointments. While the justices wrote that they saw “room for flexibility” when it comes to considering such applications, they stopped short of ruling that they must be approved. The justice did, however, approve the deportation from the home – separating the children from their family, friends, every institution they know – was approved.

The justices also disregarded the risk that the children would lose their health insurance, to which they are entitled by law. As a rule, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who leave it to live in parts of the West Bank that were not annexed to Israel lose their health insurance. This prospect is particularly grave considering two of the children suffer from particular medical conditions and require constant medical care.

The deportation of Nadia Abu al-Jamal and her children from their home would not have been possible had not successive Israeli governments, with the approval of the HCJ, created an impossible reality in Jerusalem: the illegal annexation of parts of the West Bank to Israel, setting arbitrary municipal borders that split Palestinian communities; the erection of the Separation Barrier in the heart of Palestinian communities that have developed over the years, and thereby destroying community life in those areas; and the almost full ban on granting permanent status to Palestinian residents of the West Bank, even if they marry residents of East Jerusalem or Israeli citizens.

It is this reality that forced Nadia Abu al-Jamal to live as a stranger in the home she made with her husband, even years after they were married and after their children were born, while the house where she was born and raised, and where her parents live, is only a short distance away. In the not so distant past, before Israel occupied and annexed the area, the two communities were part of the same village.


On 18 November 2014, ‘Udai and Ghassan Abu al-Jamal from Jabal al-Mukabber in East Jerusalem, carried out an attack on a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of West Jerusalem, killing four worshippers and wounding seven. A Border Police Officer was also killed in exchanges of fire between police and the assailants. The source of his gunshot wounds was not determined. The two perpetrators were shot dead by security forces. Ever since the attack, the authorities have been threatening their family members with severe punitive measures: demolition orders were issued for the families’ homes, and the Ministry of Interior halted the family unification procedure which allowed Ghassan Abu al-Jamal’s wife, Nadia, to reside in Jerusalem.

Nadia Abu al-Jamal was born and raised in the village of a-Sawahrah a-Sharqiyah in the West Bank. She married Ghassan Abu al-Jamal from Jabal al-Mukabber in 2002. The two communities once formed a single village, but in 1967, Israel split the village and annexed one part of it to its territory. Residents of Jabal al-Mukabber received Israeli residency status, while those of a-Sawahrah a-Sharqiyah remained residents of the West Bank. In the years immediately following the annexation, the separation had no practical meaning, and residents of the village moved freely between its two parts. Over the years, however, Israel intensified its restrictions on movement, a process that peaked with the erection of the Separation Barrier in 2003, which physically separated the two parts of the village.

This reality forced the couple to file a family unification application, so that they may live together in Jabal al-Mukabber. However, since Israel put a moratorium on family unification in 2002, status is no longer granted. While Israel mitigated some of the terms of the moratorium in response to High Court petitions, and now allows women over the age of 25 and men over the age of 35 to apply for family unification, all they can hope to receive are temporary stay permits in Israel which are issued by the Civil Administration for short durations.

When the Har Nof attack took place, Nadia was living in her home in Jabal al-Mukabber with temporary stay permits she received as part of the family unification procedure the couple entered in 2009. The day after the attack, Nadia received notice that her permit was revoked and that her children’s state health insurance was cancelled, though they actually have residency status in East Jerusalem.

On 30 November 2014, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual filed a petition against Nadia Abu al-Jamal’s deportation. HaMoked asked the court to issue an interim injunction to prevent the deportation pending a decision in the petition. Some of the arguments made in the petition were that no security allegations have ever been made against Nadia Abu Jamal and no one was claiming that her presence in Israel per se was dangerous or posed a threat to public safety. In its response of 8 December 2014, the state said Abu al-Jamal’s family unification procedure was stopped the day her husband died and that the case had been transferred to the Interior Minister’s Humanitarian Advisory Committee. On 4 June 2015, the High Court of Justice dismissed HaMoked’s motion for an interim injunction. A hearing of the petition was scheduled for 13 July 2015, but without an interim injunction, there is concern that the authorities will deport Abu al-Jamal and her children from her home even before the hearing.

Nadia Abu al-Jamal currently lives in a small apartment adjacent to her husband’s parents’ home. She says her children continue to receive medical treatment as usual. If deported, she and her children will be cut off from their home in Jerusalem, torn away from their relatives and friends and left with nowhere to live. The children’s state health insurance will be cancelled. They will not be able to go to kindergartens and schools in Jerusalem and will be denied other services offered to city residents.