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From the field

The Quiet Deportation: Revocation of Residency of East Jerusalem Palestinians

April 1997, Joint report with HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, Summary


For the past 18 months, a policy of quiet deportation of East Jerusalem's Palestinians residents has been taking place through laws, regulations, court judgments and administrative tactics. This policy has caused hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to lose their rights as residents of the city. Given the lack of transparency of this policy, tens of thousands of Palestinians live in uncertainty regarding their status and their future in the city.

  1. The new policy of the Ministry of the Interior means that every Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem who cannot prove that he or she current lives in Jerusalem and has live there continuously in the past permanently loses the right the right to live in the city of their birth. Therefore, all Palestinians who have lived outside of Jerusalem for a period of time, whether in a foreign country, in another part of the West Bank, or in Jerusalem's suburbs, just meters outside the municipal boundaries, are liable to lose their rights as Jerusalem residents.
  2. East Jerusalem Palestinians were never warned that by leaving the city they would in any way jeopardize their status or their right to return to the city. The details of this policy remain unknown and it is unclear how much time a Palestinian must spend abroad before the Interior Ministry informs the person that he or she is no longer a resident of Jerusalem.
  3. The new policy is based on the presumption that East Jerusalem Palestinians are immigrants, who live in their homes by virtue of a permanent residency permit which Israel grants them. Therefore, their status and their rights are dependent on political considerations and the beneficence of Israel. Treating East Jerusalem residents as immigrants is Israel's "original sin;" unlike immigrants who have freely chosen to live in Israel and have a country to which they can return, East Jerusalem Palestinians have no other home or country. Furthermore, they did not chose to live in Israel; rather it was Israel which occupied East Jerusalem and annexed it.
  4. This policy blatantly discriminates between Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and Israeli citizens. Israeli citizens can leave the country for as long as they like, and always have the right to return. Moving to settlements in the Occupied Territories does not prejudice these rights. Because of the special status of settlements, even foreigners who have permanent residency can move to a settlement without prejudicing their rights. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who move to the West Bank lose their status.
  5. The quiet deportation is a direct continuation of Israel's overall policy in East Jerusalem since 1967, whose goal is to create a demographic and geographic reality such that Israel's sovereignty in East Jerusalem cannot be challenged. Over the years, Israel took various measures to cause East Jerusalem Palestinians to leave the city. Indeed, the numerous restrictions on building in East Jerusalem and the refusal to approve family unification compelled many Palestinians to move outside the municipal boundaries. Now they realize that they have permanently lost their right to return to live in the city in which they were born and raised and which they see as their home.