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From the field

Nu'man, East Jerusalem: Life under the Threat of Expulsion

September 2003, Summary

Nu'man has some two hundred residents, who live in twenty-five houses. The village is located on the southeastern border of the Jerusalem Municipality, a few hundred meters north of Beit Sahur, which lies adjacent to Bethlehem. For several months, the two hundred residents of the village have been living under Israel's threat to expel them from their homes.

Palestinian settlement in Nu'man began during the 1930s. In the 1967 census, the residents of Nu'man were mistakenly recorded as residents of the West Bank and were given West Bank identity cards rather than the Israeli identity cards given to most Palestinians who lived in areas annexed by Israel. Over the years, village residents filed several requests with the Ministry of the Interior to arrange their status as residents of Jerusalem and to obtain Israeli identity cards. The Ministry has consistently denied these requests.

The Ministry of the Interior's refusal creates an impossible situation: residents of Nu'man are classified as "persons staying illegally" in their homes and in the village of their birth, and every contact with IDF soldiers or Border Police entails the risk of arrest or expulsion. As a result of this classification, they are not allowed to stay in neighborhoods and villages annexed into Jerusalem. Because the residents do not have Israeli identity cards, the Jerusalem Municipality refuses to supply vital services, such as water, a sewage system, and garbage collection, to the residents. The Municipality has also refrained from adopting an outline [zoning] plan for the village, thereby preventing the residents from obtaining building permits.

The villagers' freedom of movement has been significantly impaired over the past decade, primarily since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifida. These restrictions are part of Israel's comprehensive policy in the Occupied Territories, which has critically impaired the living conditions in the Occupied Territories and led to an increase in poverty and unemployment. The village's proximity to Jerusalem harms the residents twice: firstly, by the checkpoints and roadblocks that Israel has set up to enforce the closure and prevent Palestinians from entering Israel, and secondly, by the checkpoints and roadblocks intended to prevent free movement between Palestinian towns and villages. The fact that Nu'man is small means that the residents rely on nearby villages for vital services and thus the restrictions on movement have a greater affect on their daily lives.

The separation barrier in the Jerusalem area, whose section along the southern border of the city has recently been completed, further aggravates the residents' problems. The barrier as it presently stands separates the village of Nu'man from Beit Sahur. Israel also plans to build a barrier east of the village that will likely sever Nu'man from the rest of the West Bank. Apparently, this plan is the reason for the decision to expel the residents from their homes. Even if the residents manage to prevent their expulsion, they will have to cope with the isolation forced on them by the barrier. In these circumstances, it is likely that sooner or later, the residents will be left no option but to leave the village.

The failure of the Ministry of the Interior and the Jerusalem Municipality to recognize the residents of Nu'man as residents of Jerusalem is part of the policy of all Israeli governments since 1967. The policy's goal is to maintain the "demographic balance" in Jerusalem, meaning that the percentage of Palestinians in the city must not be allowed to exceed a certain ceiling - formerly set at twenty-five percent and now thirty percent. To attain this goal, Israeli authorities have instituted a variety of measures intended to encourage Palestinians to leave the city, such as limiting the possibilities to build and freezing the family-unification process. It appears that in the case of Nu'man, this policy is being implemented in absolutely clear terms: by attempting to expel the residents by force.