Saturday, June 24

Permanent Palestinian Residents of Jerusalem are Entitled to Israeli Citizenship

What is the present status of Jerusalem? According to Israel, Jerusalem is a united city and will remain so. In 1980, Israel passed the "Jerusalem Law", stating that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel", thereby formalizing its annexation of East Jerusalem.1 Surely this means that those born in Jerusalem are entitled to Israeli Citizenship by birth. There are many Palestinian permanent residents of East Jerusalem, who do not hold Israeli Citizenship and do not have equal rights to West Jerusalem Israelis even though they were born and lived there for generations.

In the 1967 census, the Israeli authorities registered 66,000 Palestinian residents (44,000 residing in the area known before the 1967 war as East Jerusalem; and 22,000, in the West Bank area annexed to Jerusalem after the war).2

These East Jerusalem Palestinians were born in East Jerusalem and have been living in Jerusalem for generations. They suffer from discrimination and are disenfranchised. Many live in poverty and the infrastructures in the areas where they live are poor. Their education facilities are not as good as in Israel proper. Jerusalem unity is totally artificial demographically and in practice. East Jerusalemites do have the vote in Municipal Elections

It is an infringement of human rights when East Jerusalem Palestinians born in Jerusalem are denied Israeli Citizenship. They should have the option of applying for Israeli Citizenship. If East Jerusalem is part of Israel, as the government claims on the grounds that Jerusalem is united, then its citizens should have equal rights to those living in Israel proper. Internationally the status of East Jerusalem is controversial and when it suits Israel to view it as not part of United Jerusalem vis a vis its Palestinian permanent residents, something's not right.

Since the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israeli authorities have promoted the two-fold goal of expanding the city’s Jewish population and reducing its Palestinian population. Various steps have been adopted to achieve this objective, including the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, land appropriation, and discriminatory policies on planning and construction and budget allotment. Furthermore, although the annexation of East Jerusalem and its residents was a decision made by Israel and not by the people who live there, Israeli authorities treat East Jerusalem Palestinians as if they had made a voluntary decision to immigrate to Israel. Therefore, the authorities void Palestinians’ residency status and social benefits if they do not meet the restrictive criteria originally formulated for foreign residents.3

Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer specializing in issues related to Jerusalem and its residents, told Al-Monitor that the residency issue for Palestinians in East Jerusalem has been left vague by a collective Israeli decision-making process.4  

One cannot really have it both ways. Jerusalem is united when it comes to consideration of automatic citizenship for Jews living there according to the Law of Return, but not for Palestinian permanent residents born there. This is discrimination no matter how one views it. If there was an Arab East Jerusalem not part of the same Jerusalem Municipality and a separate entity, part of Palestine, then the eternal status of being a permanent resident of East Jerusalem would be justified

The cabinet this week approved a plan submitted by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin to encourage schools in East Jerusalem to teach an Israeli curriculum as opposed to the Palestinian school curriculum.5 If this is the case, surely this strengthens the East Jerusalem Palestinians’ case for Israeli Citizenship if they so desire.

Integration of schools in Jerusalem with Jewish and Palestinian children studying together from a young age will contribute to true coexistence without any side compromising on their culture. By achieving this, both sides will learn to accommodate each other in friendship and understanding. Both sides will learn from each other about each other's’ culture and traditions.

There are reports a few years ago of a growing trend amongst East Jerusalem Permanent Residents applying for Israeli citizenship.

If Jerusalem does become the shared capital of a future Palestinian State and Israel if this will occur, which I doubt very strongly under the present circumstance, the East Jerusalemites would have a clear choice in that matter. Jewish neighborhoods built by the government on land annexed to Jerusalem in 1967, in which 190,000 Israelis presently live; These large settlements were originally built in order to prevent such a solution and to isolate East Jerusalem from the West Bank.6

What is clear at present is that the present status of East Jerusalemite Palestinians is unsatisfactory for the reasons mentioned earlier in this article.

  1. 28 May. 2017, Accessed 16 Jun. 2017.
  2. Accessed 18 Jun. 2017.
  3. "East Jerusalem | B'Tselem." Accessed 16 Jun. 2017.
  4.  28 Mar. 2017, Accessed 16 Jun. 2017.
  5.  29 May. 2017, Accessed 16 Jun. 2017.
  6. Accessed 18 Jun. 2017.

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