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Israel rules against revoking Jerusalem residency of Palestinian parliamentarians

Sept. 14, 2017 12:01 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 15, 2017 1:58 P.M.)
A general view of Jerusalem's Old City is seen on April 14, 2014 (AFP/Thomas Coex/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) announced on Wednesday that the Israeli Supreme Court had accepted a petition issued by the groups amid a 10-year legal battle where Israeli authorities attempted to revoke the Jerusalem residency of four Palestinian parliamentarians on the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

Four Jerusalem residents -- Muhammad Abu-Teir, Ahmad Attoun, Muhammad Totah, and Khaled Abu-Arafeh -- were elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in 2006. Several months later, according to a statement released by Adalah, Israeli Interior Minister Roni Bar On attempted to revoke their Jerusalem residency owing to a “breach of loyalty” and claiming that the four, who ran on the list of the Change and Reform Movement, were members of Hamas.

His claims were based on the reasoning that the four Jerusalemites were active in a foreign parliament, and were therefore breaching their loyalty to the Israeli state. According to Adalah, the four men and their families were deported to Ramallah city in the occupied West Bank at the time.

The groups' joint petition was based on the fact that such a revocation “violated the legislators' constitutional right to continue to live in their place of residence and homeland without the threat of expulsion.” Adalah noted that the groups had emphasized that Palestinian residents in occupied East Jerusalem were not considered immigrants. Thus, “their residency status was never made conditional to any terms, and there is no justification for its cancellation.”

In addition, the human rights groups argued that East Jerusalem is considered occupied Palestinian territory and therefore Palestinian residents there have protected civilian status.

The groups also noted that Israel had permitted Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote and run during PLC elections. However, “only after the petitioners were elected, and because the election results were not welcomed by the Israeli government, did Israel decide to cancel their residency status in severe violation of their rights.”

Adalah announced that the Supreme Court on Wednesday finally rejected the revocation of the four Jerusalemites’ residency permits, as Israeli law does not allow a minister to cancel residency for the reasons provided by Bar On. The revocation of the parliament members’ residency permits would be suspended for six months, Adalah said, and the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, would be permitted to attempt to change the law according to Israel’s Basic Law in order to allow revocation of residency in the future.

“The Supreme Court's majority opinion delivered an important message: It is not permitted to revoke the residency of East Jerusalem Palestinians in violation of the rule of law while gravely harming their constitutional rights on the vague assertion of 'breach of loyalty,'" Adalah said.

“It is unfortunate that this ruling was made only after more than a decade, during which time the petitioner's' rights were brutally violated," Adalah added.

According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, more than 14,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem have had their Jerusalem residency revoked since Israel took over the territory in 1967.

The group said that the revocation of Jerusalem permits reflects Israel’s overall strategy in East Jerusalem, which is centered on ensuring a 70 percent Jewish majority in Jerusalem. “To that end, ongoing efforts are made to expand the Jewish population in the city and reduce its Palestinian population,” B’Tselem noted.
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