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Striving to exist

Palestinians struggle to maintain their legal status in Jerusalem

Jerusalem24 – Mohammad Hamayel – Of Jerusalem’s 800 thousand residents, 39 percent are Palestinians (around 372,000). For them, living in Jerusalem means facing a lot of hardships. From obtaining building permits to lack of government services and even problems with Israel’s Covid response for Palestinians in the city. One of the key points that make Palestinian life difficult in Jerusalem is how Israel is working to weaken them politically to contain their demographic presence.

According to Israeli law, Palestinians living in Jerusalem are permanent residents and not citizens. To maintain their residencies Palestinians are required to document criteria such as their home address, place of employment and participation in local organizations. If a resident cannot provide this information they are liable to lose residency status in Jerusalem. This is especially true for Palestinians from Jerusalem who marry Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Jessica Montell, Executive Director of HaKomed, spoke to Jerusalem24 about these problems. “The main problemis family unification, you have around 10 thousand families in Jerusalem where one spouse has the Jerusalem ID and the other has a West Bank ID.” She continues, “For these families everything is difficult. The West Bank ID holder is not able to live in Jerusalem without a stay permit, and they are not elgible for family unification.” HaKomed provides legal guidance and consultation as well as legal representation to help Palestinians in dealing with the Israeli Ministry of Interior.

While Israel places restrictions on the residency of Palestinians indigenous to the city of Jerusalem, Jews are automatically given citizenship by the state. “You have the basic discrimination that Jews will be citizens and most of the Palestinians are permanent residents and not citizens,” says Montell.

“A citizen is in no danger of ever losing citizenship, it’s only the status of permanent resident that a Palestinian has that is a vulnerable.”

– Jessica Montell, Executive Director, HaKomed

Palestinians can attempt to change their status in Israel, however the process is difficult and can take several years and a lot of resources. “I think you have two sets of obstacles. One is the political ideological resistance to swearing allegiance to the state of Israel,” says Montell. “The second are the obstacles of the Ministry of Interior, that there is a very long wait for these applications and file them,” she added. The process can take years through the Israeli Ministry of Interior’s bureaucracy. Following up an application can take several years.

Due to the difficulty in meeting the criteria, more than 11 thousand Palestinians between 1996 and 2014 have lost their residency in Jerusalem. According to HaKomed, 18 Palestinians have lost their residency in Jerusalem during 2020, these are people who were outside of the city when their residencies were revoked. Of the thousands of Palestinians who had lost their residency, only 41 managed to reinstate them.

While the number of Palestinians living in Jerusalem who are opting to receive Israeli citizenship in East Jerusalem increased from 800 to 1000. Despite that, in 2012 and 2013 only 189 applications out of 1434 were approved.

Mohammad Hamayel

Ramallah based journalist, Mohammad graduated from Al-Quds University with a B.A. in Media and Television. He has covered the 2015 Jerusalem Intifada as well as the Great March of Return for international media outlets. currently an editor/presenter at Jerusalem24. A UN alumni and a follower of global events and politics, especially American affairs.

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