HaMoked and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel petition the HCJ: end the policy of revoking the status of East Jerusalem residents due to prolonged residency abroad or the acquisition of status in a different country
HaMoked and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) in a demand to reexamine the laws – and their interpretation by the Interior Ministry – concerning the civil status of Jerusalem residents. These laws originate in the HCJ judgment in the `Awad case, issued in 1988, in which the court ruled that although Israel had annexed East Jerusalem and gave its inhabitants the status of permanent residents of Israel, this status can be revoked due to transference of center-of-life.
The Interior Ministry's chosen interpretation, turned the `Awad judgment into a brutal and destructive bureaucratic tool, which is used to alter the reality of life in Jerusalem. The penalty for leaving the city for a limited period or accepting foreign status effectively means the loss of one's home and the ability to return to one's native land. This policy fits into the overall policy of deliberate discrimination and maltreatment of East Jerusalem residents, targeted at pushing the Palestinians out and creating a Jewish majority in the city.
Beginning in the mid-1990's, Israel implemented a policy which came to be known as the "Quiet Deportation", whereby the status of thousands of East Jerusalemites was revoked. The residents received a short standard letter, informing them that their permanent-resident visa had expired, on the grounds – as alleged by the Interior Ministry - that they had settled outside Israel. In 2008 alone, for example, 4,577 East Jerusalem residents were revoked of their status by Israel.
In the petition, the organizations claim that the status of East Jerusalem residents' is unlike that of any other resident. This is a territory that was annexed by Israel and its inhabitants were forced to become permanent residents of Israel. As held in the `Awad judgment, East Jerusalem residents gained their status by law, not by grace and it can never expire.
Furthermore, the organizations argue the matter should be examined according to the norms of international law - East Jerusalem is an occupied territory held under belligerent occupation, its Palestinian residents are protected persons, entitled to the guaranteed protections under international humanitarian law. The application of Israeli law to East Jerusalem and its inhabitants does not detract from the protections to which they are entitled under international humanitarian law.
The Israeli policy has another, gender-related dimension. For women in a traditional society who settle abroad with their husbands, the family and country of origin are vitally important, as they are their natural and only refuge if the marriage breaks up.
The Interior Ministry's interpretation of the `Awad judgment has turned it into a legal cage – which imprisons East Jerusalem residents, denies them the ability to be mobile as any person, and binds them to the narrow confines of their birthplace.
HaMoked and ACRI request the court to determine that with respect to East Jerusalem residents, for whom this piece of earth is home, permanent residency visas cannot expire, even following extended periods of living abroad or the acquisition of status in another country.