Punitive residency revocation: a new tool for forcible transfer

by EA Anna, Jerusalem team.

The Palestinians of East Jerusalem have something called a permanent residency status, [1] granted by Israel after the illegal annexation [2] of East Jerusalem in 1967. More than 300 000 Palestinians are therefore treated as immigrants, whose entry into Jerusalem is a revocable privilege and not an inherent right. Indeed, there is nothing permanent in the permanent residency status.

04.03.16, East Jerusalem, Old City, Settlers chat, Photo EAPPI/K. R. Aasen

04.03.16, East Jerusalem, Palestinian man walking though narrow streets of the Old City. Photo EAPPI/K. R. Aasen

Since the beginning of the occupation, Palestinians may lose their residency if they live abroad for 7 years, or if they receive residency or citizenship in another country. These criteria for residency revocation was widened in 1995, when Palestinians became under risk of losing their residency if they could not prove that their “centre of life” was in Jerusalem. In practice, this means that not being in your house if the police knocks on your door in the middle of the night, or not having electricity bills that show continuing use of electricity, might have grave consequences.

Between 1967 and 2014, approximately 14 500 Palestinians had their residencies revoked by the Israeli authorities [3].

Umm Abed_Photo_by_Kaja

Umm Abed, standing in front of her house that has been sealed by the Israeli army as a punishment of her son’s crime. Photo: EAPPI/K. R. Aasen.

Palestinians suspected of crimes expelled from East Jerusalem                             In April, EAs met with Umm Abed, meaning mother of Abed from East Jerusalem. Her house had been sealed by the Israeli army as a punishment of her 19-year-old son’s alleged crime. Abed’s residency had also been revoked, although he has not yet been convicted.

The revocation of residency violates the basic right of Palestinians to leave and return to their own country. It is part of a systematic policy of guaranteeing a Jewish majority in Jerusalem that results in forced displacement of Palestinians of East Jerusalem. Under international humanitarian law, forcible transfer of civilian population is a war crime [4], and can also be considered a crime against humanity [5].

The most alarming fact is that the criteria for residency revocation is about to be broadened again. In 2006, the residencies of three Palestinians were revoked due to “breach of allegiance to the state of Israel”, criterion which is illegal because according to international humanitarian law, occupied population does not have a duty of allegiance to the occupying power [6]. A petition on this is still pending before the Supreme Court, but without waiting for the decision, the Ministry of Interior has, in January 2016, revoked the residencies of four East Jerusalem Palestinians who are suspected (though not yet convicted!) of committing criminal offences. The reason for the revocation of their residencies is again breach of allegiance to the state.


Old City, Approximately 300 000 Palestinians live in Jerusalem. Photo: EAPPI/A. Juhola.

“If the criterion of allegiance is not suppressed before it is cemented in Israeli law, this opens the door for the displacement of thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem as a form of collective punishment”say seven Palestinian human rights organizations in their diplomatic briefing on the issue in April 2016. [7] These organisations include St. Yves, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights CenterAl-HaqAl-Quds Human Rights Clinic, the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, Badil, and Al-Quds University’s Community Action Center. These organisations came together to urge the international community to take action and to live up to the obligations of third states under the Geneva Conventions.

It is time the international community condemns Israel’s policy of forcible transfer of Palestinians from East Jerusalem. More urgently, the current procedures of punitive residency revocation must be ceased, as must the illegal demand of allegiance from Palestinians. In order to achieve this, the aforementioned human rights organizations are calling for international pressure on the government of Israel. Will someone answer the call?

More information:

Booklet: Punitive residency revocation: the most recent tool of forcible transfer

[1] Haaretz: Who Are East Jerusalem’s Permanent Residents’?
[2] The international community has not recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem. Under international law, it is considered occupied territory.
[3] B’Tselem: Statistics on Revocation of Residency in East Jerusalem
[4] Art. 8 ICC-Statute; art. 49 & 147 GC IV.
[5] Art. 7 ICC-Statute.
[6] Art. 45 Hague Regulations; art. 68 GC IV.
[7] JLAC Press Release: Punitive Residency Revocation the most recent tool of forcible transfer in Jerusalem


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