ISRAEL STEPPING UP DEPORTATION OF JERUSALEM'S ARABS
by Nomi Bar-Yaacov
JERUSALEM (9/15 - AFP) - Israel is developing new legal weapons toaccelerate the
deportation of Arab residents from east Jerusalem despite government promises to curb the
practice, Israeli rights activists said Tuesday.
The human rights groups Betselem and Hamoked told a press conferencethat the interior
ministry was enlisting the help of the state socialsecurity agency to track down
Palestinians whose residency rights have allegedly lapsed.
A joint report by the two groups said that cancellations of Jerusalemresidency permits
jumped from an average of 30 per year from 1987 to1995 to more than 600 annually since the
nationalist government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to power in May 1996.
The rhythm accelerated further during the first three months of 1998,with 178
Palestinians having their residency permits revoked and another 500 cases put under
review, they said.
Loss of residency permits forces Palestinians, many of whose familieshave lived in
Jerusalem for generations, to move to the West Bank or abroad. They also lose benefits
offered by Israel's social security system and access to public schools.
Amid growing public criticism of the deportations, Netanyahu promisedmore than a year
ago to review the policy, including making it "easier for those who have lost their
Jerusalem residency to retrieve their identity cards."
"We want to make life easier for Arabs and Jews alike" in the city, hesaid at
But Eliahu Abram, a lawyer with Hamoked, said Netanyahu's government had done just the
opposite and was now even using the social security agency to force out Arab residents.
"The National Insurance Institute has become an integral part of thequiet
deportation policy which the ministry of interior is effectuating," said Abram.
The institute, he said, requires Palestinians from east Jerusalem toprovide numerous
documents when they apply for health care, entry to schools or other benefits.
Even when the documents are provided, including leases or proof of homeownership,
copies of utility bills and local tax payments, applicantsare often rejected, a move which
forces families to locate elsewhere, Abram said.
When it comes across persons who lack proper documentation, theinsurance institute
passes the information on to the interior ministry which is charged with revoking
residency rights, he said.
Israel justifies the deportations by saying they only affect people whohave forfeited
their permanent residency rights by living outside Jerusalem for seven years or more.
Palestinians respond that Israel issues virtually no building permits to Arabs in east
Jerusalem, forcing some residents and notably youngcouples to move abroad or into suburbs
in the West Bank.
Many women who reside in east Jerusalem but marry men from the West Bank are also
forced to give up their residency by an Israeli refusal to grant their husbands or
children identity cards.
Human rights organisations have challenged the government's policy oneast Jerusalem
residency to Israel's supreme court on grounds it is racially discriminatory.
In a move Abrams described as potentially groundbreaking, the high court for the first
time demanded an official justification for the deportations.
The government's response is expected to be given to the high court incoming days, he
Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war andannexed it as
part of Israel's "eternal capital."
Since 1967, Israel has built 40,000 public housing units and settledsome 170,000 Jews
in the sector and major new Jewish quarters are planned.
During the same time only 600 housing units were built for Palestinians, who hope to
make east Jerusalem the capital of a future state of their own.