Stop the Quiet Deportation in East Jerusalem

Published: 1997-03-26

Dear Friend,

I am writing on behalf of two Israeli human rights organizations, B'Tselem and Hamoked, to seek your assistance in a public campaign we are conducting against what we call "the quiet deportation" of Palestinians from East Jerusalem. [See further below for more background information; ed.]

Israeli residency policies have caused the displacement of thousands of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem and threaten thousands more. A description of these policies is included in the attached document. A more detailed report on the subject is currently being prepared, and will be available at the beginning of next month.

The forced eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem is clearly in breach of international human rights and humanitarian law. Beyond this, however, is the acute human suffering of people who have moved out of East Jerusalem – temporarily, they thought – for a variety of reasons (the following are just some examples):

  1. Study or work abroad
  2. The acute housing shortage for Palestinians in Jerusalem, a result of deliberate Israeli policies
  3. The refusal by Israeli authorities to allow a "non-Jerusalemite" spouse to dwell in the city
  4. Normal population movement from the heart of a city to its suburbs.

People belonging to any of these categories are at the risk of loosing their right to "residency" in Jerusalem. This means that they may not enter their home town, let alone work in it, unless by special permit, and that they are no longer entitled to social benefits such as national insurance, child benefits, pension and health insurance.

It should be stressed that these policies affect a Palestinian moving 50 yards north of the municipal boundaries, but not a Jewish Jerusalemite moving to West Bank settlements in the vicinity. Such a person suffers no loss of freedom of movement, residency rights or social benefits.

What is frustrating to us as human rights activists is that these grossly unjust and inhumane policies, which have already affected thousands of Palestinians, and may affect tens of thousands more, are carried out discreetly, through invisible, bureaucratic procedures backed by Israeli laws and court decisions. There are no trucks, no weeping women and children dragged by brutal soldiers, no physical violence – in other words, little for the media to "cover." But the actual effect resembles what the most extremist political factions in Israel have advocated: large-scale displacement of Palestinians which threatens to permanently alter the demographic character of Jerusalem. We believe that for these policies to be halted, public opinion and decision makers, both in Israel and internationally, must be made aware of them and the damage they cause. We urge you to assist us in our campaign.

Please fill out the bottom of this form indicating how you could help and return it to us.

Thank you in advance for your assistance,


Yuval Ginbar – Campaign Coordinator for B'Tselem and Hamoked

Yes! I want to participate in the campaign against the quiet deportation of Palestinians from East Jerusalem. Here's what I can do (check all that apply):

[  ]
Provide names and addresses (fax, e-mail etc.) of persons, organizations etc. who may be of assistance
[  ]
Organize events in my community, e.g. forums, letter-writing, petitions
[  ]
Disseminate material to relevant persons and/or organizations:
  • please send ___ copies of report by postal mail
  • please send ___ copies of brochure by postal mail
  • please send material by e-mail
[  ]
Distribute information\contact the media in my country (please coordinate timing with us; send us copies of whatever is published or broadcast)
[  ]
Lobby decision makers in my country (members of Parliament, government etc.)
[  ]
Contribute money for the campaign:

In the US and Canada, tax-exempt contribution to B'Tselem-Hamoked Residency Campaign may be made through the New Israel Fund. Contributions should be marked as donor-advised to the B'Tselem-HaMoked Residency Campaign and sent to NIF, P.O. Box 91588 Washington D.C. 20090-1588.

Checks labeled "Jerusalem Campaign" can also be sent to either Hamoked or B'Tselem at the address below.

[  ]
Other assistance/advice:


Postal Address:




B'Tselem is an Israeli independent, non-governmental organization established in 1989 to monitor human rights violations in the Occupied Territories. B'Tselem publishes reports, conducts advocacy campaigns, engages in public education and serves as a resource center.

B'TSELEM: The Israeli Information Center for
Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

43 Emek Refaim St.
Jerusalem 93141
Tel. 972-2-561-7271
Fax. 972-2-561-0756
e-mail: [email protected]
Web site:

HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual (formerly the Hotline) provides individual assistance to Palestinian victims of a wide variety of human rights violations and bureaucratic harassment. Founded in 1988 by a group of Arab and Jewish Israeli volunteers, HaMoked has assisted over 13,000 Palestinians, and also advocates for policy changes.

HAMOKED: Center for the Defence
of the Individual Abu Obeidah

4 East Jerusalem
Tel. 972-2-627-1698
Fax: 972-2-627-6317

Background Information

The Quiet Deportation: Israeli Residency Policy in East Jerusalem

The goal of Israeli residency policy in East Jerusalem is to reduce the number of Palestinians living in the city, and to create a demographic and geographic reality that will preempt any future effort to challenge Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem.

Some 170,000 Palestinians holding Israeli identity cards reside in East Jerusalem. For the past two years, Israel's Interior Ministry has been revoking the residency rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem who at some stage of their lives lived outside the municipal borders. Consequently, numerous Palestinians have been required to leave their homes and families and move to areas outside the Green Line, the demarcation line of Israel at the outset of the Six-Day War. It is estimated that some 120,000 Palestinians (70% of the Palestinian population of the city) may lose their right to live in Jerusalem because of this new Israeli policy.

Following the Six-Day War, in contravention of international law, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, an area of 70 km2 in East Jerusalem, and applied Israeli law in the annexed territory. Immediately after the war, Israel conducted a census in East Jerusalem and granted the status of permanent resident to everyone present in East Jerusalem at the time of the census who resided there. Israel also declared that residents of East Jerusalem could receive Israeli citizenship upon request, but for political reasons, most East Jerusalem Palestinians did not request citizenship.

Israel's Supreme Court held that the Entry into Israel Law applies in determining the status of Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem, and that the identity card issued to them is comparable to the permit to permanently reside in Israel granted under that law. The Court also held that when a permanent resident settles outside Israel, the permanent residency status expires. "Expiration" of the permit, contrary to revocation, makes the individual subject to loss of residency without explanation and without any procedure that would enable him or her to appeal.

The law stipulates that a person is considered to have settled outside Israel if he or she remained abroad for more than seven years, received a permit to permanently reside in another State, or became a citizen of that State. The Supreme Court held that residency may also be revoked if other facts indicate that the individual settled outside of Israel even where the period of residency outside Israel was less than seven years.

By applying the Entry into Israel Law to residents of East Jerusalem, Israel relates to them as immigrants, even though the families involved have lived in the area for scores of years, and it was Israel who entered the area, and not vice versa.

The legal status, described above, reflects only a small part of the picture. The Interior Ministry uses unwritten criteria and unclear procedures in revoking residency status. Human rights organizations and attorneys have failed in their attempts to determine the applicable criteria and procedures. The Ministry refuses to publish its criteria for issuing or revoking residency permits, or data regarding the number of persons whose residency has been revoked.

Not only Palestinians who have moved abroad are threatened by this policy. Over the years, many Palestinians have moved to neighborhoods and villages outside the Jerusalem municipality. This migration is the result of the following Israeli policies designed to entrench Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem:

  1. Israel has greatly restricted Palestinians in residential building, causing overcrowding due to the serious housing shortage.
  2. Prior to 1994, Israel rejected requests for family unification submitted by Jerusalem Palestinian women on behalf of their spouses who are not Jerusalemites. The Israeli policy compelled these women to leave the city in order to be with their husbands.
  3. East Jerusalem Palestinians living outside the city borders customarily went to the Interior Ministry's office in Jerusalem to renew their exit permits, thereby restarting the seven-year counting period. The Interior Ministry's policy had been that only a continuous seven-year stay outside of Jerusalem would result in the loss of the right of residency. In the past two years, however, Israel changed its policy retroactively, and those who have not lived within the Jerusalem Municipality continuously lose their right to live in the city, even if they lived outside the city for less than seven years and even if they did not become permanent residents or citizens of another country.
  4. Persons who require the services of the Interior Ministry in a variety of matters, such as replacing an identity card, registering a child, or receiving an identity card for the first time at age 16, are required to provide documentary proof that they live in Jerusalem. Those unable to provide suitable documentation lose their right to live in Jerusalem. This requirement is excessive and unduly severe, and serves as an additional bureaucratic tool to reduce the number of Palestinians holding Israeli identity cards. The requirement of proving residency in Jerusalem applies both to Palestinians living in the United States and to those living in A-Ram, which lies only a few kilometers from Jerusalem's municipal borders.

Since the residency status "automatically expires," denial of residency status occurs without a hearing, without explanation, without any notice of the right to appeal, and without being informed that the policy had changed. The authorities have also taken Jerusalem residency status from East Jerusalem Palestinians who moved to the Jerusalem suburbs (which are within the West Bank).

Loss of Jerusalem residency status has significant implications. Residents of East Jerusalem are not subject to the military government, as are residents of the rest of the Occupied Territories. Those without Jerusalem residency status are not allowed to enter freely and work in Israel, and require special permits. Loss of residency also results in the immediate cessation of national insurance benefits and health insurance through Israeli sick funds, as well as access to education and other benefits.

The Israeli Supreme Court has approved the policies of the Interior Ministry. Therefore, no domestic remedies are available to the victims of these policies.

Since the Interior Ministry does not publish its criteria for revoking residency status, East Jerusalem's Palestinians are uncertain about their status. Consequently, many do not utilize the services of the Interior Ministry, fearing that their residency in Jerusalem will be questioned and that they will be found not to be entitled to an Israeli identity card.

Within the next six months, the Interior Ministry intends to replace the identity cards of all Israeli citizens and residents. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem will then have to go to the Interior Ministry, where the clerks will check whether they are entitled to an Israeli identity card. According to estimates, some 70% of Jerusalem's Palestinian residents are liable to lose their residency status. This would have severe consequences in terms of this population's ability to enjoy civil rights as well as economic and social benefits. In addition, Israeli residency policies are liable to dramatically change the character of the city.

© Wed, 26 Mar 1997 17:47:49, via email from "B'Tselem" [email protected]

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Yuval Ginbar
Title: Stop the Quiet Deportation in East Jerusalem
Published: 1997-03-26
First posted on CODOH: March 24, 1997, 6 p.m.
Last revision:
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