Israeli Interior Minister: No Change in the Legal Status of Palestinian Jerusalemites


The Jerusalem Center for Social & Economic Rights (JCSER) has received from the Israeli Interior Minister a reply to the Centers inquiry into the legal status of Arab residents of East Jerusalem neighborhoods, which will be split by Israels Apartheid Wall. JCSERs letter of inquiry was sent by its lawyer Dina Shibli on 11 December 2003, after a number of Palestinian Jerusalemites approached the Center with concerns about their status; these residents will soon find themselves living in neighborhoods that are part of the Municipality but which will fall outside the barrier.

The Interior Ministers reply stated, As you know, the construction of the Apartheid Wall is only for security reasons. To my knowledge, the construction of the wall will not change the legal status of Israels residents living on the sides of the wall, and it should not change this status. We have no intention of changing it. [Israel considers the Arab neighborhoods of Occupied East Jerusalem to be part of Israel, under its annexation policy which remains unrecognized by the international community. Palestinian residents many of whom are native-born Jerusalemites are required by Israel to carry Jerusalem ID cards, which authorize their presence in the city.

Residents have become particularly concerned following media reports that, after a period of time, those living beyond the barrier will find that Israel has withdrawn their residency rights, although they will still be living in the same homes in which they presently reside.

The Interior Minister avoided replying to two of Ms. Shiblis questions. The first concerned the nature of measures taken by the Interior Ministry to maintain the legal status of Palestinian Jerusalemites living in neighborhoods located outside the wall, and to ensure their rights; the second question concerned ensuring residents freedom of movement and their free access to Jerusalem in order to be able to carry out normal life as much as possible. The reply stated only, As for your third and fourth questions, it is the authority of the Interior Ministry.

Ms. Shiblis letter noted, According to the mass media and testimonies taken from the residents of these areas, preparations have begun to construct the wall in northeast Jerusalem. The construction of the wall in these areas is estimated to be completed within a year. As a result, tens of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites (over 100,000), with Jerusalem ID cards, will find themselves outside Jerusalem from the eastern side of the wall. The areas include Shufat refugee camp, Dahiet As-Salam in Anata village, Kufr Aqab, Samiramis, Dahiet Al-Barid, Ar-Ram, and part of Hizma.

The construction of the wall will separate these neighborhoods from Jerusalem, given the fact that the residents of these neighborhoods are holders of Jerusalem ID cards and regarded as residents of Israel and Jerusalem is considered their center of life, since most of them work or have their own businesses in Jerusalem, their children study in East Jerusalems schools and are provided with health and social services from its various institutions.

In her letter, Ms. Shibli warned that the wall with its current boundaries will break up tens of Jerusalemite families, since part of the family will exist east of the wall and the other part will exist west of the wall. This will seriously affect the social fabric of the population, in addition to rights to movement and livelihood.

On his part, JCSERS Director General,regarded the Interior Ministers reply as insufficient, since he avoided answering two key questions. No answers were forthcoming concerning ways in which the Ministry will ensure the status of the Palestinian Jerusalemites in question, or how residents rights to freedom of movement, social and economic rights and their attachment to the city of Jerusalem will be maintained. He confirmed that the Center will use the legal process to pursue this situation in order to prove that the building of the wall - dividing the city into small cantons - must be stopped because it is invalid and illegitimate.