Israel stripped over 4,500 Jerusalemite Palestinians of their “residency rights” in 2008.
This marks a huge acceleration of a policy that has been in force since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. In these 41 years, Israel has now stripped over 12,000 Palestinians of their “permits” to live in Jerusalem, 35 per cent or so of those in 2008 alone.
It also maps out exactly where the current right-wing Israeli government, which has made no secret of its wish to Judaise Jerusalem, a travesty of history if ever there was one, is heading.
The policy shows many things about Israel to anyone who wants to see. One is this: Israel does not even bother to pretend to adhere to any kind of international law or internationally accepted standards for behaviour towards a population under occupation.
East Jerusalem, Israel’s unilateral and unrecognised annexation notwithstanding, is occupied territory (indeed, all of Jerusalem remains, under international law, a corpus separatum). As such, the residents of Jerusalem and their descendants have their right of residency guaranteed under international law.
They cannot be stripped of that right simply because of some arbitrary rule that Israel made up about having to prove your “centre of life” is in Jerusalem and not being absent for too long. After all, what kind of uproar would there be if Jews who live in Israel were similarly stripped of their residency rights in America, Poland, Germany or wherever they are originally from?
But of course, the key here is that the Palestinians of Jerusalem are not Jews. And that is what this is all about. There is no way to sugar coat what Israel is doing here. It is ethnic cleansing, pure and simple. It is not quick and dramatic like in 1948, when many people were forced to flee at the point of a gun. Rather, it is slow and administrative, forced out by the stroke of a pen.
There is no excuse for this kind of behaviour. There is certainly no excuse for international inaction over the issue. Israel will claim that Palestinians in Jerusalem would not face this problem if they accepted Israeli citizenship rather than the “residency permit” the colonising power is issuing the indigenous population. But that is tantamount to forcing Palestinians to accept an illegal occupation of their land.
What next? All visitors to Jerusalem will have to sign a paper acknowledging Israel’s “eternal right to Jerusalem” before being allowed to enter?
Israel needs to be held accountable for its racism before it becomes a precedent for other countries to follow.