Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups have revealed that 20,000 children from Jerusalem are denied permission to live with their parents in the occupied city of Jerusalem because, the Israeli authorities say, one parent holds a West Bank ID card. Apart from the mental anguish, this is causing great difficulty for these children with regards to their access to education and health services.
The problem goes back to 2002, when the Israeli Interior Ministry took the decision to freeze all requests for family reunification submitted by couples who have one spouse carrying a blue (Jerusalem) ID card and the other a West Bank ID card. This was one of a series of measures aimed at emptying Jerusalem of its Palestinian residents and pushing Israel’s “Judaisation” policy.
The statistics indicate that there are about 149,000 citizens whom Israeli law regards as residents, not as citizens with permanent residence. This also applies to nearly a quarter of a million Jerusalemites carrying Jerusalem ID, which adds up to the total number of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.
Moreover, Hamoked human rights centre in Israel, which handles the cases of 90 Jerusalemite children, confirms that the Israeli Interior Ministry refuses to list the children in the population register and show them on the ID cards of their parents.
Since the mid-nineties, this policy of “silent expulsion” has led to 30,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites losing their residency rights in their own city, as well as their social and economic rights, such as healthcare and allowances for child insurance, unemployment and disability. According to the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER), 2008 saw the highest number of withdrawals of residency rights cases, with the ID cards of 5,000 Jerusalemites being seized by the Israelis.
Furthermore, this policy has forced hundreds of Jerusalemite families to leave their homes and properties in the suburb of Al-Braid and the towns of Al-Ram, Al-Eizariya and Abu Dis. They are now renting in areas within the artificial boundaries of the municipality in order to avoid the persecution of the Israeli national insurance investigators and Interior Ministry, which use private investigators to track-down Jerusalemites, even within those areas of full Palestinian sovereignty. This applies especially to Ramallah and Bethlehem, where large numbers of Jerusalemites have settled in the past two decades to escape the economic pressures they are put under by the Israeli-led Jerusalem municipality and the various tax departments.
With the move from the suburbs to the heart of Jerusalem came a new issue; the escalation of the suffocating housing crisis from which Jerusalemites are suffering due to the fact they are crammed into a limited area. This has caused them to build and extend homes without Israeli permission; the Israeli authorities impose severe restrictions on Palestinian construction. According to the Interior Ministry, there are over 20,000 “unlicensed” houses in East Jerusalem. Moreover, the fee charged for a building permit has reached about $30,000.
The demand for rental accommodation has prompted an increase in average rents. A 2-bedroom apartment will cost at least $600 per month; the rent will be double that for a 3-bedroom property.
Israel is “concerned” that the percentage of Palestinians in Jerusalem is predicted to rise to 40 per cent by 2020. It prefers to see the figure closer to 22 per cent. At the moment the figure stands at about 36 per cent, thanks to the high birth rate amongst Palestinians and the flow of “secular Jews” from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and other parts of Israel.
The Israelis used the outbreak of the Second (“Al-Aqsa”) Intifada in 2000, in order to isolate Jerusalem from its West Bank hinterland, seizing whole neighbourhoods, or parts of them, inhabited by about 125,000 people. In addition, it has increased the presence of settlements in the city by establishing 16 illegal settlements on more than 35 per cent of Palestinian-owned land in Jerusalem. The number of illegal settlers reached 220,000 in 2009, rising to 250,000 in 2011 and 300,000 in 2012.