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Life in East Jerusalem

East JerusalemPalestinians suffer grievously under occupation, including in East Jerusalem. Israel wants it entirely Judaized as its capital even though legally it's an international city under UN trusteeship.

No matter. Palestinians face daily hardships and abuses, including its elected officials.

In June 2010, three Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members and a former PA Minister of Jerusalem Affairs faced forced deportations as part of Israel's relentless ethnic cleansing policy.

Their Jerusalem ID cards were revoked. As a result, their residency and visiting rights were lawlessly rescinded. Lawmakers got a choice. Either renounce a political party Israel rejects or be deported.

Defying Israeli demands, they took refuge in Jerusalem's ICRC compound. In 2006, they were arrested for being elected Hamas legislators. After release, they were ordered out of Jerusalem, then out of the country entirely.

Israel doesn't tolerate free Palestinian elections. Officials in parties Israel rejects are called terrorists. They face arrest, expulsion or assassination.

After occupying Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, Israel expanded West Jerusalem's boundaries by 70,000 dunams. Doing so meant incorporating 28 Palestinian villages.

Thereafter, East Jerusalem was effectively isolated from the rest of the West Bank by expropriating more land, destroying private property, curbing Palestinian demographic and geographic expansion, and reducing the city's non-Jewish population while simultaneously building settlements.

Palestinians allowed to stay got blue ID cards. West Bank residents got green ones. In 1980, Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem as its "complete and united" capital in violation of international law.

Israel won't tolerate East Jerusalem as Palestinians' future capital. Palestinians there are considered "permanent (Israeli) residents," permitted to live and work in Israel without special permits.

However, their status may be revoked under Article 11a of the 1952 Entry into Israel Law. It permits Israel's Interior Minister to revoke residency of anyone (and their family members), accused of allegedly participating in terrorist activity or belonging to a designated terrorist organization, whether or not true.

Hamas members or sympathizers are vulnerable for belonging to or supporting a political party Israel rejects. As a result, they face arrest and/or expulsion in violation of international law. It prohibits forced deportations of protected persons regardless of why.

In fact, an amendment to the 1952 Entry into Israel Law, titled Revocation of Nationality for Terrorists and Revocation of Permanent Status for Terrorists and their Families, violated Geneva law.

Revoking permanent residency also violates Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), stating:

"Everyone lawfully within the territory of a state shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence."

Under occupation, Palestinians have no free movement throughout the Territories. It represents a gross violation of their rights among others consistently denied to quash their hopes for liberation on their own land in their own country.

Ahmed Attoun was one of three PLC members imprisoned in 2006. After release in 2009, he and the others took refuge in the ICRC's Jerusalem compound.

On September 26, Haaretz writer Liel Kyzer headlined, "Hamas lawmaker arrested in Jerusalem after year of hiding from Israeli Police," saying:

In 2010, Ahmed Attoun was expelled from East Jerusalem. Like embassies and UN facilities, ICRC premises are inviolable. Nonetheless, Israeli plain-clothed masked men lawlessly entered and arrested him.

He was taken to a West Jerusalem detention facility. A scheduled September 27 hearing was postponed until October 3. An Israeli court ordered him released on condition he leave the country.

Prosecutors appealed, calling him "dangerous for the security of Israel" even if deported. He also was prohibited from entering Jerusalem without obtaining an Israeli permit.

Attoun refused preconditions. He remains detained pending disposition of his case. His family, friends, and members of the Committee for the Families of Jerusalemite Detainees protested outside the courtroom.

They held pictures of Attoun and banners saying, "Stop Israeli piracy" and "Storming into the Red Cross (premises) is international piracy" in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

Attoun holds permanent Jerusalem residency status. In 2006, he became a democratically elected PLC member. Israel treats him like a criminal for representing the wrong party.

After spending three and a half years in prison, he was released in November 2009 but had his residency summarily revoked. At the time, he got temporary permission to remain until July 2, 2010. Thereafter, his status became an "illegal sojourner," liable to arrest, incarceration, fines, and forced expulsion.

On June 15, 2010, he petitioned Israel's High Court, challenging his residency revocation. Still pending, his case remains unresolved.

Under international law, East Jerusalem is occupied territory. Its residents are protected persons. As an occupier, Israel has no right to demand Palestinians swear allegiance to Israel by loyalty oath or face revocation of residency or other rights.

Israel spurns international law. Breaching it is official policy. So is systemic persecution. Rights are afforded solely to Jews. Anyone can be called a terrorist or security threat for any reason or none at all. Attoun again faces full force Israeli repression.

A Final Comment

In September, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) published "The East Jerusalem School System - Annual Status Report."

Despite Israel's obligation to provide East Jerusalem children free education, "thousands (there) remain outside of the school system each year."

At issue is willful disdain and neglect. As a result, Arab schools face:

  • a severe classroom shortage causing overcrowding in poorly maintained facilities;
  • high dropout rates; and
  • thousands of children foced into unofficial schools at great cost for parents pressed to afford it.

Israel neglected East Jerusalem schools for many years. Arab children aren't treated like Jewish ones.

Nearly 4,400 aren't registered in any educational institution. In February 2011, Israel's High Court ordered authorities to pay tuition costs for children forced to attend "recognized but unofficial" schools because of classroom shortages.

So far, implementation hasn't followed. ACRI asked the Director of the Jerusalem Education Administration for action. In recent years, it submitted numerous petitions ahead of the opening of each school year with limited success.

According to Israel's State Comptroller in 2009, East Jerusalem faces a 1,000 classroom shortage. A decade earlier it was higher. Construction, however, fell far short of meeting needs.

A "substantial gap between the needs of the growing population and the existing number of classrooms" poses an unresolved problem. Addressing it is essential.

According to official Jerusalem Education Administration (MANHI) figures, more than half of Arab classrooms are substandard.

On September 5, ACRI petitioned the Jerusalem Administrative Court "about the current administration budgets of the official public schools in East Jerusalem."

Despite MANHI recommendations, Jerusalem's municipality included one-third of the required budget. ACRI petitioned to have the Ministry of Education "actually budget the official educational institutions in East Jerusalem according to their needs."

Besides a severe classroom shortage, inadequate numbers of professional personnel are available, "including educational advisors, psychologists and inspectors."

Textbooks and an official curriculum are also at issue. The Knesset education committee, headed by MK Alex Miller, wants Israel's curriculum taught East Jerusalem children.

At risk is no longer teaching Palestinian heritage, identity and culture. Provisions of Oslo permit it. International law mandates it. Imposing Israeli curriculum in place of its own poses a grave legal violation if implemented.

Israel's current government under Netanyahu is its worst ever. Anything ahead is possible to deny Palestinian rights, including to live freely on their own land in their own country.

With full support from Washington, Israeli abuse never ends.

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