The Israeli government announced recently that it would restrict the right of Palestinian citizens who hold foreign passports, in addition to their required Israeli-issued ID and Palestinian passports, to live in Jerusalem, the future capital of the Palestinian state. The
government will require all Palestinian holders of foreign passports to leave the country every three months in order to obtain a visa, as is the case for any foreigner.Obtaining the visa is dependent on two factors: one is the mood of the soldiers on duty occupying the borders, and the second is what is written in the computer. Many foreigners and Palestinians have inexplicable black-marks next to their names, which makes their entry extremely difficult. Some are required to spend hours with Israeli interrogators before gaining entrance, while others are not allowed entrance at all. Others still breeze through without question.

A coalition of civil society organizations is working to defend the rights of Jerusalemites against the Israeli government’s decision, which it called a violation of human rights. The coalition cites the right of Palestinians to choose their residence, which is guaranteed by all international norms and charters.

The latest Israeli policy of deportation is one that is in keeping with the Israeli attempt to change the demographic reality of Jerusalem. In a report issued Wednesday the coalition demanded that the Israeli government respect the right of the individual to live in their family environment and to stop violating the rights of children to live with both parents. There are hundreds of cases of a mother or father holding Jerusalem ID, while the other holds West Bank identification. The coalition warned that this is one of the most severe Israeli policies against Jerusalemites.

This kind of deportation policy and withdrawing of identity cards of Jerusalemites began in the early 1990s, according to the coalition. More than 20,000 Palestinians have lost their rights to live in the city under various pretexts, ranging from having a residence outside the municipal boundaries [which have further changed now that Israel has built the Wall through much of East Jerusalem] to being away from Jerusalem for more than seven years for the purpose of study or work. The Israelis call the latter provision the "Law of Absence."

The case of Nabil Helal is typical. His wife has a Jerusalem ID, and he himself grew up in the city, but he was refused an internal identity card and was forced to travel to the United States to find work.  For the last five years he has been attempting to return, but has been consistently denied entry. According to the Society of Palestinian–American Consuls, the Israeli policy contravenes agreements of reciprocity between European and American citizens, as well as agreements between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. (Jerusalem)

Maisa Abu Ghazaleh 7 June 06 .abridged from PNN by Freda