JERUSALEM, September 14, 2017 (WAFA) - After 10 years of litigation, the Israeli High Court ruled on Wednesday that the Israeli Interior Ministry cannot revoke residency of four East Jerusalem Palestinians on the account of their election to the Palestinian parliament, which the ministry has considered was “breach of loyalty and trust.”
However, the court, by a vote of six to three, gave the ministry six months during which it is supposed to come up with laws that justify its action, Fadi Qawasmi, the attorney who represented the three lawmakers and former cabinet minister, said on Thursday.
The three lawmakers, Mohammad Abu Tir, Ahmad Attoun, Mohammad Totah, who were elected in the 2006 to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on the Hamas-backed Change and Reform List, and Khaled Abu Arafeh, who served as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs in the Hamas-run Palestinian government named after the Islamic movement’s sweeping victory in the elections, were stripped of their residency right in occupied East Jerusalem for ‘breach of loyalty” immediately following their election.
The four were ordered to leave their families and homes in East Jerusalem and move to live in the occupied West Bank under Palestinian Authority rule. Some of them were even arrested and held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons for various periods of time.
The four had appealed the Interior Ministry‘s decision before the Israeli High Court in 2006 and were later joined in the petition by the Haifa-based Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), who submitted an amicus curiae opinion in the case – effectively joining the appeal – emphasizing that Interior Minister‘s decision gravely violates their rights, and that the law does not give the minister any legal authority to cancel permanent residency for “breach of trust” or due to membership in a foreign parliament.
Adalah and ACRI said in a statement following the High Court’s ruling that its decision to accept the petition filed against the revocation of residency rights of the four Palestinians sends an important message that Israel may not revoke the residency of East Jerusalem Palestinians in violation of the rule of law on the vague assertion of “breach of loyalty.”
They asserted that “it is unfortunate that this ruling was made only after more than a decade, during which time the petitioners‘ rights were brutally violated.”
Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, ACRI and Adalah stressed, never entered Israel and acquired the status of immigrants. Therefore, their residency status was never made conditional to any terms, and there is no justification for its cancellation.
The two Israeli human rights organizations also stressed that the issue entails a particularly complex status, because East Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law and the East Jerusalem residents are protected civilians. Moreover, Israel itself recognized that East Jerusalem Palestinians are part of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and consequently permitted them to vote and be elected in the PLC elections. Only after the petitioners were elected, and because the election results were not welcomed by the Israeli government, did Israel decide to cancel their residency status in severe violation of their rights, they said.
They described the cancellation of residency due to “breach of loyalty” as “a draconian measure that is characteristic of dark and totalitarian regimes.”