Israel under fire over ‘two-tiered’ policies
London- Israel has come under fire over allegations that it is discriminating against Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as well as its own Arab citizens inside the country’s internationally recognised borders.
Israel has been accused of maintaining a “two-tiered” residency policy in Jerusalem where the city’s Palestinian residents face forced evictions while Israeli citizens are transferred from other areas to populate it, moves that run contrary to international law.
“Israel’s revocations of the residency status of thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem over the years illustrate the two-tiered system Israel maintains in the city,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.
HRW, citing Israeli Interior Ministry figures, said Israel revoked the status of at least 14,595 Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem from 1967-2016.
“Israel claims to treat Jerusalem as a unified city, but the reality is effectively one set of rules for Jews and another for Palestinians,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said in a release.
Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 and subsequent annexation were rejected by the international community. There are more than 300,000 Palestinians who have permanent residency status in the city.
“Residency revocations often effectively force Palestinians from East Jerusalem, who are protected by virtue of Israel’s occupation under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to leave the territory they live in,” the HRW report said. “Deportation or forced transfers of any part of the population of an occupied territory could amount to war crimes.”
The rights group also criticised Israel’s attempt to change the population make-up of the city. Since 1967, Israel has “transferred thousands of its own Jewish citizens to East Jerusalem, a war crime under international law,” HRW said.
The rights watchdog accused Israel of acting to make Palestinians a minority in Jerusalem by denying them house-building permits and demolishing structures built without Israeli approval. The United Nations estimated that approximately 90,000 Palestinians live in homes built in East Jerusalem without permits.
“Municipal planning documents have had the stated goal of ensuring that Palestinians are a minority in the city,” HRW said in May.
Israel has accused HRW of having an anti-Israel bias and of spreading pro-Palestinian propaganda.
“The issue has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity. Rather, the key distinction is whether the individual is an Israeli citizen or not,” wrote the pro-Israel website NGO-Monitor. “Many of the ‘discriminatory’ policies falsely alleged by… HRW actually result from the failure of [Palestinian residents in Jerusalem] to exercise their right to vote and elect municipal leaders who will implement their desired policy outcomes.”
In July, Israeli anti-occupation group Peace Now reported that a Palestinian family was given an eviction order from their East Jerusalem home, in which they had lived more than 50 years.
“This eviction is a part of a larger process the government is undertaking, of establishing settlements in Sheikh Jarrah,” Peace Now wrote on its website.
Israel has come under frequent criticism for its policies in occupied East Jerusalem.
“From the first days of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, every effort was made to achieve this demographic dominance,” wrote Efrat Cohen-Bar in the pro- Palestinian website 972mag.com. “Since then, for the past 50 years, urban planning in Jerusalem has been used as a tool in the service of maintaining demographic levels.”
Accusations levelled against Israel of changing the demographic profile of areas extend to Israel proper as well.
In an editorial on August 9, the Israeli daily Haaretz blasted the government for evacuating and demolishing the homes of the Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran to “make way for a new Jewish town called Hiran,” where only Orthodox Jews would be welcome.
“Israel has never ceased to demonstrate creativity when it comes to discriminating against Arab citizens of the state,” the editorial stated.
Separately, an Israeli court stripped an Israeli national of Palestinian origin of his citizenship — the first ruling of its kind — after he was convicted on four counts of attempted murder. Alla Zayud was sentenced to 25 years in jail for driving a car into a group of Israeli soldiers and stabbing civilians in 2015.
The decision to revoke Zayud’s nationality “would render him stateless, in violation of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law,” Omar Shakir, HRW’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories, told Agence France-Presse.
The revoking of citizenship was made possible by a 2008 Israeli law that grants courts such powers against people accused of “breach of loyalty.”
In his ruling, the judge cited “the significant and important commitment to maintain loyalty to the state, which is given expression also in the commitment to not carry out terror acts to harm its residents and their security.”
Palestinian and Israeli civil rights campaigners said they intended to appeal the court’s decision, arguing that it was against international law and was intended to be used only against the country’s Arab citizens.