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Tuesday, July 26, 2011


In my last post, I wrote "Unlike the West Bank, east Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in 1967, but the people living there -- as a protective measure -- were not granted citizenship.  Instead, they are "permanent residents"."   An anonymous commenter noted I was mistaken, and I have since confirmed my mistake with political science professor Jonathan Rynhold of Bar Ilan University.  Apparently, the residents of east Jerusalem were offered citizenship after the annexation, but only 5% accepted it. 

I made my mistake through misreading a report by the ACRI -- mainly because I was reading too quickly, but also the report was written in a way that it could be misread.   Overall, this 20-page report by the ACRI tells of a sorry state in east Jerusalem.  I have no doubt that the suffering they describe is real, that Israeli policies contribute to that suffering, and that Israel should be working to alleviate it.  On the other hand, the implication throughout the report is that the suffering in east Jerusalem is primarily Israel's fault, and that implication is incorrect.  As I have said many times, this is a conflict with two sides to it.  Unfortunately, the temptation is strong to villainize one side and share only the perspective of the other.

Here is the relevant excerpt from the ACRI's report.  I have underlined the sentence that I misread (bolding is theirs).  In their defense, the current statement on the ACRI's website is much less misleading:
Following the Six Day War and the Israeli annexation, East Jerusalem residents were given the civil status of "permanent residents" of Israel. As such, the primary right they were granted was the right to live and work in Israel without the need for special permits. Permanent residents are also entitled to social rights according to the National Insurance Law, health insurance, and the right to vote in municipal (but not national) elections. Permanent residency status, unlike citizenship, is passed on to the children of residents only under certain conditions. A permanent resident who marries someone who is neither a permanent resident nor a citizen of Israel must apply for family unification on behalf of his or her spouse. In reality, Israel treats the residents of East Jerusalem as foreigners whose status can be revoked as a matter of course. These residents are forced to repeatedly prove their permanent residency status in the city to the Ministry of the Interior and the National Insurance Institute, which conduct investigations and inquiries designed to gather evidence for annulling this status. Residency status is at times revoked arbitrarily, with no opportunity for appeal, and with no notification to the resident, who learns of the action only when applying for services. Between 1967 and 2008 the Ministry of the Interior revoked the status of over 13,000 residents. Half of these revocations occurred between 2006 and 2008. The sharp rise in revocation of residency status was touted as an illustration of “improvement in work procedures and proper monitoring by the ministry”. In other words, according to the ministry, “improvement” does not mean enhancing the level of service provided for the welfare of the residents, but rather trapping in its net as many Palestinians as possible and condemning them to the State’s policy of revocation of residency.


  1. In fairness to Israel, it's worth noting that between 1947 and 1967 there were no Jews at all allowed in the areas under Jordanian or Egyptian control, including East Jerusalem. Thus, even though the current policies discriminating against Arabs in East Jerusalem deserve criticism, they are far less draconian than the earlier discrimination against Jews.

  2. i think you're point about not everything being israel's fault is good, but i wouldn't say the ACRI's claim is incorrect, either. is it the USA's fault that there are slums in chicago? yes and no. these arabs have been living in israel for 40 years, and israel has invested very very little in them (and a lot in taking their property). on the other hand, they were third world to begin with. i would guess its partly israel's fault and partly previous colonialism and partly that arabs are in their dark ages....