Jerusalem is Palestinian too

The policy is so obvious that if it were a physical manifestation it would certainly represent itself as a literal slap in the face. Israel’s goal of emptying Jerusalem of its Jerusalem residents has become so blatant even the simplest of minds can see it.

This article is inspired by the story of a man who, like so many others, is now facing deportation from his own land. Elias Khayyo, a 41-year old native of Jerusalem, whose entire family comes from the Old City’s Christian quarter, is now being told by Israel’s infamous interior ministry that he is no longer eligible to live in the place where he was born.

Apparently, according to a Haaretz article about Khayyo, the young man spent several years in the United States. His Jerusalem ID, the Israelis claim, was revoked from him on a trip back home in 2006 on grounds that he had spent “too much time” outside of Jerusalem and entered the country on his American papers with a promise that his residency would be worked out in Jerusalem. Khayyo is now sitting in an Israeli detention facility in Ramleh inside Israel, awaiting the final decision on his deportation.

Khayyo’s situation is, sadly, far from uncommon. Since Israel’s capture of the eastern sector of Jerusalem in 1967 it has worked feverishly towards its declared goal of Jerusalem remaining the unified and eternal capital city of a Jewish Israel. Given the fact that a mass extermination of Palestinians is inconceivable in this time and age, consecutive Israeli governments have proceeded to carry out a stealthily insidious scheme to rid Jerusalem of its non-Jewish residents as effectively as possible under the misnomer of legality.

Revocation of residency cards is just one means among many. According to Israeli “law” in Jerusalem, if a permanent resident fails to live in the city for more than seven years their residency rights in the city can be revoked, leaving them virtually stateless. That is why Palestinian residents of Jerusalem scramble to prove that their “center of life” is in the city, including the production of electricity and phone bills, school records and places of work. If these documents are not all in order, if for example a Jerusalem resident lives outside the boundaries of the city (which they often do because of lack of housing), they may be paid a less than cordial visit from an interior ministry employee.

Anyway, Khayyo’s case is one of thousands. In 2008, the Israeli ministry stripped 4,577 Jerusalemites of their residency rights, the highest since Israel’s occupation of the city. In all, Israel has stripped approximately 8,558 people of their IDs since 1967 according to Israel’s own interior ministry.

It is not only Jerusalem residents who are subject to the racist wrath of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians. Add to this, foreign nationals who either work in Palestine, who are of Palestinian origin or are simply sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Israel denies them entry, raids their homes and night and duly deports them or stamps their passports with “Palestinian Authority only” visas thus banning them from entering Jerusalem or the Green Line. The amazing thing is that Israel does not hide its intentions, not even a bit.

Late last year, Israel announced it would stop granting work visas to international NGOs working in Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem. The decision will have ramifications for about 150 organizations working for Palestinians. Already, many international organizations have either moved their offices from Jerusalem to the West Bank to avoid Israeli red tape for their foreign employees. Even international aid giants such as Oxfam and the UN are not immune. One UNFPA employee, who is of Palestinian origin but who holds US citizenship had her work visa (issued by the Israeli foreign ministry) ripped up in front of her at Ben Gurion Airport and duly told that if she wanted to enter Israel, she would have to come as a visitor even though the UN had sent her on an official work mission to Jerusalem. Even UN bigwigs who are bravely vocal about Israel’s violations of Palestinian and international rights, especially in Gaza have been given the boot. Richard Falk former UN Special Rapporteur was denied entry to Israel in December, 2008 after voicing his concerns and criticisms of Israel over its siege on the Gaza Strip and its breaches of human rights in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Recently, Israel also deported Maan news network editor Jared Malsin after denying him entry to the country at Ben Gurion Airport. Malsin was held in the airport’s detention facility for over a week before being sent back to New York. The reason given for deportation? Malsin had apparently “authored articles from the Palestinian territories that criticized the State of Israel.”

While the list goes on for miles, including other repressive measures such as home demolitions, land confiscations and denial of access to land because of the separation wall, the one element that is starkly disturbing is how acquiescing the world is to Israel’s policies. How can such racist policies, oppressive against a people on the sole basis of their ethnicity be so acceptable in this day and age? Especially when they are carried out by a country that claims it is the beacon of democracy in the Middle East? It is mind baffling, no doubt. The Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are dwindling by the day, not because they do not want to remain in the city of their ancestors but because Israel makes it increasingly difficult for them to stay.

Stories like that of Elias Khayyo are abominable and need to be told, if only to put the rest of the world to shame. Israel is pushing towards the realization of an ultimate goal: making this country a Jewish state. If it cannot push out all of the Palestinians, it is definitely doing its best to vacate them at least from Jerusalem. Because of the world’s compliance, it is unfortunately getting its way.