Bethlehem (AsiaNews) – Between 1967 and 1994, lo State of Israel stripped 140,000 Palestinians travelling abroad for work or study of their residency status in the West Bank, this according to a document obtained by the Defence of the Individual (HaMoked), an Israeli human rights organisation, which was published today in the Israeli daily Haaretz. The Palestinians who lost their residency rights include students, business people and workers who failed to come back within three years.
HaMoked found the document by chance, as it tried to locate information regarding a West Bank resident jailed in Israel. Israeli authorities had to admit to the document’s existence, but Israeli officials in charge of the West Bank before the regulation was cancelled said they were unaware of the procedure.
According to Samir Qumsieh, head of Al Mahed Nativity TV, a Catholic TV station broadcasting out of Bethlehem, said that the State of Israel enforced this policy to reduce the number of Palestinian residents in the Occupied Territories.
“Israel is doing the same in East Jerusalem,” he told AsiaNews. “For years, the Israelis have been seizing land to increase the proportion of the Israeli population. The Palestinian National Authority has been trying for years to stop the procedure but it is a lost battle,” he added.
Since the time Israel seized the West Bank (1967) to the signing of the Oslo Accords (1994), Israeli authorities have forced Palestinians who wished to travel abroad to do so via Jordan, ordering them to leave their ID cards at the Allenby Bridge border crossing.
Palestinians exchanged their ID cards for a card allowing them to cross. The card was valid for three years and could be renewed three times, each time adding another year.
However, if a Palestinian did not return within six months of the card's expiration, their documents would be sent to the regional census supervisor.
Residents and their families who failed to return on time were registered as NLRs, no longer residents, and consequently lost their right to the property they left behind.
About 10,000 people had their residency status restored but that leaves 130,000 (14 per cent) of the population as non-residents.
In many cases, Israeli authorities have used the same procedure against Palestinian prisoners, many of whom, upon their release, found themselves without a home or land seized by the state. (S.C.)