12/03/2009, 00.00
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Thousands of East Jerusalem Palestinians lose their residency permit

HaMoked, a human rights organisation that includes Israelis and Palestinians, accuses the Israeli government of trying to limit Jerusalem’s Palestinian population to preserve its Jewish majority.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In 2008, Israel stripped 4,570 Palestinians of their right to live in East Jerusalem, an Israeli rights group said. That is more than a third of the total number since Israel took control of East Jerusalem in 1967, the HaMoked Center for the Defense of the Individual said in a statement.

Israel's Interior Ministry said it carried out a "comprehensive check" to determine how many people listed as residents of Israel still had their lives centred in the country, based on a decision taken by the former government to see the status of Palestinians living in the section of the city once under Jordanian rule. It found that many were living abroad.

HaMoked, a Israel-based human rights organisation that includes Israelis and Palestinians obtained data of the past two years from Israel’s Interior Minister.

Even though Israel claims that most of those stripped of their rights were living abroad, HaMoked said that if these Palestinians live abroad for seven years, or gain citizenship or residency elsewhere, they lose their Israeli residency. Based on this principle, family visits, students studying abroad and workers moving between Palestinian territories would be affected. For the group, this is part of Israel’s attempt to change the demographic balance in the city.

Dalia Kerstein, executive director of HaMoked, said, “The interior ministry campaign in 2008 is only part of a general policy whose aim is to limit the Palestinian population and preserve a Jewish majority in Jerusalem”.

More importantly, Israel does not treat native East Jerusalem Palestinians who found themselves under illegal Israeli rule in 1967 differently from residents of the other Palestinian territories who have granted permanent residency in Israel.

Attorney Yotam Ben-Hillel of HaMoked said that all Arab residents of East Jerusalem “are treated as if they were immigrants to Israel.”

The city’s 250,000 Palestinians represent a third of the total population. They include Israeli-Arabs as well Palestinians with Israeli residency. The latter are treated like any other foreign immigrant.

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