Israel’s Attempt to Revoke the Residency of Palestinian Jerusalemites Highlights a Policy of Collective Punishment

Israel will revoke the residency of 12 relatives of Jerusalem’s truck assailant, Al-Quds newspaper and Haaretz reported. The summons, received by the family from the office of the Israeli Interior Minister Arye Dery on Tuesday, indicated that the decision was made due to the attack and because “the family is suspected of having connections to ISIS” and are a security risk “as long as they remain in Israel.” As a result, the family members will lose their rights to social benefits, including national insurance, and relocate to the West Bank or abroad.

News reports also indicated that the police blocked the entrance of the assailant’s neighborhood. Members of the extended family of the assailant and other residents of his East Jerusalem neighborhood have received a roughly 40 demolition orders. Israel intends to construct 1700 housing units for Jewish settlers in their place. In the statement, the Minister signaled a move towards the expansion of Israel’s collective punishment against the families of assailants. “From now on, anyone who plots, plans or considers carrying out an attack will know that his family [and relatives] will pay a heavy price for his deed”, the statement read. This is a continuation of Israel’s policy of collective punishment against families and neighbors of assailants that sanctions the living for the crimes of the dead. 

However, this policy is not without precedent. While Israeli law prohibits the government from revoking the legal residency as deterrence, Israeli executives have stripped the residency of assailants and their spouses on numerous occasions. This most recent action of stripping residency for extended family members constitutes an unprecedented expansion of the policy. Revoking residency of Palestinians in East Jerusalem has been a common practice since the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem started in 1967. Israel’s policy of maintaining “demographic balance”, i.e. 70% Jewish majority in the city, has led to over 14,000 Palestinians losing their permanent residency status since 1967, according to the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’tselem). 

Since 1987, the Israeli occupation has used house demolitions as a punishment against families of Palestinian assailants in the occupied Palestinian territory. According to B’tselem, until the policy was halted in 2005, roughly 1,500 Palestinian homes were partially or completely demolished or sealed by the Israeli army. Since the beginning of the current wave of lone wolf attacks in October of 2015, Israel has punitively partially or completely sealed or demolished at least 51 homes, rendering at least 241 people homeless. 

Out of roughly 815,000 residents, only 300,000 residents of the city of Jerusalem are Palestinian, the vast majority of whom (88%) are non-Israeli citizens, but rather Palestinian residents of Israel. The Palestinian Jerusalemites are thus issued a blue ID card similar to their Israeli counterparts, which allows them to live and work anywhere in Israel, grants them social benefits and health insurance, and gives them the right to vote in local elections and not in national elections. These Palestinians, while residents of Israel, are classified as stateless.

The Israeli occupation’s collective punishment measures against these Palestinian residents highlight the constant threat under which they feel that they lead their lives. In most cases, as in this one, little warning is given to the families before they are uprooted from their homes and forced to abandon their lives as a punishment for alleged crimes they did not commit. The policy, allegedly designed to deter future attacks, has clearly not bore fruit – for deterrence, by its very nature, is preventative, which the continuation of the active nature of this policy refutes. 


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