Jabal al-Mukaber, Jerusalem – Mohammad Abu Jamal sits underneath a tattered tarp with water dripping through much of it. Gathered around him are neighbours and relatives who had been by his side ever since the news broke that his son and nephew carried out a deadly attack on a synagogue in the western part of the city on November 18.
Oday and Ghassan Abu Jamal, cousins from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal al-Mukaber, were shot dead after they killed four Israeli worshippers and a policeman.
Since then, the family has been subject to what they and rights groups are calling a series of collective punishment, the latest of which was the revocation of the residency rights of Ghassan’s widow.
“This is the worst government that Israel has seen since its creation,” Mohammad, 70, said. “Ghassan was killed, he received his punishment. But why the collective punishment? Why must all this family, including these three kids, who keep asking me where their dad is, suffer?”
Ghassan’s widow Nadia Abu Jamal is from al-Sawahreh al-Sharkiyeh, a West Bank town overlooking Jabal al-Mukaber, where she has been living in with her husband for the past five years. Her three children – two boys and a girl – are Jerusalem residents. Nadia is not, but was given permission to live in the city under what’s known as “family reunification” provisions.
“Anyone who is involved in terrorism must take into consideration that they are liable to be consequences for his family,” Erdan said.
Nadia will also lose her right to state benefits, including health care and any financial assistance she is eligible for from the state.
“They revoked my residency and want to deport me. The children are in a constant state of fear. My son can’t sleep. He keeps asking; “Are they going to bring my father back? Will they destroy our home? Will they take you away? Where will we go?” Nadia told Al Jazeera.
Proper burial denied
So far, Ghassan and Oday’s bodies have not been returned, and may not at all, as the state considers burying the remains itself rather than having the families give them a proper burial.
In a letter to Mohammed Mahmoud, the lawyer representing the Abu Jamals, the Israel Police legal advisor said this unusual step was being taken as “a deterrent that could reduce the motivation to carry out attacks of this type”.
Ghassan and Oday’s families have both received demolition orders for their dwellings: A two-bedroom house where Ghassan, his wife and three children lived, and another two-bedroom stone house dating back to the 1930s, which housed ten people: Oday, his parents and siblings. The families have so far appealed the demolition orders to the High Court, and are awaiting its ruling. Based on precedent, it is unlikely that the court will rule in their favour.
Erdan’s decision came at the heels of an announcement by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would push forward a draft bill – introduced by Knesset member Yariv Levin – with eight new measures to combat “terrorism”.
These steps include revoking the residency rights of attackers and their families. Those who are accused of “inciting” against Israel will no longer receive state benefits. Also among the provisions is jail time for those who wave Palestinian flags at what are deemed “violent protests” and deportation to the Gaza Strip if certain conditions are met.
So far, a series of legal proceedings stand between Nadia and her deportation, said a relative who asked not to be identified.
“The court has to make a decision,” the relative said. “The police cannot deport Nadia to the West Bank unless the court says so.”
In light of the deportation order, “we took some steps to grant guardianship to the children’s grandfather,” the relative said.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has condemned the Netanyahu-proposed bill, which if passed by the Knesset, will act as a sort of emergency legislation, according to the Times of Israel. This means that its provisions would expire once it is determined that the current crisis has subsided.
“The absurd proposals raised involve serious human rights violations and acts of collective punishment – which bear no relation to an actual war on terror,” the group said.
Last week, Israel revoked the residency rights of a Palestinian man convicted of driving a suicide bomber to a nightclub in Tel Aviv in 2001. Mahmoud Nadi served a 10-year prison sentence for his role in the attack that killed 21 people.
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