Jabal Mukaber faces Israel’s collective punishment

Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood have been threatened with residency revocation after recent attacks.

Palestinian Deportation
Manwa al-Qanbar may soon be expelled from her home due to her son's involvement in an attack on Israeli soldiers [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]

Jabal Mukaber, Occupied East Jerusalem – From the terrace of her home in Jabal Mukaber, a neighbourhood perched on the steep hills of occupied East Jerusalem, Manwa al-Qanbar looks over the checkpoint dividing it from a-Sheikh Saad, where part of her family still lives. 

It is only a couple of blocks away, but those living on the other side of Israel’s separation wall in the occupied West Bank need special permits to enter Jerusalem. And Manwa may soon be expelled to there, after the Israeli government revoked her status as a permanent resident of East Jerusalem. 

Manwa‘s son, 28-year-old Fadi, was shot dead in early January after he rammed a truck into a group of soldiers in the illegal East Talpiot Jewish settlement, killing four and injuring 13.

“Just a day after he was killed, the police came to hand me a letter saying they were considering to revoke my residency papers,” Manwa told Al Jazeera.

A number of Palestinian attackers have hailed from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]
A number of Palestinian attackers have hailed from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]

Since tensions between Israelis and Palestinians boiled over into a wave of violence starting in October 2015, more than 250 Palestinians and 40 Israelis have been killed. A number of the Palestinian attackers have hailed from Jabal Mukaber.

The letter to Manwa, issued by Israel’s Population Authority, alleged irregularities with how she had acquired her residency from her marriage, before measures were tightened in the early 2000s for spouses from the occupied territories. After more than 30 years, the government is now disputing her application on the basis of an alleged bigamous marriage.

Twelve other members of Manwa‘s family also received notices that the Interior Ministry intended to revoke their status in Jerusalem, with notices stating: “Following the attack … information was received according to which several members of your extended family are suspect of having connections with ISIS and involvement in terror activity. Therefore a security risk is posed by your continued presence in Israel.”

READ MORE: Deadly attack as truck rams into soldiers in Jerusalem

According to the Community Action Centre at Al Quds University, two minors, aged eight and 10, also received this notice.

Although lawyers for the family filed objections against the speedy proceedings – family members were summoned to appear in court the day after receiving the letter – 11 people had had their status revoked by the end of January.

“From this point on, anyone conspiring, planning or considering a terrorist attack will know that his family will pay dearly for his actions,” Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said in a statement.

Deri also noted in a radio interview that he would prevent “suspected persons, until it is made absolutely clear over the next few months that they really have no connection, I won’t let them roam free in the country with a blue [Israeli] ID card”.

Hamoked, a human rights organisation whose lawyers represent some of the affected family members, called it a “vindictive decision” that amounts to collective punishment.

“In effect, this means that the Minister of Interior has decided on the draconian and irreversible step of revoking the status of a person – whose entire life is rooted here – solely based on a suspicion, ascribed to unidentified persons,” the organisation wrote in a statement.

Mohammad Shihabi, a lawyer working on one of the cases, said that the family members whose status was revoked were not personally under investigation for alleged connections with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

“I think they had to continue to justify Netanyahu’s claim of a connection with ISIS,” he told Al Jazeera, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s statement, a few hours after the attack, that the government had identified the perpetrator and that “all signs show he is a supporter of the Islamic State”.

READ MORE: Israel’s collective punishment follows Jerusalem attack

Human rights observers have called the Israeli government’s measures in Jabal Mukaber since January “unprecedented collective punishment”. While Israel normally issues punitive demolition orders for the home of an attacker, Palestinian legal aid organisation JLAC counted 81 house demolition notices issued in the days following the incident to buildings erected without permits in the neighbourhood.

Manal Qanbar, Fadi’s 37-year-old sister-in-law, told Al Jazeera that she got a one-month renewable injunction against the decision to revoke her family reunification permit. 

But Manal’s status was already precarious: She lives in Jerusalem under a family reunification permit, which she has to renew every two years. A mother of eight with a two-month-old baby, she has no doubt that she will not be able to comply with the decision.

Do they expect me to leave my children and go to the West Bank?

by Manal Qanbar, Fadi's sister-in-law

“Do they expect me to leave my children and go to the West Bank?” she said.

Part of her family lives in a-Sawahrah a-Sharqiyah, another nearby village that was artificially cut off from Jerusalem by the separation wall.

“My sisters are not allowed to come to Jerusalem. It will be more difficult to see each other now,” she added.

There are thousands of Palestinians living shadow lives in Jerusalem and Israel – unable to get legal status because Israel stopped processing family applications in 2000 – and they live in constant fear of getting caught at a checkpoint, keeping movements to a minimum.

READ MORE: Palestinians in East Jerusalem battle for their homes

In 2003, Israel passed a law that bars Palestinians with West Bank or Gaza identity cards married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents from acquiring citizenship or residency rights in Israel, including occupied East Jerusalem.

The law has been condemned by human rights groups as discriminatory for the way it disproportionately targets Palestinians citizens of Israel.

“We can see how dangerous it has been that Israel in 2003 enacted the law that restricts family reunification,” Munir Nuseibeh, a human rights lawyer and academic based at Al Quds University, told Al Jazeera.

“For thousands of individuals living in Jerusalem according to a family unification application, it leaves them all the time in fear that something will happen and they will be kicked out from their homes and not able to live with their families any more. Now, Israel is exercising this by displacing family members only because one distant relative allegedly committed an act against the state.”

A man walks past Israeli police officers in Jabal Mukaber, near the home of a Palestinian suspected of an attack [Ammar Awad  /Reuters]
A man walks past Israeli police officers in Jabal Mukaber, near the home of a Palestinian suspected of an attack [Ammar Awad /Reuters]

As many as 14,500 Palestinians have had their status as residents of East Jerusalem revoked between 1967 and 2015, in what Hamoked, which focuses on residency rights, calls a “quiet deportation” policy.

Human rights organisations such as B’Tselem and others have argued that residency revocation is one of Israel’s tools to maintain a Jewish majority in Jerusalem.

“I have a brother in a-Sheikh Saad who wasn’t able to attend his own brother’s funeral in Jabal Mukaber, even though we were only 10 metres away from him,” Manwa al-Qanbar said.

“Once his wife fell ill, and he couldn’t cross this checkpoint to come to the hospital,” she said, noting that they had to take another, longer way through a different checkpoint for Palestinians with West Bank IDs. “This is our tragedy. The whole of Jabal Mukaber is going through this tragedy.”

Source: Al Jazeera