The number of Arab residents of East Jerusalem Al-Quds stripped of their residency rights by the Israeli Interior Ministry strikes an all-time record.
Last year, the ministry revoked the residency of 4,577 Palestinian residents of the illegally annexed neighborhood, the Israeli daily Haaretz said on Wednesday, compared with the 8,558 Arabs stripped of their residency rights between 1967 and 2007.
The Israeli paper said the 2008 number is 21 times the average of the previous 40 years, and that it accounts for about 35 percent of all the Arabs who have lost their residency rights since the occupation of the Palestinian territory in 1967.
Israel’s Interior Ministry launched a probe into the legal status of thousands of East Jerusalem Al-Quds residents early in 2008, which revealed many of the evictees were no longer living in Israel, and were therefore stripped of their residency.
Those deprived of their residency included 99 minors under the age of 18.
A lawyer for the Israeli-based Hamoked human rights watchdog expressed concern that the 250,000 Arab residents of East Jerusalem Al-Quds are not entitled to citizenship under Israeli laws.
"They are treated as if they were immigrants to Israel, despite the fact that it is Israel that came to them in 1967," Attorney Yotam Ben-Hillel said.
If a resident is abroad for seven years or obtains a legal status in another country, he automatically loses his Israeli residency, he said, adding that some of the victims may become stateless as they may not have legal status in any other country.
Hamoked’s Executive Director Dalia Kerstein said revoking the Arabs’ residency has reached ‘frightening dimensions’, describing the Interior Ministry operation in 2008 as just part of a general policy aimed at restricting the size of the Palestinian population and maintain a Jewish majority in Jerusalem Al-Quds.
"The Palestinians are natives of this city, not Johnny-come-latelys," he said.