IDs: the pass system
Successive Israeli governments have worked to implement are commendation made in 1973 by the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Jerusalem under the leadership of Golda Meir, to reduce the percentage of Palestinians in Jerusalem tounder 22%. This has led to many different policies that have distorted the demography of Jerusalem. The most recent of these policies has been to put great pressure on Palestinians of Jerusalem, and led to many thousands of people having their Jerusalem IDs taken from them. Although five thousand families in Jerusalem have lost their IDs since 1973, the Palestinians still represent 35% of the population of Jerusalem city itself, because many Jerusalemites who had moved into the suburbs have moved back to live inside the city since the
Wall was built. During just the year 2006, 1,363 Jerusalem residents lost their Jerusalem IDs (figures – Israeli Interior Ministry) This came after Israel had separated Jerusalem completely from its suburbs. Many people who have Jerusalem IDs, and many families who have mixed IDs live
in these suburbs. Note that most people in Abu Dis have West Bank IDs but a minority have Jerusalem IDs
All year long, many aspects of people’s lives in Abu Dis are dominated by the Israeli occupation, the Separation Wall, checkpoints and the pass system. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound) can be seen from many parts of the town, across the other side of the Separation Wall but not far away. It is not many years since people from Abu Dis were able to walk there. But now the way there is through some of the checkpoints called ‘terminals’ – very like international frontiers – that the Israelis have made in the Wall. Not all of them as some of these are for people with blue IDs only, while most West Bankers are given green IDs.
It’s worth remembering that Jerusalem is the historic capital of Palestine and Abu Dis has historically been in its suburb. When, following the pulls and pushes the proposal was that Jerusalem (including Abu Dis) should become an international city and it was not put on one ‘side’ or the other. In 1948 however, West Jerusalem was taken by force into the part of the country that became Israel. East Jerusalem and Abu Dis were ruled by Jordan like the rest of the West Bank for the 19 years until 1967 when Israel occupied the remaining parts of Palestine. Then East Jerusalem was claimed by the Israelis as part of Israel while Abu Dis was treated as separate, part of the West Bank, and the residents of the two separated by their ID cards. The divisions have become ever deeper and the huge Separation Wall now cuts through the built up area including Abu Dis itself to firmly divide the areas.
In Ramadan, many people wish to go to Jerusalem even more than at other times of year, in particular to visit the Al Aqsa Mosque. As the wish to get there intensifies, so do the level of humiliation and the contradictory games that are played by the Israelis in charge of the system whereby West Bankers need to apply to the Israeli Civil Department for ‘permissions’ to get to Jerusalem.
Even if they do get permissions, Palestinians have to enter the city through the massive checkpoints in the Separation Wall that are known as ‘terminals’, using tiny gates and turnstiles and humiliating procedures. These terminals are manned by the Israeli military and are always a pressure point. Here across the year there are violent incidents.
‘Separation is the rule’
Freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, especially over the past 25 years, has been heavily restricted between these territories, where separation is “the rule and access is the rare exception”, Marmur said.
It is illegal for a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank to travel to Gaza and Jerusalem unless they have a special travel permit from Israel. Likewise, Palestinians in Gaza are forbidden from going to Jerusalem and the West Bank unless the Israeli military issues them a permit.
“Israeli law had different military orders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” Elayyan said. “Each territory was administered by a different Israeli military commander. The point of that was to maintain the division between the two territories, to make them easier to control.”
According to Marmur, Israel has practically stopped processing requests for registration and changes of residency status since the year 2000.
“As a result, many Palestinians have been unable to choose their place of residence, as well as take up opportunities for study and work,” she said.
Since that year, which was when the second Intifada broke out, students from Gaza have been forbidden from going to study in the occupied West Bank.
Tool of control
IDs are still issued by the Israeli military, despite the 1993 arrival of the Palestinian Authority government, noted TahseenElayyan, head of monitoring and documentation for the Palestinian rights group Al-Haq.
“When it comes to the West Bank and Gaza Strip IDs, the role that the PA plays is more of a secretarial role, such as printing them out,” he told Al Jazeera. “Ultimately, it is the Civil Administration in the Bet Il settlement who decides to issue them, based on whether the Palestinian is included in the population census.”
Miriam Marmur, international communications coordinator for the Gisha human rights organisation, said that Israel’s control of the Palestinian population registry has been central to its efforts to control movement and demographics in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“Power over Palestinians’ residency status is used as a tool of control,” she said. “Palestinians must be included in the Palestinian population registry to obtain ID cards and passports.”
In the occupied West Bank, Marmur added, Palestinians must have their IDs for internal travel, due to the checkpoints interspersed within the territory.
This system has drawn comparisons to laws in apartheid South Africa designed by whites to control the movement of blacks and mixed-race people and to keep them in inferior positions.
These identification cards can also impinge on Palestinians’ right to family unification if a husband and wife hold different ID cards.
“Palestinians from Gaza who marry residents of the West Bank cannot move to the West Bank to live with their spouses,” Marmur noted.
Furthermore, Palestinian ID-holders who marry those who do not have an ID live with the risk of forced separation. Children can only be registered under one parent, not both.
A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in 2013 concluded that 31 percent of Gaza residents – more than half a million people – had relatives in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem or Israel. Twenty-six percent of Gaza residents had relatives in the occupied West Bank.
The blue Jerusalem IDsFreedom of movement is not as restricted for Jerusalem residents, who are granted permanent residency in the city but not Israeli citizenship. While they also need permits to go to Gaza, they can travel freely to the occupied West Bank and modern-day Israel.
However, restrictions are manifested in other ways.
“The Israelis act like giving us permanent residency in Jerusalem is a privilege, but it is more cosmetic than anything else