Jabal Mukaber, occupied East Jerusalem — Just a few hundred metres away from Manwa al- Qanbar’s house lies the separation wall which divides occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied West Bank.
61-year-old al-Qanbar might soon be expelled to live on the other side of the wall, but she refuses to think about this possibility.
“Where else can I go? Can you leave your home after living here for 35 years? I won’t move,” al-Qanbar told Mondoweiss as she cuddled her newborn granddaughter in her arms.
In January her 28-year-old son Fadi was shot dead after ramming his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers in the illegal Jewish settlement of East Talpiot, killing four.
Two days later, al-Qanbar received a notice from the Israeli Ministry of Interior informing her of their intent to revoke her permanent residency status. Ten other members of Fadi’s extended family also received notices that their permits will be revoked, including two minors aged eight and ten.
Al-Qanbar’s permanent residency was revoked in January 2017, marking the first time Israel punitively revoked the residency permit of a family member of an attacker.
The Appeals Tribunal issued temporary orders suspending the “deportation” and the family members are now fighting through the court to stay with their families in Jabal Mukaber.
“From now on anyone who plots, plans or considers carrying out an attack will know that his family will pay a heavy price for his deed,” Israeli Interior Minister Arye Deri said in a statement.
“The consequences will be harsh and far-reaching, like the decision I made regarding the mother and relatives of the terrorist [Fadi al-Qanbar] who perpetrated the attack in Armon Hanatziv [neighbourhood] in Jerusalem.”
By punitively revoking residencies, civil society organizations say Israel is illegally engaging in a “silent transfer and colonization” of Palestinians with the aim of maintaining a Jewish majority in Jerusalem.
Israel has sought to preserve its domination by maintaining a demographic balance of 60 percent Jews and 40 percent Palestinians in Jerusalem, according to its master plan.
“It’s part of the general policy of the Israeli occupation to reach a Jewish demography by illegal means,” said Nada Awad, advocacy officer of Al Quds University’s Community Action Center.
“Under the pretext of security, Israel is forcibly transferring Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem… These measures of collective punishment, if they are not stopped, will set very worrying precedents leading to forcibly transferring Palestinians for acts committed by a member of their extended family.”
One of the family members whose permit is at stake is Bassam Alam, Fadi’s half-sister’s son-in-law. Originally from the West Bank, he had obtained his permit to live in Jerusalem through the family unification process since his wife Susan is from East Jerusalem.
During the trial hearing on September 10, lawyer for the defendants, Murad al- Khatib questioned why extended family members who have never met Fadi are having their permits revoked.
“The Shabak said that they sought to revoke the residency of the husband of the half-sister of Fadi. But [Susan, Bassam’s wife] isn’t even the half-sister of Fadi; they’re further related than that,” al-Khatib said. “They never met; they’re not even from the same family.”
Al-Khatib further argued that while the Ministry of Interior has the authority to revoke any permit of residence if they pose a security threat or are involved in criminal activity, in the case of Susan and Bassam Alam, they haven’t been involved in either, al-Khatib explained.
Al-Qanbar had obtained her permanent residency status by marriage. She’s at a risk of being forcibly transferred on the grounds that her marriage of 35 years was allegedly bigamous, illegal under Israeli law. She says her husband was already divorced when she married him.
It has become increasingly difficult for Palestinians to establish a family and live in East Jerusalem. According to the “temporary order” implemented in 2003, Palestinians from the West Bank who marry an Israeli citizen (including those from East Jerusalem), cannot obtain Israeli citizenship or residency. They can only receive “temporary permits” under extremely rigid criteria that must be renewed every year. Family unification permits were completely canceled for Jerusalemite-Gazan couples in 2008.
Between 2000 and 2013, 43 percent of family unification applications were rejected, of which 20 per cent were for security reasons.
More than 14,500 Palestinians have had their residency status revoked since Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, illegal under international law. Since then, Palestinians have been treated as immigrants in their own country and given “permanent residency status.” In practice, the status isn’t permanent, but rather treated as a “revocable privilege” instead of an “inherent right” according to civil society organizations.
Since October 2015 Israel has escalated its use of collective punishment as a tool for forcibly transferring Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
The Israeli government usually punishes the attacker by issuing a demolition order for his home, but in the days following the attack by Fadi, Israeli authorities blocked all the main roads and distributed demolition notices to 81 houses in Jabal Mukaber, on the pretext of building without a permit.
“They punished everyone in the neighborhood. The day after the attack they cut off the water and electricity for all the homes here and blocked off all the entrances to the neighbourhood. They even destroyed the sheeps’ tents,” al-Qanbar said.
Fadi’s wife and four kids moved in to al-Qanbar’s home next door in the same detached house after the Israelis had sealed her home with cement, nearly reaching the ceiling. The hot, compressed cement soon set the house on fire, costing 100,000 shekels in damages for renovation, al-Qanbar explained.
Al-Qanbar’s health and state benefits have also been revoked, but she remains hopeful that she’ll be able to keep her residency.
“Lawyers that I talked to said that legally they don’t have the right to take it away from me… I’ve lived here since I got married and I always paid for the tax for the space that I live in; I paid my electricity and water bills. So why do they have to take [my residency] away from me? They’re taking it away because of my son,” al-Qanbar said.