Israel plans new law to ban Palestinians from Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers aim their weapons towards Palestinian protestors just outside of Nablus. (AFP)
Updated 20 February 2018
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Israel plans new law to ban Palestinians from Jerusalem

AMMAN: A proposed new law will give Israel wider powers to strip Palestinians of their right to live in occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
The legislation follows earlier attempts to remove social security benefits and family reunification rights from Palestinians in Jerusalem. “This time they are going after the right to residency,” Sani Khoury, a lawyer in Jerusalem, told Arab News.
The draft law approved by the Israeli parliament’s legislative committee allows the government to withdraw residency from any Palestinian deemed by Israel to be “involved in terrorism,” whether they have been convicted of a crime or not.
Right-wing Knesset members appear to be in a race to see who can sponsor the most racist law against Palestinians, Khoury said. “Note that they did not withdraw social benefits or the residency rights of Yigal Amir, the killer of former prime minister Yitshaq Rabin.”
Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and the Golan Heights in 1980. People who live there may remain if they abide by certain Israeli administrative procedures.
Palestinians with permanent residency cannot lose their right to live in Jerusalem provided the city is the center of their lives, Hanna Issa, a lawyer in Jerusalem who specializes in international law, told Arab News. “But if they are away from Jerusalem for seven years, or if they get residency elsewhere, this right can be withdrawn.”
Even living in nearby Ramallah or Bethlehem constitutes not living in Jerusalem and can be used against Palestinians to withdraw their residency, Issa said.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has documented the cases of nearly 15,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem who have lost their residency rights because of these administrative orders.
The new draft law appears to be aimed at thwarting an attempt by four Palestinians from Jerusalem to have their administrative banishment from the city overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court.
The former Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Khaled Abu Arafeh, and three elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council — Ahmad Ottwan, Mohammed Totah and Mohammad Abu Tier — were banned from Jerusalem shortly after the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. Their crime, according to the Israeli prosecutor, was that by taking part in the elections on behalf of the pro-Hamas Islamists Change and Reform List, they showed that they were “not loyal to the state of Israel.”
The four men have been arrested three times since 2006, and are engaged in a legal battle to have the ban reversed.
Abu Arafeh lives in a temporary home in Ramallah, and has been unable to travel or attend family events in Jerusalem or elsewhere.
“My son is graduating from university this summer in Jordan and my daughter will graduate from high school in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, and I will not be able to attend,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government has also approved a draft law punishing the Palestinian government for making payments to the families of prisoners and those who have died resisting occupation. The new law will cut tax revenues allocated to the Palestinians by the same amount as those payments. The Palestinian government has called the law “theft of Palestinian money.”


Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

The worshippers forced their way into the area ahead of Friday prayer. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

  • The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area

AMMAN: For the first time since 2003, Muslim worshippers broke an Israeli ban and offered Friday prayers in the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall, which is part of the Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers entered the Bab Al-Rahmeh area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday for the first time since the area was closed to Muslim worship by Israeli authorities.

The worshippers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein and other religious leaders, forced their way into the area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.

The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area, which has only been open during the past 16 years to Jewish fanatics during provocative visits to the Muslim holy place, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti and now a member of the newly constituted Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, delivered a short sermon in which he reiterated that “the Haram Al-Sharif is all 144 dunums of land, including the mosques, prayer halls, courtyard musuems and schools within it.” Sabri said that Muslims will not allow anyone to diminish Muslim rights in the entire mosque area.

The Friday prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh went off peacefully in part because of an Israeli decision late on Thursday not to make any further escalations, a reliable source in Jerusalem told Arab News.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the new council who participated in the prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh, told Arab News that the mood was peaceful and upbeat. “It was a beautiful thing to be able to reclaim part of our religious site that we were barred from using for so many years.”

The deputy head of the PLO’s Fatah movement, Mahmoud Alloul, praised the unprecedented action by the popular movement in Jerusalem. 

In a statement published on the Wafa website, Alloul called on Palestinians to stay steadfast in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahmeh and to “continue to stand up to the occupiers and their repeated incursions in Al-Aqsa courtyards.”

Mohammad Ishtieh, a senior Fatah leader who is expected to be the next Palestinian prime minister, issued a statement saying that what happened in Jerusalem today proves beyond a shadow of doubt that all actions and decisions aimed at Judaization of Jerusalem have failed as a result of the steadfastness of our people in our eternal capital. Ishtieh praised the defenders of Jerusalem who screamed for justice and who again forced the Israeli occupiers to back down.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and a new member of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Council, told Arab News that all parties participated and share this success. “Everyone participated and every party should get credit for this success. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa unite us.”

The popular protests that led to the breakup of the 16-year-old Israeli ban began on Feb. 13 when the newly constituted empowered and expanded 18-member Waqf Council decided to hold a symbolic prayer at the barred Bab Al-Rahmeh site. The Israelis responded by placing heavy chains at the gate and making arrests. 

After four days of arrests, Israel allowed the removal of the chains but would not go as far as allowing Muslim worshippers to enter. On Wednesday the Waqf Council called on worshippers to pray at the Bab Al-Rahmeh site. All five daily prayers were held outside the barred prayer hall. A confrontation was expected Friday, but the insistence of the worshippers on reclaiming their site led to the Israelis backing down, Jerusalem sources told Arab News.