H.E. NAVENETHEM PILLAY,
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is sheltering from deportation Ahmad Atoun, Khaled Abu Arafa and Muhammad Totach, all democratically elected representatives of Hamas' Change and Reform list in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in 2006, who have camped out in the Sheikh Jarrah building since the June 30th 2010 re-arrest of Hamas MP [Member of Parliament] Muhhamad Abu Tir. The ICRC considers eastern Jerusalem “occupied territory” and the three Hamas men are considered protected persons under international humanitarian law, as stated in Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Their “crimes” were to have been democratically elected to the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) on the Hamas’ Change and Reform party platform in January 2006 elections. To general surprise, Hamas won a majority of seats in the PLC in both Gaza AND the West Bank. On June 29 2006 , 64 Palestinian ministers, deputies and mayors including Atoun, Abu Arafa, Totach and Abu Tir, were arrested and prosecuted before Israeli military courts and sentenced for 2-4 years imprisonment. All had completed their sentences.
Following their release, they were given expulsion notification and Israel revoked the Jerusalem identity cards of the four legislators (even though they were born and raised in Jerusalem and were permanent residents of Jerusalem) when they refused to resign from the PLC. Abu Tir was re-arrested when he refused to leave the city and the three deputies then took asylum at the IRC headquarters.
In an interview on 20th April 2011, Mohammad Totar spoke of the far-reaching consequences of their deportation:
It means deporting thousands of people from East Jerusalem for disloyalty. This word does not have any dimensions or any measures, so they can claim that anybody living in East Jerusalem … is disloyal to the Israeli occupation and then deport him. We know that it is one of the main objectives of the Israeli plan to empty East Jerusalem of the Palestinian people.
“Deportation” is not only a violation of human rights and international humanitarian law — it is also a specific violation of the U.S.-sponsored Road Map, which was adopted by the Quartet [U.S., EU, Russia, and the UN].
The then Foreign minister Tzipi Livni observed that Israel had the right to revoke the residency of whomever it deemed disloyal to Israel. The Israeli government behaves as though Palestinian residency in Jerusalem is a right conferred by Israel — as though Palestinians are immigrants rather than the city’s indigenous inhabitants living under an illegal and increasingly vicious occupation.
Despite the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel, Palestinians living there do not have Israeli citizenship. Instead, they are classified as “permanent residents”, without voting rights or Israeli passports. Theoretically, their residency offers them rights of free movement inside Jerusalem and Israel, unlike West Bankers who since Oslo have been confined by curfews, checkpoints and now the wall.
But in practice, as the deportations prove, “permanent residency” is not necessarily so permanent. Israel has for some time been narrowing the terms of who qualifies for residency in Jerusalem: Palestinians who study or work abroad often find they are not entitled to return to the city; the recent revoking of family unification means many spouses and children of East Jerusalem residents are facing deportation; and the arbitrary route of the wall across East Jerusalem is putting some residents on the wrong side, making it all but impossible for them to reach jobs, shops, schools and hospitals in the city centre.
I urge you to demand the immediate and unconditional release of Muhammad Abu Tir and demand that Israel rescinds the implementation of this unfair and unlawful act and immediately halts its forced displacement and expulsion measures.