The Many Myths of Jerusalem: Part 3

Part Three of our multipart series on The Many Myths of Jerusalem

###Myth Number 3: Jerusalem Gives Citizenship or Residency Based on Religion/Ethnicity

When trying to make Israel look bad, for Israel-haters, there is no truth not worth twisting, or law not worth lying about. Nowhere is this more apparent than when discussing Israel’s policy towards granting citizenship and permanent residency in the city of Jerusalem.

Anti-Israel activists often trot out the line, “Israel grants citizenship to Israeli Jews but only residency to Palestinian Arabs.” Technically, this is a true statement, it just happens to be incomplete and entirely misleading, making it a lie.

Why do children born to Israeli Jews get citizenship? Because their parents are Israeli citizens! Not because they are Jewish. If a non-Israeli Jew gives birth in Jerusalem, their child isn’t automatically Israeli.

Why do children born to Palestinian Arabs not get citizenship? Because their parents are NOT Israeli citizens!

Israel grants citizenship to ANY Israeli born or living in Jerusalem, regardless of their religion or ethnicity and Palestinian Arabs are eligible to apply for citizenship as well. So children born to Israeli Arabs or Palestinians with Israeli citizenship living in Jerusalem get automatic Israeli citizenship just like Israeli Jews do.

But what about how Israel rescinds residency permits for Palestinians!

Well, that only happens after a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem hasn’t lived in the city for seven years, or in other words, when they’re no longer a resident! Taking away the residency of someone who is no longer a resident isn’t illegal, it’s just good bookkeeping.

In fact, Israel’s laws are far more lax than those of, say, the United States. A permanent resident of the US can lose their status if they move out of the country for a single year, while this can only happen to Jerusalemites after seven years. Is it so unreasonable for a state to revoke someone’s residency when they haven’t even lived in that state for years on end?

But permanent residents in the US chose to move there, while Palestinians didn’t choose to live under Israeli rule.

When Jordan (supported by the PLO) declared war on Israel in 1967, they set in motion the events leading to Israel’s retaking the entire city. This little fact is always omitted by anti-Zionists looking to paint Israel as the constant aggressor. Had Jordan (and the PLO) heeded Israel’s warnings and pleading to stay out of the war, Israel would not have taken the city and this situation would not have arisen at all.

But Israel is clearly doing this to reduce the number of Arabs in Jerusalem.

While 14,152 Arabs did lose their residency between 1967 and 2011, at the same time the Arab population of Jerusalem actually increased from 67,609 to a whopping 295,000 in 2011! Given these numbers, this sounds like the worst stop-gap measure ever implemented.

Moreover, according to B’Tselem since 1997, 95.5% of the revocations were due to moving abroad. That means that the vast majority of those who lost their residency weren’t even living in the West Bank, meaning they were not actually a “threat” to Jewish demographics anyway.

This also all overlooks the fact that any Palestinian Jerusalemite may apply for Israeli citizenship and then they wouldn’t have to worry about losing it even if they lived elsewhere for decades. It just happens that most Palestinians refuse to apply for citizenship, just like they refuse to participate in local elections (which only requires residency), because doing so would “normalize” relations with Israel and brand them as traitors. Given that Palestinians are at best shunned and at worst murdered for such a label, it is somewhat understandable that this fear gets results. However, a 2013 report from the International Crisis Group indicates that there is growing acceptance of Israeli citizenship among Arab Jerusalemites, with an increase in applications being submitted.

But even with all this, nearly 320 Palestinians are losing their residency rights every year!

Not exactly. Up until 1997, the first 30 years of Israeli rule, just over 3000 Palestinians had lost their residency permits. Since then, the numbers of have continued to go up and down, indicating that they actually correspond to yearly differences in who this may apply to. In 2011, just 101 Jerusalemites lost their residency, which is almost exactly the same number as in 1967 (105).

Also, in 1988, the first full year of the Intifadah, when one would expect a sharp rise in “politically motivated expulsions,” we actually see the exact opposite: just 2 residency revocations, the lowest annual number ever! (Complete data for 2 years of the Second Intifada is unavailable to make a similar comparison)

Additionally, even if a “resident” does not actually reside in Jerusalem, but visits the city once every three years, they can keep their residency. So in 2011, when 101 Jerusalemites lost their residency, another 31 regained theirs.

###So what have we learned today?

It is sad that such articles need to be written at all, but given the deception and manipulation of Israel’s enemies, it is important to remember that just because it is repeated, doesn’t mean it is true.

You can read Part 1: The Internationalization of Jerusalem here

You can read Part 2: East Jerusalem here