Israel revokes residency rights of Jerusalem synagogue attacker's widow

Published November 27th, 2014 - 10:41 GMT

Israel on Wednesday revoked the residency rights of the widow of a Palestinian who carried out a deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, drawing condemnation from human rights groups.

"I have ordered the cancellation of Nadia Abu Jamal's permit to stay in Israel. Anyone who is involved in terror must take into account that there are likely to be implications for their family members too," Israeli Interior Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement.

Cousins Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir, were shot dead by Israeli police after storming a synagogue with meat cleavers and a gun and killing four Zionist rabbis and an Israeli policeman on November 18.

The statement said Nadia had been granted residency in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian land annexed by Israel in a move never recognized by the international community, under a "family reunification" clause allowing residents of the Israeli-occupied territories to stay with spouses who hold either Israeli citizenship or permanent residency.

The move came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that the Israeli government is to seek powers to strip 1948 Palestinians or Palestinian residents of Jerusalem of their residency and welfare rights if they or their relatives participate in or incited violence, even stone-throwing.

"It cannot be that those who attack Israeli citizens and call for the elimination of the State of Israel will enjoy rights such as National Insurance – and their family members as well, who support them," Netanyahu told ministers during a cabinet meeting.

"This law is important in order to exact a price from those who engage in attacks and incitement, including the throwing of stones and firebombs," his office quoted him as saying.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem slammed the decision to revoke Abu Jamal's residency permit.

"We object to this measure. It's abuse of a minister's authority and a form of collective punishment," spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli told AFP.

"She isn't accused of any harm, and the revoking of her residency status will actually mean she will be banished from her home and thrown out of the city she lives in,” she said.

"Residency and social benefits ... aren't gifts or favors the authorities bestow and can then take away. They're essential aspects of people's existence," Michaeli said.

Meanwhile in a statement on Sunday, Erdan confirmed he had cancelled the permanent residence of Mahmoud Nadi, who served a 10 year prison sentence for driving a man responsible for a 2001 bombing at a Tel Aviv nightclub.

The decision, which was communicated to Nadi in a letter sent by Erdan, involves cancellation of Nadi's entry in the population registry and the revocation of his blue Israeli ID card, and means he will no longer be eligible to receive any social benefits, such as national insurance or health insurance.

The so-called "blue ID" is an Israeli identification card issued by the interior ministry that entitles holders to national insurance and freedom of movement throughout the country.

Unrest has gripped annexed East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank on an almost daily basis for the past five months, flaring up after a group of Zionist settlers kidnapped and brutally killed 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir because of his ethnicity.

Besides revoking residency rights, Israel has introduced a series of measures against the families of Palestinians involved in attacks on Israelis.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu’s government adopted in annexed East Jerusalem the policy of demolishing the family homes of those involved in attacks on Israelis.

Punitive house demolitions have been used by Israel for years in the West Bank, but demolitions in annexed East Jerusalem this month drew condemnation from human rights groups, which said the practice amounted to collective punishment as the victims were not the perpetrators of attacks but their families.

Last week, Israeli forces delivered the families of the Abu Jamal cousins military demolition orders.

In addition to the Abu Jamal family, the East Jerusalem families of Mutaz Hijazi and Ibrahim al-Akkari, killed by police after two separate attacks, have also been served demolition orders on their homes.

Human Rights Watch called on Israel last week to stop razing the homes of Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis, saying the practice can constitute a “war crime.”

"Israel should impose an immediate moratorium on its policy of demolishing the family homes of Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks on Israelis," the New York-based group said, as the fate of three houses slated for demolition awaits a court ruling.

"The policy, which Israeli officials claim is a deterrent, deliberately and unlawfully punishes people not accused of any wrongdoing. When carried out in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, it amounts to collective punishment, a war crime."

Similarly, Israeli rights group B'Tselem said that punitive house demolitions are "fundamentally wrong" and contravene "basic moral standards by punishing people for the misdeeds of others."

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2013, Israel demolished more than 500 Palestinian homes in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates that Israeli authorities have demolished about 27,000 Palestinian structures in the West Bank since 1967.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Jewish immigration rose considerably under the British administration of Palestine, which was consolidated by a League of Nations "mandate" in 1922.

In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state – Israel – was declared inside historical Palestine.

As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes, or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and cities were razed to the ground by invading Zionist forces.

The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are currently spread across the region and in other countries, while many have settled in refugee camps in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel then occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.

© Al-Akhbar. All rights reserved

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