erekat - Dan Keinan - Dec 29 2008
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in a file photo. Photo by Dan Keinan
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Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Wednesday that Israel's cancelling of the residency status of 140,000 West Bank Palestinians, as reported by Haaretz, constitutes a war crime and represents an Israeli attempt to affect the demographic composition of the West Bank.

Erekat's comments were in response to a Haaretz report earlier Wednesday that quoted an official Israeli document according to which Israel has used a covert procedure to cancel the residency status of West Bank Palestinians between 1967 and 1994.

The document was written after the Center for the Defense of the Individual filed a request under the Freedom of Information Law.

The document states that the procedure was used on Palestinian residents of the West Bank who traveled abroad between 1967 and 1994.

From the occupation of the West Bank until the signing of the Oslo Accords, Palestinians who wished to travel abroad via Jordan were ordered to leave their ID cards at the Allenby Bridge border crossing.

In a statement sent to Haaretz later Wednesday, the chief Palestinian negotiator said the report confirms Palestinian claims that Israel is engaging in a systematic policy of displacement in order to gain land for the expansion of more settlement-colonies and to change the demographic composition of the occupied Palestinian territories."

"This policy should not only be seen as a war crime as it is under international law; it also has a humanitarian dimension: we are talking about people who left Palestine to study or work temporarily but who could not return to resume their lives in their country with their families," Erekat added.

The top PA official also pointed out that the document revealed by Haaretz was evidence that “Israel’s actions violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that ‘everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country’.”

In light of the Haaretz report, the statement said, Erekat "called on those states in the international community that have yet to recognize the Palestinian state on the 1967 border to join those who have already done so."

"Our right to self determination must not be subject to negotiations, including the right of our families to live in their homeland. It is time to put an end to the pain and humiliation caused by the continuation of the Israeli occupation,” Erekat said.