Tamam Zubaidi, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian, has lost her status as a Jerusalem resident after spending a lengthy period in Canada while her husband studied there. As a result, she and her 13-year-old daughter, who was also born in Jerusalem, are stateless.
Since Israel’s annexation of the area in 1967, Palestinian Jerusalemites have the status of Israeli residents and carry Israeli identity cards. However, anyone who leaves Israel for a period of seven years or more risks having this status revoked.
Interior Ministry statistics submitted to HaMoked – the Center for the Defense of the Individual, in response to its freedom of information request show that in 2013, 106 Jerusalem Arabs had their residency revoked, among them 50 women and 24 minors. During that year, 35 Arabs also had their residency restored. Since 1967 more than 14,000 people have had their residency revoked.
Zubaidi, 38, was born in Jerusalem and lived there all her life. In 2006 she traveled to Vancouver with her husband, a West Bank resident, who is pursuing a PhD in film there. She was careful to renew her Israeli travel documents every year, but when she tried to do so again four months ago she was told that her Israeli residency permit had been revoked. As a result, she and her daughter also lost their legal status in Canada.
“This means that she and the girl have no health insurance, she cannot drive, and the girl can’t be registered in school. This is an awful situation to be in,” said her husband, Subhi Zubaidi.
Zubaidi requested and was granted a hearing at the Israeli Consulate in Toronto and bought tickets to travel there, but because she had no valid identity or travel documents she was not permitted to fly. In the end she was granted a four-minute telephone conversation with a consular official, and on Sunday she was informed that her appeal had been denied.
Zubaidi’s lawyer, Adi Lustigman, said that while courts over the years have upheld the revoking of residency status after seven years on grounds the person has settled elsewhere, “It’s clear that studies do not provide an assumption of having settled elsewhere. The Interior Ministry is also ignoring the rights of the daughter. She didn’t choose to settle elsewhere and she finds herself with no status.”
The spokesman for the ministry’s Population Administration said that after living abroad for eight years Zubaidi had effectively declared that the center of her life was elsewhere. “The revocation of her status was done in an orderly and lawful fashion. If Zubaidi or her attorney has reservations about the matter, they can submit them in the acceptable, lawful way. We do not plan to debate with her lawyer in the media.”