Dr. Immad Hammada and Dr. Murad Abu-Khalaf are both lecturers in electrical engineering born in East Jerusalem. Their families have lived in the city for generations. They both left years ago, each one separately, to study in the United States, and after graduating and consolidating their careers they want to return to live in their home town.
But their right to be reunified with their families is being denied by the Interior Ministry, as Amira Hass reported in Sunday's Haaretz. Hammada has been living in his city for some three years illegally, without any rights and under constant danger of being arrested and deported, while Abu-Khalaf is finding it difficult to return, even for a visit.
Judge Noam Sohlberg of Jerusalem District Court is hearing their cases against the ministry this week.
Interior Ministry regulations provide for the abrogation of the rights of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem who leave the city for a period of over seven years. Citizens of Israel can leave the country for any length of time, and their citizenship and all their rights are theirs in perpetuity. But when it comes to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israel applies draconian regulations whose covert intent is to bring about the expulsion of as many Palestinians as possible from their home city.
This situation is intolerable: At a time when the prime minister speaks grandiloquently of the reunification of Jerusalem, Israel practices inequality and discriminates against the city's Arab residents. At a time when Benjamin Netanyahu speaks of the economic advancement of the territories, Israel prevents the Arab residents of East Jerusalem from advancing their careers abroad and returning afterward to their home city to contribute toward the development of its economy. The screws have been tightened in recent years: In 2008 the residents' rights of 4,557 Palestinian inhabitants of the city were abrogated, the highest number ever.
Waiting on Judge Sohlberg now is not only the fate of two electrical engineering lecturers, but a far weightier question: Will Israel continue treating the Palestinian inhabitants of its capital as if they were foreign migrants whose rights are conditional?
The rights of the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem must be equal to those of Jews. All Jerusalemites have the right to live in their city, to go abroad and return as they will, without any danger posed by the authorities lying in wait for them.
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