Know More About Palestine

Friday Nov. 19, 2010 3:40 PM (EST+7)
Israeli policy puts some East Jerusalem children in limbo

Read more: East Jerusalem, children, health benefits, psychology, permanent residency

JERUSALEM, NOV. 19 (JMCC) - From inside Jerusalem’s Old City walls to the neighborhoods of Silwan, Isawiya and Beit Hanina, it is estimated that approximately 10,000 Palestinian children living in East Jerusalem are not registered with the Israeli state.

Without an identification card, Palestinian children are denied access to basic rights such as education and health care. 

The withholding of ID cards is just one of many examples of how Israel is trying to pressure Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to leave their homes, creating a paralyzing sense of fear among young Palestinians, Ziad Al-Hammouri, the director general of the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER), said.

Most of them, they are worried how to move. They are afraid to move. Sometimes they are beaten. Sometimes they are taken to court, Al-Hammouri said. “Even on the children, they don’t have any mercy.”

By the end of 2009, approximately 300,000 Palestinians lived in East Jerusalem and 43.5 percent were under the age of 18.

Children bearing brunt of Israeli policy

Most Palestinians in East Jerusalem hold a permanent resident status, which gives them the right to live and work in Israel. However, the Israeli system often makes it difficult for Palestinians with permanent resident status to access some of these benefits legally accorded to them.

According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israel’s National Insurance Institute (NII), the body that grants health insurance and other social benefits to residents of Israel, “holds the position that, unless proven otherwise, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are not residents, and that they in effect seek to take improper advantage of the state and benefit from its services without being lawfully entitled to them.”

Reflectively, the NII investigates each application for health insurance made by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, causing massive delays in health insurance coverage, financial strains on families forced to go to private physicians, and the denial of basic rights.

Physicians for Human Rights–Israel estimates that 10,000 Palestinian children currently live in East Jerusalem without health insurance coverage.

And unlike citizenship, permanent residency is only passed on to a person's children if certain conditions are met. For instance, a Palestinian child can be denied an identity number if only one parent is a resident of East Jerusalem.

In this case, to become registered with the state, Palestinian parents must submit a “Request to Register a Birth” upon the birth of their child and prove that their center of life is in Jerusalem by providing tax receipts, electricity and telephone bills, or work certificates over the previous seven-year period.

The requirements needed to fulfill this “center of life” policy are complicated and vague, and involve a lengthy bureaucratic process that deters many Palestinians from under-taking it altogether.  As a result, the quality of life for all Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, especially children,  can be described as a “continuing cycle of neglect, discrimination, poverty, and shortages,” according to a May 2010 report released by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

In “Human Rights in East Jerusalem: Facts and Figures,” ACRI found that over 95,000 children or 74.4 percent of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem live below the poverty line, compared to 45.1 percent of Jewish children living in Jerusalem.

“The primary victims are the vulnerable populations: the aged, the disabled, and children. The chronic state of poverty has also had serious social ramifications, such as damage to family relationships; an increase in the rate of family violence; a decline in the functioning of children, reflected in high rates of school dropout and early entrance into the job market; crime; drug use; and health and nutritional problems,” the report found.

No emotional stability

Since it was annexed by Israel in 1967, East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory and is therefore subject to the provisions of international humanitarian law.

Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name [and] the right to acquire a nationality.

Article 50 of the Fourth Geneva Convention also states that the Occupying Power shall, with the cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children [and] take all necessary steps to facilitate the identification of children.

According to Yoad Ghanadry, a clinical psychologist at the Palestinian Counseling Center in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem, Israel’s withholding of identification cards weighs heavily on the mental health of children.

This identification card is a card that gives you emotional stability: you know that you exist, you are here, this is your place, this is the place you can stay at,” Ghanadry said. “But if you don’t have this card and you have to struggle all the time and invest your energy to get this card, how can we talk about any idea of planning any kind of a future?

There is a common misconception that the status of Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem as permanent residents are living in favorable conditions, Al-Hammouri said.

“The Israelis are trying to give a nice picture that we are living in a good situation, having good benefits, et cetera but on the ground, the real picture is we are suffering,” he said.  “We are afraid for the next day. Everybody is afraid. Today, everybody is under threat.






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