France condemned Israel’s decision to deport Palestinian lawyer Salah Hammouri, who holds French citizenship, on Sunday morning by order of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, following a years-long effort by Israeli authorities to revoke his residency status.
‘Today, we condemn the illegal decision of the Israeli authorities to deport Mr. Salah Hammouri to France,’ the statement read.
‘France has taken all measures, including among the highest political ranks, to ensure the rights of Mr. Salah Hammouri are respected… and that he will be able to lead a normal life in Jerusalem, the city where he was born, lives and wishes to stay.’
Upon landing in Paris, Hammouri blasted Israel’s ‘policy of ethnic cleansing.’
‘I’m not afraid, and I’m not deterred,’ he told reporters at the airport. ‘[This] will not divert us from the path of resistance to the occupation.’
France’s condemnations follows a recent statement by Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, who said that in the last two decades Hammouri was subject to severe harassment, separation from his family, surveillance and constant threats of revoking his residency.
‘This persecution must end now. Israeli authorities must release Hammouri, settle his residency status and allow him to continue his human rights work without fear,’ said Morayef.
Hammouri was previously convicted of planning a terror attack on late Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in 2005, and served seven years in prison. He was released in the prisoner exchange for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, before being arrested again in 2017 and spending time in and out of administrative detention.
He also served as a defense attorney for a number of Palestinian prisoners, and was active in the Palestinian human rights NGO Addameer until last year. The organization was outlawed after Defense Minister Benny Gantz designated it as a terror group alongside five other Palestinian NGOs operating in the West Bank.
Shaked had previously moved to revoke Hammouri’s residency in October 2021, following in the footsteps of then-Interior Minister Arye Dery, who worked to deport Hammouri in 2020. However, in July, the Supreme Court ordered that a new hearing be held on his residency status. It was later decided that Hammouri, who also holds French citizenship, be deported to France. He has been in administrative detention since March.
In a letter to Leah Tsemel, the lawyer representing Hammouri, Shaked wrote that her decision to annul Hammouri’s permanent residency status was based on his “serious and dangerous actions.”
Hammouri denies that he is a member of the PFLP, and claims that he had not been allowed to see the evidence against him. ‘Wherever a Palestinian goes, he takes with him these principles and the cause of his people: his homeland carried with him to wherever he ends up,’ Hammouri said in a statement.
Hammouri’s deportation was made possible by a Knesset law passed in 2018 granting the interior minister the power to revoke the permanent residency status of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem who have committed attacks. Under the law, the state can render Palestinian Jerusalemites stateless if the resident endangered public safety or security, or if they ‘betray the State of Israel.’
Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called the deportation unlawful. “He didn’t commit any crime to be deported from his homeland and be expelled into another country, where he had stayed for a short period even if he holds the nationality of that country,” Majdalani said.
Hammouri’s deportation sheds further light on the complex status of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem who seek permanent residency status.
As recent data shows, only 5 percent of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem – 18,982 people – have obtained Israeli citizenship since the city was reunified in 1967. Only 34 percent of naturalization applications submitted by Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are approved, and in many cases final approval takes years.
In the first years after reunification following Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, from 1970-74, hundreds of people obtained citizenship. The numbers dropped in 1975-2004, with at most a few dozen East Jerusalem Palestinians completing the process each year.
Over the past 20 years, only 38 percent of the 16,573 applications have been approved. The main reason for denial was failure to prove that Jerusalem was their primary place of residence and employment. Additional reasons include the lack of Hebrew language skills, refusal to renounce Jordanian citizenship, criminal background or security impediments.
The lack of Israeli citizenship has many implications. Without it, East Jerusalem Palestinians cannot vote in Israeli legislative elections or obtain an Israeli passport. To travel abroad they must apply for a temporary travel document (laissez passer). Some jobs are not open to non-citizens. Most importantly, their residency status can be revoked, unlike citizens.
This has happened to over 14,000 Palestinians since 1967, mostly due to information showing that the center of their life was not in Jerusalem. With the loss of resident status, they lose their health insurance, livelihood and even the right to enter Jerusalem.
Reuters has contributed to this story