Israel’s Expulsion of a Palestinian Lawyer Is a Warning: Be Obedient

The legislation that made it possible for Israel to deport East Jerusalem lawyer Salah Hammouri to France – and the real outrage at the base of it

With the deportation of lawyer Salah Hammouri, born in Jerusalem to a Jerusalemite family, to France on Sunday, Israel is effectively warning all Palestinian residents of the city, present and future, that if they are not submissive, silent and obedient, their permanent residency status will be revoked.

The case of Hammouri, who was deported on the order of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, indicates that Israel feels sufficiently confident to upgrade its techniques of subjugation and intimidation, and that it is not impressed by diplomatic protests (by France, in this case).

Only by happenstance, because Hammouri happens to be a French citizen, was it possible to expel him from Israel’s borders. Other Jerusalem residents whose residency status might be revoked and are not citizens or residents of any other state, can be expelled from their homes to one of the Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank, like the expulsion in the previous decade of three former Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament and a former minister in the cabinet of Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian prime minister at the time.

Or perhaps they may be expelled to the Gaza Strip, which Israel has been using anyway as a penal colony since the second intifada. Or they might remain in Jerusalem, lacking basic residential rights (primarily health care and education), which is certain to have a negative effect also on their families.

Hammouri’s deportation was preceded by the revocation of his residency status over a year ago, based on the March 2018 law amendment, accepted by the Knesset, that allows the voiding of residency status over “breach of trust against the State of Israel.”

What lies at the basis of the amendment is the application of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law to Jerusalem-born Palestinians, whose families have lived there since long before Israel was established.

That is the real outrage. After all, it was Israel that “entered”; it wasn’t they who entered Israel. And still, the legal framework designed so that Israel can contain, process and tolerate the presence of Palestinians in East Jerusalem since its annexation to Israel, is that of a law intended for non-Jews, citizens of other countries, who chose to immigrate to Israel and to whom the Law of Return does not apply.

In other words, they are allowed to be in Israel thanks to a display of generosity, in Israeli eyes. Their residency is temporary, and will expire the moment they remain abroad for a certain number of years, which might indicate that they had chosen to leave Israel.

The person who helped facilitate the government’s treatment of Jerusalem Palestinians as immigrants, conditional and effectively temporary residents who are in their homes as a favor, rather than by right, was none other than former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak.

In 1988, he ruled that the government could deport Mubarak Awwad, who was born in Jerusalem in 1943 and received a resident’s ID card when the city was occupied in 1967. He traveled abroad to study, and traveled regularly for years between the United States and Jerusalem. On the eve of the first intifada, he began to irritate Israel with his plan for a popular, non-violent revolt against the occupation.

A decision was made to deport him, and when he appealed to the High Court of Justice, Barak provided the government with the legal framework: The status of East Jerusalem residents, he ruled, is regulated by the Entry into Israel Law, which, even if this wasn’t stated explicitly in 1967, granted Palestinian Jerusalemites permanent residency permits in Israel. The law also authorizes the interior minister to decide on the conditions for a permanent residency permit. It’s an easy path from there to a practically permanent test of loyalty-to-the-state.

On the basis of this legal exegesis, Israel has revoked the residency of 14,727 Jerusalem residents, especially since 1995, with the claim that their center of life is no longer based in Jerusalem, but abroad (or in the West Bank). Many petitions to the High Court over the years against the revocation of residency status led to a certain trickling out of the truth – the Palestinians of Jerusalem are indigenous residents with rights, and should not be treated as immigrants.

Israel still revokes the residencies of Jerusalem Palestinians after a prolonged stay abroad, but much less of those living in Ramallah or Bethlehem. In September 2017, the High Court ordered the reversal of the revocation of the residency status of the abovementioned members of the Palestinian parliament and the former minister.

But in the same breath, the High Court signaled to the government that if the law were to be amended, this status could later be revoked based on “breach of trust against the state.” And indeed, the law was amended less than a year later.

The definition of “breach of trust” is broad, vague and general enough for the Shin Bet security service jointly with the Interior Ministry to include any Jerusalemite Palestinian they want, and whenever they want to. According to the amendment, any item in the following list can constitute breach of trust: an act of terrorism; aiding or abetting terrorism, or taking an active part in a terror organization or a declared terror organization; treason; and serious cases of espionage.

Those who determine what constitutes terror or treason are lawmakers, members of the Shin Bet and the various occupation lobbies. They are the representatives of the state that forcibly rules over the Palestinians, that has turned their city into an enclave cut off from the rest of the Palestinian territory, impoverished them, confiscated their land and sliced it up with hostile Jewish settlements.

The definition of “breach of trust” is a relative to the definition of “dangerous to state security,” a concept that permits the use of administrative detention – incarcerating someone without an indictment, clear charges or respect for the right of the defendant to defend themselves.

Hammouri was in fact convicted in the past, when he was around 20, and sentenced to seven years in prison for his part in planning a failed attempt to murder Sephardi spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Since he was released in 2011, studied law, and began to work as lawyer for the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, he has been in administrative detention several times.

He has entered and left prison several times, without the Shin Bet and state prosecution being able to come up with a single indictment against him. Even implanting Pegasus spyware in his phone, as reported about a year ago by three international organizations that examined his device, did not produce any prosecutable charge or evidence for any of the specified and unspecified allegations against him.

The vagueness is deliberate – whether it’s the “danger to the security of the region” that leads to administrative detention or the “breach of trust” leading to the revocation of residency status. The vagueness is likely to deter enough people to give up any political activity or organization, and even maintaining friendly relations with others, lest the activity be defined as resistance to the regime that was forced upon them.