July 29, 2010

Carter Center expresses 'deep concern' over Israeli deportations of Jerusalem residents; victims seek refuge from Israeli authorities in Red Cross compound

The Carter Center expressed "deep concern" Thursday over  Israel's revocation of Jerusalem residency rights for three Palestinian Legislative Council members and former minister.

A statement issued by the Atlanta-based center said expelling the officials from Jerusalem "is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Expulsion based on political affiliation would set a particularly dangerous precedent."

"Revoking residency rights of these PLC members is another example of Israeli policy designed to change unilaterally the character of Palestinian East Jerusalem," said former US President Jimmy Carter.

"Home demolitions, settlement construction, the separation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and its annexation to Israel, and long-standing efforts to push Palestinian residents out of the city are violations of international law, which may make the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible. I call upon the Quartet for Middle East Peace to demand that Israel respect international law in East Jerusalem, including reinstating residency for these PLC members."

Ahmad Atoun, Mohammad Abu Teir, Khaled Abu Arafeh, and Mohammad Totah -- all affiliated with Hamas -- were informed in April that they would be deported from Jerusalem after Israeli police confiscated their Israeli ID cards.

The Carter Center noted that in May 2006, then-Israeli Interior Minister Roni Bar-On revoked the residency of the four PLC members, arguing that they were residents of Israel and therefore obliged to be loyal to Israel, and that their membership in the PLC indicated their allegiance to the Palestinian Authority.

Subsequently, all four were arrested by Israeli authorities, prosecuted by military courts, and sentenced to two- to four-year prison terms. Following their releases, they were summoned by Israeli police and had their Jerusalem identification documents confiscated.

Abu Teir is in Israeli custody, while the other three have sought refuge in the International Committee of the Red Cross compound in East Jerusalem.


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