In its last controversial move, the Knesset has approved a law that seeks to alter the demography of the Holy City. Expect security problems to increase – and don’t get surprised about it.
Three days ago, the Knesset passed a law that allows the Minister of Interior – in the specific of the current governing coalition, Shas’ Ariyeh Deri – to strip of their resident permit in Jerusalem those Palestinian citizens who are judged “not loyal” to the State of Israel; who have obtained their residence permit on the basis of false information; and who are accused of criminal behavior.
As if in Jerusalem the situation was not already marked by an horrendous discrimination between Jewish and Palestinian citizens – Jewish people born in Jerusalem are Israeli citizens, while Palestinians born in Jerusalem can only get blue ID cards that give them the right to reside in the city but that de facto keeps them in a condition of second-class citizenship – the new law makes reality in the Holy City even more unjust for the 420,000 Palestinians who are there, as it breaches the rights that they should enjoy under international humanitarian law (IHL) as “occupied people”. According to IHL, in fact, Jerusalem is “occupied territory” and the occupying power (i.e. Israel) cannot revoke the permit of residency to the occupied people (i.e. the Palestinians) nor impose loyalty requirements upon them.
After the new piece of law was approved, Deri promptly proceeded to defend it saying that it will allow him to protect the security of the citizens of Israel. Yet, what the new law actually does is to progressively remove any physical connection between Palestinians and so as to ultimately change the demographics of the city in favor its Jewish population.
By referring to security concerns, Deri retrieved the old security dogma that Israel has constantly used and abused over its 70 years of existence to justify its worse violations of international law: the demolition of Palestinian houses allegedly built without the necessary permits; the relentless construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank; the imposition of a blockade on Gaza that keeps its residents in an open-air prison from which there is no way out; the construction of a 470-km long concrete walls that has illegally included in the Israeli territory portions of land that go beyond the Green Line and has severely limited the freedom of movement of the Palestinians; the imposition of checkpoints through which most Palestinians have to pass daily to go to work; the recent decision to expel to Uganda and Rwanda hundreds of thousands of refugees who came to Israel as they fled wars, famines and poverty; and now the law to revoke residence permits.
The list of violations is long and what is most worrying is that it grows longer every year, as the Knesset proposes and approves laws that make life for Palestinians a daily struggle. This has been particularly been the case over the past year, when the victory of Donald Trump in the United States has emboldened the extremist right-wing coalition that is currently in charge of writing the history of the Jewish State. To quote the most blatant example of this dynamic, the decision of President Trump to recognize Jerusalem – the disputed city that all claim as religious point of reference and all seek as political capital – as Israeli and the decision to cut aid to the Palestinians has de facto given to the Likud-led coalition the green light that it needed to push its discriminatory policies further. All in the name of security for the Jewish citizens of Israel.
However, similar measures do little to increase security. On the contrary, they seed resentment, anger and despair among the Palestinians – three sentiments typically linked with political violence. In this way, that vicious cycle that has so often marked the past seventy years is protracted endlessly: more discriminatory policies on part of Israel generate anger; anger finds its way of expression in violence, being impossible and credible any other alternative; violence triggers more discriminatory laws and measures justified on ground of security. And the story repeats itself endless times.
Therefore, in embracing an Israeli policy strikingly in favor of its current right-wing government, the Trump administration has taken on its shoulders a great responsibility: it has become complicit in the breaches of international law that Israel is increasingly enacting and therefore responsible for the security problems that in the long term all this will inevitably generate on that piece of land. However, something that both the Knesset and Trump seem to be ignoring is that there can be no security in the continuous violation of international humanitarian law.