Israel strips thousands of Palestinians of Jerusalem residency rights

Israel revoked the residency status of more Palestinians from East Jerusalem in 2008 than during any other year since it captured the territory in 1967, a human rights group said on Wednesday.

HaMoked Centre for the Defence of the Individual, an Israeli organisation advocating Palestinian rights, cited figures obtained from the interior ministry under the Freedom of Information Act. They showed that Israel stripped 4,577 Palestinians of their residency status in the disputed city last year.

That is more than half of the 8,558 total residency revocations in the past 40 years, HaMoked said.

Dalia Kerstein, executive director of HaMoked, said in a statement that such cancellations have reached “frightening proportions”. She added: “The interior ministry campaign in 2008 is only part of a general policy whose aim is to limit the Palestinian population and preserve a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, whose future is supposed to be determined in negotiations.”

Israel has drawn condemnation from the US and European Union for its policies in East Jerusalem, which include evictions of Palestinians from their homes, demolition of Palestinian houses built without permits and the expansion of Jewish settlements.

Palestinians have accused Israel of stepping up such policies to undermine their claim to the eastern half of the city as the capital of their future state. Palestinians make up about 35 percent of the city’s population, a number that is expected to grow in coming years because of their higher average birth rates and as a dearth of jobs in the city prompts more Jews to leave.

Palestinians living in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem have permanent residency status, which Israeli law says could be annulled if they spend more than seven consecutive years outside Israel or take foreign residence or citizenship.

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