East-Jerusalem – children’s rights threatened
JERUSALEM – On the 19th of November 2014 a conference was held on Children’s Rights in Jerusalem, attended by some jurists and specialists. The issue of civil registration of Palestinian children in Jerusalem and the impossibility for them to get, like their parents, a “permanent residence” or an identity card was raised. An issue linked to the larger issue of family reunion.
“Childhood Interrupted: Child Registration in Jerusalem”
That was the theme of the conference organized by St Yves Society – the legal association affiliated to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – in collaboration with Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Jerusalem. The conference took place at the Pontifical Center Notre Dame of Jerusalem. After two short welcoming speeches, made by the Head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Jerusalem, and the Director of St Yves Society, Mr. Raffoul Roffa, His Beatitude Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah spoke about the “crises of justice” which affect the Holy Land since many years. He talked then about the issue of children registration. For the Palestinian Patriarch, born in Nazareth before the creation of the State of Israel, the “issue of child registration is one facet of a wider issue: that of family reunion. The family is at the heart of all that, and therefore the issue is both natural and human. A family means a father, a mother and children who live together under one roof. But here, under very particular circumstances, Israeli laws issue regulations which do not allow a family to live under the same roof! For them that seems normal, although it contradicts Natural Law. Positive law should not contradict with Natural and Divine law, which God himself has granted, in harmony with Man’s nature – otherwise Man becomes victim of the law.”
Referring to the present alarming situation, the Patriarch-Emeritus repeated what has been often his conviction: “any ruler should all the time ask himself why explosions burst so often? He will find an answer when he listens to his conscience. The fault is not in the reaction, but in what causes the reaction. Knowing this, serves the interest of Israel. In order for the Israeli to enjoy security, the Palestinian should also be able to enjoy security. Peace for everybody is when each individual recognizes Humanity in himself: when he is neither aggressor nor aggressed”.
Next was the turn of Bassem Khoury, Board Member of St-Yves Society, who was also the moderator of the conference. He arrived late, because of the check-points between Ramallah and Jerusalem in these last days when Israelis are stiffening their security measures. In his introduction, and referring to the painful realities, Khoury wondered: “Is justice nowadays for power, or is power for justice?” He pointed out that “refusing to register children is a sort of ethnic cleansing” from the side of Israel, and that is indeed a “war crime according to International Law”. Palestinians hold in their hands today an “atomic bomb”, according to the Palestinian intellectual. This “bomb” is their right to join, as from now on, international associations and treaties, especially the Treaty of Rome which will protect them from any Israeli aggression in the future. A protection based on justice and law.
This speech was followed by a witness given by a Moslem Palestinian woman. She is Mohammad Asfour’s grandmother. Mohammad is 7 years old, but he is still not registered on the lists of Jerusalem residents. His father is in prison, and his mother is a Palestinian from the West Bank, who is not allowed to live in Jerusalem with her child. Mohammad lives therefor with his grandmother, but he cannot go to school, nor obtain social security, because he does not hold “an identity card nor a passport that prove his residency” in Israel. He does not have the Palestinian ID, either. According to law, this child does not exist.
Mr. Raffoul Rofa and Mr. Haitham Al Khatib, both Members of St Yves Society, spoke about the issue from a legal point of view. Mr. Rofa explained that “in 1967 Israel gave to Palestinians living in East Jerusalem a permanent residency, but not a nationality. That means that the Israeli Minister of Interior could cancel these residencies whenever he wants, in certain cases such as the case of persons who live outside Jerusalem for a certain period of time. The children inherit, in fact, the legal status of their parents. This policy has demographic reasons. Since the beginning, Israel tries to maintain a demographic “balance” in Jerusalem, between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis. In the beginning it was fixed to 20% Arab, and 80 % Israeli. Later the percentage switched to 30% Arabs and 70 % Israelis”.
Haitham AL Khatib, who is the head of the legal department at St Yves Society, finally stated that the child who is not registered before reaching the age of 18, loses his right, even if he fulfills the required conditions later (when his father comes out of prison, for example). The future of this child, who is not registered in any record, becomes very complicated. At present, he is a resident of no country!