Human Rights Watch on Sunday released a report slamming Israel’s control over the Palestinian population registry, an ongoing list of residents living lawfully – according to Israel – in the West Bank and Gaza. The international organization, which is dedicated to protecting human rights around the world, released the report at a press conference at the American Colony hotel in East Jerusalem.
The report, entitled “Forget about him, he’s not here, details how the Israeli army’s control of the Palestinian population registry since 1967 arbitrarily and crudely determines residency in a manner that has severe consequences for Palestinian society. Results of this control include the separation of families, restrictions on freedom of movement and limitation of educational and employment opportunities.
Here is an excerpt from the HRW press release:
‘Israel has never put forth any concrete security rationale for blanket policies that have made life a nightmare for Palestinians whom it considers unlawful residents in their own homes,’ said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. ‘The current policies leave families divided and people trapped on the wrong side of the border in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel should revise these policies and process requests for families to reunite, so that Palestinians can live with their families where they want.’
After Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza following the war in 1967, it conducted a census in these areas, registering 954,898 Palestinians who were present at the time. According to HRW, the census excluded at least 270,000 Palestinians who had been living there before the war and since then has prevented them from returning and applying for residency, with only a few exceptions over the years as “political gestures.” Similar to its policy regarding Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israel has also struck over 130,000 West Bank Palestinians from the registry who have traveled abroad for long periods of time – as a way to control the demographic balance.
While HRW cannot call on Israel to stop exerting control of the population registry, since as an occupying force it is obligated to do so, it claims that Israel is using its control over the registry as a political tool that exceeds what could be justified under international law as its security concerns. It therefore calls on Israel to invest more effort on a case by case basis:
Israel should create an efficient, rights-based, and transparent process based on individual decisions to ensure that Palestinians, including those who have been unfairly stripped of legal residency, can gain that status and the rights that flow from it.
To read the press release, click here.
Watch a video produced by Human Rights Watch, which includes the stories of some directly affected Palestinians.
To read the report in full, click here.