East Jerusalem teenager on life as a stateless Palestinian

By Jalal Abukhater

Under Israeli law, it is illegal for me to live in the West Bank. More accurately, if I am discovered to be living there, my blue Israeli identification card may be taken away, and replaced  by a West Bank ID card.  Meanwhile, Jewish settlers are allowed to come from all over the world and settle legally (under Israeli law) in the Palestinian West Bank.

I am a Palestinian who lives in the occupied eastern part of Jerusalem. I am required to carry around my blue Israeli identification card, which permits me to cross checkpoints daily from my house in Jerusalem to my school in Ramallah and back. Carrying the blue identification card enables me to travel “freely” across the West Bank and 1948 Palestine [modern-day Israel – eds.],while those carrying West Bank and Gaza ID cards are not able to leave those areas without special Israeli issued permits. The blue ID is often viewed as a privilege. Yet for me, carrying this blue ID card is more of a curse than it is a blessing.

I am not a full citizen of the state of Israel. Neither am I a full citizen of the Palestinian Authority. I am not even Jordanian. I do not hold any official nationality nor am I allowed to hold any. I carry an Israeli semi-passport and a “temporary” Jordanian-issued semi-passport. Living under these circumstances is unbearable.

Arabs living in 1948 Palestine do have full Israeli “official” citizenship. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are officially considered Palestinians and do hold official citizenship. When I am required to fill in any kind of form that asks who I am and where I live, I write ‘Jordanian’ as my nationality, and address as Jerusalem, Israel. This is the reality lived by all Palestinian Jerusalem residents who are not citizens of Israel. I am not sure how Israel defines us, but surely it is not as a citizen of Israel; rather we are seen as temporary citizens waiting to be expelled to some other land soon.

We Jerusalem residents live under the threat of losing our Jerusalem ID cards if the Israeli authorities find out that we have a house in the Palestinian West Bank. In effect, this means we are not allowed to live in the West Bank. But it is not at all easy for us to buy or rent a property to live in inside Israel – the laws of the apartheid state of Israel make it extremely hard to obtain a permit to build a house, or renovate an already existing house anywhere. All around Eastern Jerusalem, residents struggle to obtain building permits to fit their new family members in, while a Jewish person can easily obtain a permit and build a whole residential compound to fit few family members. All of this, I believe, is a part of the plan to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem and Palestine of all Arabs, Muslims and Christians alike.

On the other hand, carrying the Jerusalem ID does not allow us to obtain any other worldwide nationality! If Israeli apartheid authorities find out that a person with a Jerusalem ID has a foreign passport (For example: Canadian or American), they will take away his ID, deport him, and confiscate his property.

The racial bias is extremely annoying. Jewish citizens of Israel are permitted to carry many foreign passports and nationalities along with his Israeli passport. An Israeli Jew might carry an American passport, a German passport, a French passport, and a Belgium passport along with his Israeli passport, while an Arab citizen carrying a Jerusalem ID is not able to even carry a Palestinian passport or a full Israeli passport, as if we are non-existent humans. Further, the Israeli government claims that settlements are needed to supply room for “natural growth” (increasing family size) and the increasing Jewish population; yet the increase of the Arab population is not met with any extra housing of any type. Arabs are not even allowed to add an extra room to their houses due to  Israeli laws.

My father has always told me our struggle with holding this identification card is a struggle of existence. Giving up this ID card to move somewhere else would be giving up our eternal right in the land of Palestine and Jerusalem. Jerusalem was never meant to be for any specific people, race, or religion. Jerusalem is the holy city that accepts people from all around the globe and from all different religions!

I will not accept being treated as an inferior citizen, I demand equality in living. Jerusalem is my city, I am an existing human being who demands human rights, as any other citizen living in any other country in the world. Palestinians exist.  We have the right to exist and travel freely in our land without worrying every minute about being expelled just for where we have chosen to live.

Jalal Abukhater is a 16-year old resident of East Jerusalem. He is a high school senior at a school in Ramallah. You can follow him on twitter @JalalAK_jojo