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May 30, 2012

Citizen Klein and the East Jerusalem Citizenship Stats

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East Jerusalem Arabs outside the Ministry of Interior. Increased numbers are applying for, and receiving, Israeli citizenship (Photo by AP)

Menachem Klein, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University who in the past has accused Israel of practicing apartheid and following a "classical colonial approach" in Jerusalem, of all places, the Jewish people's historic capital, continues to mislead on Jerusalem. In Ha'aretz, he wrote May 25 that following Israel's annexation of eastern Jerusalem after the 1967 war:

it did not automatically grant Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians who live there. Up until the early 2000s, they could apply for citizen's status - though few did - but since Israel amended its citizenship law, it's almost impossible for them to attain it. (Emphasis added)

Further on, he reiterates his assertion that citizenship is practically unattainable for Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem:

But should they desire to obtain Israeli citizenship, their way is almost completely blocked because the government is worried by the demographic implications this would have for the country being a Jewish state and Jerusalem being its capital. (Emphasis added.)

It is unclear what amendment to the citizenship law Klein has in mind, but the B'Tselem board member would have benefited from checking B'Tselem's own site:

Permanent residents are permitted, if they wish and meet certain conditions, to receive Israeli citizenship. These conditions include swearing allegiance to the State, proving that they are not citizens of any other country, and showing some knowledge of Hebrew. For political reasons, most of the residents do not request Israeli citizenship.

In any event, the statistics do not bear out Klein's claim that in recent years, it has been impossible to obtain citizenship. As AP reported last year:

Over the past five years, about 3,000 Palestinians applied for Israeli citizenship, and about 2,300 received it, according to the Interior Ministry. The number of Palestinians granted Israeli citizenship has increased each year during that time, from 147 in 2006 to 690 in 2010.

In other words, more than three-quarters of those Jerusalem Arabs who applied for citizenship received it. Too bad the political science professor didn't/couldn't do the math.

But, if he doesn't trust the Israeli Interior Ministry, he would have done well to check an article that appeared a few short days ago on the +972 blog, whose ideological outlook is quite close to his own. There, Riman Barakat, the Co-Director of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), wrote:

As an East Jerusalem resident, I am struck by a recent trend: many of my friends and acquaintances who hold Jerusalem identification cards – documents of permanent residency rather than Israeli citizenship – are quietly applying for and obtaining Israeli passports. It’s not immediately clear why. Current residents of East Jerusalem – numbering over 350,000, or 38% of the city’s total population – already go about their daily lives, shop at Israeli malls, use Israeli services, frequent Israeli restaurants and bars, send their children to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and receive Israeli social and health benefits.

Posted by TS at May 30, 2012 07:35 AM


Prof. Klein has decided to shape the truth to fit his politics. To begin with, the residents of the eastern part of Jerusalem are really stateless persons. No state was created for them after the General Assembly non-binding resolution 181 was rejected by their leaders and by the Arab world. They did acquire Jordanian citizenship when Jordan occupied (here the word is used in its correct context) Judea and Samaria. When Jordan removed itself from those areas, those holding Jordanian passports found themselves in a legal pickle which is not easily resolved for them. But, Israel is under no legal obligation to automatically grant citizenship to those Arabs. As an example, the U.S. did not grant native Indian tribes U.S. citizenship until the 1880s and their reservations are subject to Federal, not state, law and supervision. Prof. Klein should realize, if he is truly a careful scholar, and his article suggests that he is not, that questions regarding citizenship are not always clear.

Posted by: Rafi at May 31, 2012 03:34 PM

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