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The Thorny Path to Marriage

Palestinian-Jerusalemites Who Marry Non-Jerusalemites

By Samer Daoudi

The concept of happiness is subjective and varies from person to person. Generally, happiness refers to a state of well-being, contentment, and satisfaction with one’s life. I assume that we all want to be happy, as we plan and accomplish big dreams and goals. One of these goals may be to find love and start a family. But this is not so easy for Palestinians, especially those who live in Jerusalem. As we live under occupation, our rights are violated on a daily basis: we are denied freedom of movement, we are subject to raids on our homes, our lands are confiscated, our homes demolished, and our loved ones detained, imprisoned, injured, and killed. Indeed, the list goes on and on.Unlike happiness, human rights shouldn’t vary from person to person based on religion, ethnicity, or nationality. Human rights are a set of fundamental rights and freedoms that are inherent to all individuals, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, gender, or any other characteristics. These rights are typically enshrined in international legal instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.The right to live in peace, safety, and dignity with one’s family, to choose the person with whom one wishes to form a family, is a fundamental right that Israel continues to deny Palestinians. This has torn Palestinian families apart, subjecting them to perpetual fear, separation, and uncertainty.Israel is implementing a rigid permit regime. East Jerusalem (EJ) is home to around 382,000 Palestinians who constitute 38 percent of the city’s population. The majority of the Palestinians who live in EJ are given permanent residency. But unlike citizenship, permanent residency status can be revoked through various Israeli punitive measures and discriminatory laws. For example, “center of life” is a phrase coined by the Israeli Ministry of Interior that refers to one’s primary place of residence, employment, and plans for residence in the future.Finding true love will be the least of your concerns as a Jerusalemite before you get to say “I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Whether you can marry the person you love is much more influenced by the “Citizenship and Entry Into Israel Law.” This is one of the most racist and discriminatory laws in the world and must immediately be repealed. On July 31, 2003, the Knesset enacted a temporary order that regulates nationality and entry into Israel. A temporary order in Israel can easily be valid for over 20 years, as this law still stands even today. It prohibits the granting of residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from the territories occupied in 1967 even if they are married to Israeli citizens or Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

Israel’s family unification policy has a profound impact on Palestinians, affecting their social fabric, emotional well-being, and economic opportunities. In particular, the restrictions imposed on Palestinians who seek to reunite with their families within Jerusalem have drawn criticism for their discriminatory nature. Recognizing the importance of family ties and the fundamental right to family life is essential in fostering a more inclusive and just society for all residents who live inside the so-called Green Line.

In effect, the law bans the unification of Palestinian families, as it forbids the Israeli minister of interior from granting residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who are married to Palestinian citizens of Israel or Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. It also bans the unification of a citizen or resident of Israel with a spouse from an “enemy state,” such as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, or Iran.

Going through checkpoints.

Exceptions are made in cases when one or both applicants have worked for the security sector of the State of Israel. Otherwise, the spouse who is from the West Bank must satisfy the age category: namely, if the wife is from the West Bank, she must be at least 25 years old, and if the application is made on behalf of the husband, then he must be 35 years old or above. If the couple does not satisfy the age requirement, then the application will be rejected automatically. Moreover, the couple and their families may not hold any criminal and/or security records. The law defines “family” as the parents of the couple, their siblings, their spouses, and any children (either their own or children they might have had from other marriages). If any one of the people mentioned above has such a record, the family unification application will be rejected. If the above stipulation is challenged in a court of law, the applicants must cut ties with any family member that has a criminal or security file and sign a legally binding document. If they ever contact that person again, they lose their “privilege” and face criminal charges themselves.

Take into consideration that this differs greatly from the relatively relaxed criteria applied to Jewish immigrants under the Law of Return. They are welcomed with open arms, whereas the family unification process for Palestinians tends to be complex and lengthy, requiring various permits, security clearances, and documentation, which generally leads to significant delays and rejections.

The mix of social, economic, and human rights concerns and the resulting impact places married couples under constant pressure. Indeed, this and other discriminatory laws and practices not only aim to separate families, they also promote gender imbalance and gender violence and deepen the vulnerability of women and children through the dynamic and imbalance of power they create.

…. and more checkpoints.

There are thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites who don’t meet the requirements to apply for the family unification process, thus forcing them to live outside of Jerusalem. This puts Jerusalem residents at risk of losing their Jerusalem ID cards and has a rolling effect on children who can also lose out on obtaining a Jerusalem ID card.

Those who meet the requirements to apply for the family unification process will have to wait a long time – up to 25 years or more in some cases – to obtain a Jerusalem ID card. The process is difficult and will test a couple’s level of commitment and resilience. For years, spouses from the West Bank or outside of EJ have only been able to obtain a permit that is renewed on a yearly basis. Only recently (June 2021) were spouses that had their family unification approved on an ongoing basis able to obtain a driving permit to drive inside the Green Line, and they can only drive one vehicle, no more! For almost 20 years, spouses from outside EJ were not able to drive, leaving them totally dependent on the other Jerusalem spouse.

The discriminatory nature of family unification policies has been a subject of concern for human rights organizations, including the Society of Saint Yves. These policies violate the right to family life that is enshrined in international human rights standards. Many individuals and organizations have thus asserted that the restrictions imposed on Palestinians seeking to reunite with their families are a form of forcible transfer, collective punishment, and infringement of basic rights.

In advocating for an inclusive family unification process, we must call for the removal of such discriminatory practices and for the establishment of a system that treats all individuals equally, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, race, gender, or color.

  • Holding a BA in international relations from San Francisco State University and a master’s degree in public administration from California State University East Bay, and currently serving as programs and advocacy coordinator at the Society of St. Ives, Samer Daoudi strives to promote democracy, equal rights, social justice, and sustainable development. He is married and has three young children

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