In response to HaMoked’s petition: in a future public health emergency, the state undertakes to consider the unique circumstances of Palestinians undergoing family unification procedures who live in the Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the separation wall
In late March 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, HaMoked sent an urgent letter
to the authorities, following complaints it had received from Palestinians undergoing family unification with Jerusalemites, with whom they live in Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the Separation Wall. The complainants reported that although they have valid permits of stay in Israel, on arriving at the Qalandia and Shu'fat RC checkpoints, they were banned from crossing into the rest of the city.
On April 19, 2020, the Israel Police informed HaMoked
that the ban on passage had been implemented under the closure order issued by the military’s civil administration due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that the exceptions set in the order did not include passage of holders of family-unification stay permits. However, the letter concluded by stating the military had meanwhile revised the instructions to allow, “at the present time”, the passage of “family-unification permit holders through the Jerusalem Envelope crossings”.
But HaMoked continued to receive complaints about passage at Qalandia checkpoint and the checkpoint near Al-Bustan neighborhood. In response to HaMoked’s additional letter, the Israel Police responded on May 6, 2020, that the Closure Order did not exclude the population of stay-permit holders and that they were only allowed passage subject to prior coordination with the civil administration. However, all along, in two separate responses, one from March 29, 2020, the other from May 11, 2020, the civil administration clarified that the issue was entirely outside its jurisdiction, as it concerned movement within the area of Jerusalem, over which the Israel Police and the Jerusalem Envelope Border Police were in charge. Given the inconsistent responses and the absence of a clear policy, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice on May 19, 2020, demanding unrestricted movement to Palestinian holders of stay permits issued pursuant to family unification procedures who live in East Jerusalem neighborhoods lying beyond the separation barrier. This, in accordance with Israel’s obligation to allow these people to maintain a stable family unit in a reasonable manner – which encompasses the right to freedom of movement, the right to life and the right to family life. HaMoked clarified that banning their free movement throughout the city was unwarranted and constituted a wrongful, discriminatory and disproportionate step.
On May 27, 2020, in its response to the petition, the State Attorney’s Office said that the responses HaMoked had received from the authorities were “indeed not uniform”, and explained by “a certain lack of coordination in the instructions”, resulting from “the rapidity with which the instructions on coping with the coronavirus crisis and the movement restrictions… changed”. The response clarified that “at this point in time, given the relaxations in the measures… the entry of the population of family unification-permit holders living in the seam neighborhoods is not prevented, in any event…”.
It was additionally announced that in future, “insofar as the need arises to again limit the passage of various populations from the Area of Samaria and Judea for reasons of public health, consideration will be given to the unique circumstances of holders of family unification permits living in the seam neighborhoods”.
HaMoked will continue to monitor the situation on the ground to ensure all movement restrictions imposed on stay-permit holders have been lifted.