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What does it mean to be a Jerusalemite?

While Israel's Supreme Court recognized Palestinians' continued "resident-native" affiliation to Jerusalem after extended absences, Israel Prize judges gave this year’s award to a person who has dedicated his life to replacing Palestinian residents with Jews.
Visitors enter Shiloah Pool, part of an archaeological site known as a the City of David, still an active dig and also a tourist attraction, situated close to Silwan, a Palestinian neighbourhood next to Jerusalem's Old City June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad - RTX2J0X4
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Two contradictory, almost polar opposite events recently transpired in Jerusalem. The first was a unanimous ruling March 14 by three Supreme Court justices — Chief Justice Miriam Naor, Menachem Mazuz and Uzi Vogelman — determining that the right to settle in Jerusalem is not reserved only for Russians, Americans or New Zealanders who have never visited Israel but whose grandmothers were Jewish. Thus, the justices ordered that the state grant the same right to Palestinians born in Jerusalem who have lived for extended periods in Moscow, New York or Auckland. The court defined the status of such Palestinians as “resident-native” and determined that their affinity to their homeland obliges the Interior Ministry to grant them permanent residency upon their return.

This precedent-setting ruling resulted from an appeal filed by Akhram Abdel Haqq, a Palestinian born in East Jerusalem in 1959, eight years before it was unilaterally annexed to Israel, in 1967. Abdel Haqq was 12 when his parents immigrated to the United States, and after he returned to Jerusalem in 1989, the Interior Ministry refused to reinstate his residency. Included among the some 14,000 Palestinians whose residency has not been restored since 1967 are those who moved from the city to the West Bank for family reasons and students who returned to their city after completing studies abroad. Their right to residency expired, Israel claimed, because the center of their lives had moved elsewhere for seven years or more. The claim that their parents and grandparents had been born in Jerusalem did not stand them in good stead in light of the semi-official Israeli policy of “Judaizing” Jerusalem, or in less refined, blunter terms, weeding out non-Jewish residents to make way for a Jewish majority. The Abdel Haqq decision could be welcome news for thousands of other Jerusalem-born Palestinians whose residency requests were rejected.

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