Barred from Jerusalem for crime of being Palestinian

Engineer's battle to overturn loss of residency highlights plight of thousands

To say that Palestinian Murad Abu-Khalaf's roots are in Jerusalem is a serious understatement. His family lived in the Baka district of West Jerusalem until they were forced to leave in the war of 1948. They have since lived – and live – in the inner East Jerusalem district of Ras al-Amud. His family doctor father's clinic in East Jerusalem's main street of Salahadin is opposite three shops owned by each of his uncles. One of his brothers, also a doctor, works at one of Jerusalem's two main (Israeli) hospitals, the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre. The city is, in short, his home.

But when the next hearing of a case of fundamental importance to the future of this super-qualified young man takes place in the Jerusalem District Court today, he won't be there. At the age of 33, he has suddenly become, to use his own word, "stateless". His only "crime" has been to spend several years in the US doing an electrical engineering PhD, completing post-doctoral research funded by a division of the US Army, acquiring high-tech work experience with the sole purpose of bettering his future career prospects in the Holy Land, and being a little homesick.

Yet in 2008 the young Dr Abu-Khalaf became a statistic, one of a record 4,577 Palestinian residents to have their Israeli-conferred status as a resident of East Jerusalem revoked in that year and with it the right to live permanently or work in either Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories. It is this revocation which is being challenged in court on his behalf by the Israeli human rights lawyer Leah Tsemel today, and about which he says: "Losing my residency in my country is a source of pain to me... I feel I am being asked to choose between building my career and my homeland."

For Dr Abu-Khalaf has been told his only chance of having the revocation "reconsidered" – and it's far from certain this would succeed – is if he gives up his high-flying job as a software developer, leaves the US and stays here for at least two years – maybe "working in a café", as he puts it. So far Dr Abu- Khalaf has been told he will no longer qualify for an Israeli travel document. He would still be able to visit the country as a tourist, though not work or live in it, and then only if he obtains a US travel document.

If Dr Abu-Khalaf was an Israeli citizen he would be able to take up temporary residency for as long as he liked without losing his rights. But his case exemplifies the fragile status of more than 200,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians, who have Israeli conferred ID, and the right – denied to most West Bank Palestinians – to travel in Israel and access to certain benefits like Israeli health insurance, but not the security of full citizenship. According to Ir Amim, an Israeli NGO campaigning for an "equitable and stable" shared Jerusalem, the sharp increase in residency revocations are part of "an ongoing Israeli policy to reduce the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem".

When Israel unilaterally annexed Arab East Jerusalem after the Six-Day War – an annexation whose legality has never been accepted by most of the international community, including Britain – it offered Palestinian residents citizenship. But the large majority refused, believing that to accept would reinforce Israel's claim on occupied East Jerusalem.

Part of Dr Abu-Khalaf's problem was that he applied successfully for a "green card" purely to maximise his job opportunities, but unwittingly reinforcing Israel's determination to cut off his Jerusalem residency. Dr Abu-Khalaf said when he was job-searching "many potential employers replied to me asking if I held a green card." They told him that "otherwise they could not employ me... I never knew it would cause all this fiasco."

His father, Samir Abu-Khalaf, wanted Murad to return and marry when he had laid the firm basis of a career. "It's injustice to deal with us in this way," he said. "It seems they want Palestinians only to be workers, cleaners." To his son it is illogical that in an age when academic and corporate life is increasingly multinational, he should be penalised for participating in it. The loss of residency "in my home country", he said, is "at best inconsiderate... extremely backward looking, and short-sighted."

An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the law prescribed that East Jerusalem residents were treated like any other people with resident status, losing it if they are away for more seven years or take up residency elsewhere. Asked whether the position of native East Jerusalemites was not different from – say – those from France temporarily living and working in Israel she added: "If you want someone to justify the policy you are asking the wrong person. But it's the law."

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sport LIVEFollow the latest news and scores from today's Premier League as Liverpool make a blistering start against Norwich
VIDEO
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLESir Cliff Richard has used a candid appearance on an Australian talk show to address long-running speculation about his sexuality

Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull

Arsenal strengthened their grip on a top-four finish with a straightforward 3-0 win over Hull City.

Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
arts + ents Samuel L Jackson and Michael Madsen have taken part in a reading of Quentin Tarantino’s axed follow-up to Django Unchained.
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit