Almost quarter of a million Palestinians -- 100,000 residents of Gaza and 140,000 residents of the West Bank -- have been stripped of their residency rights between 1967 and 1994, an Israeli daily reported on Tuesday.
Accordingly, around 240,000 Palestinians who left the territories were barred from ever returning, many of whom were students or young professionals, working abroad to support their families, Israel’s daily Haaretz reported.
The data on Gaza residency rights was released by the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) this week, in response to a freedom-of-information request filed by Hamoked (The Center for the Defense of the Individual), the report said.
According to COGAT data, 44,730 Gazans lost their residency rights because they were absent from the territory for seven or more years. 54,730 others lost their residency because they did not respond to the 1981 census; while the remaining 7,249 lost theirs because they didn’t respond to the 1988 census.
About 15,000 of those deprived of residency are now aged 90 or older, according to Haaretz.
Had Israel not followed a policy of revoking residency rights from anyone who left the area for an extended period of time, Gaza’s population today would have been more than 10 percent higher than its current growth rate of 3.3 percent a year.
As for the West Bank resident who went abroad, they were required to leave their identity card at the border crossing. Those Palestinians received a special permit valid for three years, according to Haaretz. The permit could be renewed three times, each time for one year. But any Palestinian who failed to return within six months after his permit expired would be stripped of his residency with no prior notice.
The West Bank’s population growth rate currently stands at 3 percent. It would have been much higher if Israel did not apply such procedure along the 27 years between its conquest of the territories in 1967 and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994.
Hamoked said that stripping tens of thousands of Palestinians of their residency -- and thus effectively exiling them permanently from their homeland -- is a grave violation of international law.
The report published by Haaretz pointed out that a similar procedure is currently being applied by the Israeli authorities to East Jerusalem residents. A Palestinian who lives abroad for seven years or more loses his right to return to the city.
However, COGAT said there were various ways for Palestinians to get their residency restored and some of those Gazans who lost their residency rights later regained them.
Since many of those who lost their residency rights in both Gaza and the West Bank were students or young professionals at that time, their descendants today might exceed hundreds of thousands. But several thousands who were affiliated with the Palestinian Authority were granted the right to return in 1994; still other Palestinians have since been allowed to return for a variety of reasons.
Yet, the number of Palestinians still listed today as having lost their residency rights is about 130,000.
More than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number 4.7 million with their descendants -- fled or were driven out of their homes in the Arab-Israeli war which accompanied the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948.
Around 160,000 Palestinians stayed behind and are now known as Arab Israelis. They number about 1.3 million people, or some 20 percent of the population.
(Written by Abeer Tayel)