Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ID Cards for Arabs in East Jerusalem (1967-70)

Yesterday I introduced the Advisor on Arab Affairs, and we looked at one of his files on East Jerusalem. Here's another one, of a very diferent character however. As the front page of the file indicates, its title is bland and uninformative: "ID cards". Could mean all sorts of things, no?

The file contains three distinct types of records, all of which indeed fit under that title. The first are a few letters dealing with the practicalities of handing out Israeli ID cards to the Arabs of East Jerusalem.

On page 2 of the file we've got a handwritten summary of a conversation one of the officials had with Mr. Zarfati fo the Ministry of Interior on November 14th 1967: The ministry continues to hand out ID cards to anyone with a note of participation in either of the two census actions taken since the Six Day War in East Jerusalem. People who were not counted and registered, and thus have no notes, are not granted ID cards at this stage. Apparently, there are thousands of them. Requests for re-unifiation of families should be submitted to Zarfati if they're in Jerusalem, or to the Military Governor if they're elsewhere in the West Bank.

Pages 3-5 are the Arabic original and the Hebrew translation of a letter by the head of the Arab Chamber of Commerce to the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Barakat. Barakat noticed the long lines and interminable hours of waiting required of people trying to pick up their new ID card, and he had all sorts of suggestions for improvements: more clerks, informing people in advance which day they should come to the office to get their ID card, and creating a separate line in a separate section of the building for women, so that they not need to stand among the men (October 30, 1967). As we saw yesterday, the Arabs of East Jerusalem took it for granted that Israeli officials either knew Arabic or would make the effort to translate their incoming mail.

Much of the file contains dozens of letters by individual Arabs explaining how come they came not to have census notes ("my wife was in the hospital that day") and requesting their ID cards. These letters were still being written in 1970. (I didn't scan this section of the file for privacy purposes.)

The part of the file which seems most significant is the attempt by Eli Amir, an official in the office, writing to his boss, the Advisor on Arab Affairs himself, Shmuel Toledano. Toledano later went on to be elected to the Knesset, while his underling, Amir, grew up to be an important novelist and public figure; in 1968, however, it's a safe bet they were both mostly unknown to the general public. On June 12, 1968, exactly a year after the unification of Jerusalem, Amir summarized the status of issuing ID cards:

1. There were two census actions. The first by the Ministry of the Interior in July 1967; the second by the Municipality in September.

2. Most people were registered in the first census, and they've been given ID cards. A small group, comprised mostly of young men, was registered but didn't request their cards. We don't know why. When they come now, almost a year later, they must give a satisfying explanation before cards are issued to them.

So far about 65,000 cards have been issued. We assume about 6,000 people have yet to request them:

a. Families. Estimated at about 5,000 people in complete family units, they were missed in the first census and identified in the second.

b. Individuals. Estimated at about 1,000, they are divided as follows:

b1. Unmarried people of all ages who live with identifed parents. They are given ID cards when they prove they live with their parents.

b2. Uncles, grandparents etc: likewise. As soon as they demonstrate that they live with registered relatives they're issued cards.

b3. Unmarried singles without registered families. They are not issued ID cards at this stage.

b4. Families with only one registered parent. Probably about 250 people, and they're issued cards.

3. The municipality counted 65,857 people. About 65,000 ID cards have already been issued, yet there are still those 6,000. So there seem to be about 71,000 Arabs in East Jerusalem. Where did the last 5,000 come from?

Three possibilities:
a. The census wasn't accurate.

b. People are infiltrating from outside Jerusalem.

c. Both of the above.

4. The East Jerusalem branch of the Ministry of the Interior reports that there continue to be new applicants. We don't know how to explain these ongoing applications - why did people wait a year? How did they live their lives for a year with no papers?

5. Conclusions:
     1. There seem to be significant numbers of infiltrators.
     2. Perhaps we should stop accepting new applications.
     3. The groups of legitimate applicants (above) should be given ID cards.
     4. A committee should be created to decide about the unclear 6,000 people: interior, police, security.
     5. Assuming the committee will identify infiltrators, we need a decision as to what happens to them.
So did Toledano sit down and write a full response to Amir? Apparently not. A month later, on August 9, 1968, Amir wrote again: We need a policy. Legitimate people are hamstrung, and also the press is sniffing around the story (p. 8). Another month passed, and on September 2 Amir wrote again: "I'm sorry for being a nag (nudnick) but we really do need a policy." On September 3, someone inserted a tiny note into the file:
Sima in Toledano's name says the Cabinet will set up a committee.
The file has nothing helpful to add.

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