Engineer's battle to overturn loss of residency highlights plight of thousands
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
"To say that Palestinian Murad Al-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...."