Everything You Need to Know About Palestinian Identification Cards
By: Ruqyah Sweidan/Arab America Contributing Writer
For generations, Palestinians have struggled in obtaining full, unequivocal recognition of their identity. The scarring events of 1948 have forever changed the course of the name Palestine on any paper. Subsequent conflicts resulted in the partition of the land. Palestinians thus ended up scattered throughout Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the world. While our history will forever bind us together, our documentation will determine the quality of life we lead.
Distinctions of Palestinian ID’s
Thousands of Palestinians who live in Jerusalem hold conditional Israeli residency cards. Thus, they have no official nationality. They also have a special traveling document called the Laissez-Passer, which restricts their movement. On the other hand, Palestinians who live in the north of the Israeli territories hold Israeli citizenship. Outside of Palestine, the statuses of Palestinians differ immensely. They are those who were given full legal residency by the countries to which they fled. Others were given legal residency arrangements that did not afford them equal rights to citizens. Jordan, for instance, gave the Palestinians equal residency rights.
Those who live in the West Bank were granted Jordanian passports that could be renewed every two years. Nevertheless, West Bank residents remain under the legal custody of Israel. Unfortunately, in Lebanon, Egypt, and the Gulf countries, the legal status afforded Palestinians was more unclear. Some were issued working permits, while others were given “All Palestine Government” travel documents. The main reason for this conduct by the neighboring countries was UN General Assembly Resolution 194. The document affirmed that the refugees have an inviolable fundamental right of return.
Impacts of Divisions
Clearly, the right has yet to be fulfilled. Thus, Palestinians continue to live within the parameters of Israeli identity laws. Israel has issued different identity cards as one of their many notorious tools of categorization and exclusion. Palestinians of East Jerusalem hold blue identity cards, which although are similar to those of Israelis’, Palestinians must follow a different set of regulations. Again, they hold no nationality. Next, with the signing of the Oslo Agreements and the formation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Palestinians in the West Bank hold a green Palestinian Identity Card whereas Gazans hold magnetic IDs issued by Israelis. If Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza sought work in Israel, they would both need to hold Israeli magnetic IDs.
West Bank vs Gaza
A West Bank resident can only move around the West Bank and must always be carrying ID. It’s not safe for anyone to cross checkpoints without an ID. A West Bank ID carrier is also allowed to travel within the 1967 borders but must obtain a permit from Israel. The process is excruciatingly difficult, as the Israeli government scrutinizes the age, marital status, and legal record of each individual. In the end, the applicant does not know exactly what the deciding factor in the acceptance or rejection was. They mainly attribute it to luck. Similarly, West Bank ID holders are allowed to cross into Jordan. Yet, they must first travel through Palestinian, Israeli, and Jordanian security checkpoints. The exhausting process can take an entire day.
The Gaza ID is given to anyone born inside Gaza, who is not allowed to exit Gaza without a permit. The ordinary citizens of Gaza, again, rarely obtain such permission. United Nations Refugee and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) members, West Bank residents with first-degree relatives in Gaza, and other organizations are the few who can enter or exit Gaza with only a bit less difficulty.
Politics and Justice
Moreover, only carriers of a 1948 ID have the right to vote in politics and can therefore be elected in the Israeli Knesset. This, of course, will dwindle with the death of the elder generation. Palestinians are also subject to Israel’s judiciary, even though they cannot vote in Israeli elections. The prosecutor who conducts the trial will depend on the ID of the defendant. A carrier of a West Bank ID can be prosecuted by both Israeli and PA courts, depending on the degree and location of the crime.
They can be both civilly and politically prosecuted by the PA or Israel as well as prosecuted for security reasons by Israel. A carrier of a blue ID, whether 1948 or Jerusalem, can be prosecuted politically and civilly by Israel, but not by the PA. Finally, a carrier of a Gaza ID can be prosecuted in Gaza by Hamas, whether civilly or politically. Although Israel cannot legally enter Gaza and detain its people, Gazans make up a good portion of those incarcerated in Israeli prisons.
In short, Palestinians are constantly walking on eggshells within their own homeland. They are forevermore crossing their fingers to bypass one obstacle after another to visit their own families, go to school and get to work. The divisive ID system has also caused Palestinians to feel disenfranchised from each other; i.e the notions that West Bank Palestinians live in a slightly better situation than Gazans, purely by accident of birth. Hence, the Palestinian identity system is a crucial topic that must be addressed in the Palestinian struggle.
Check out the Arab America blog here!