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Conflating Zionism and Judaism leaves Jewish students exposed

‘Israelism’ has replaced traditional Jewish identity, making it difficult for Jewish students to distinguish between divergent political views and attacks on their identities.

By Yakov M. Rabkin

It is no secret that young Jews often find it difficult to separate Zionism from the Jewish identity as it has been taught to them. Their identity is often centered on political support for the State of Israel, and they see advocacy for Israel — a special course in the curriculum of many private Jewish schools — as a key part of being Jewish. Leaving the protective bubble of Jewish day schools for university campuses, therefore, can be traumatic.

Teaching the centrality of Israel, a policy that has been applied in most non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools for decades, has borne fruit. Graduates often feel that criticizing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is a manifestation of anti-Semitism. Those feelings are genuine, and need not be simplified into attempts at conscious manipulation of anti-Semitism for political purposes.

In many synagogues, support for Israel has entered liturgy. The congregants’ enthusiasm is palpable when they chant the blessing for the State of Israel and its armed forces, enthusiasm that seems missing in the traditionally central parts of the communal service such as the silent amida prayer. Many Jews have simply not noticed that their traditional religious and ethnic identity has morphed into a new political one. They support Israel financially, attend concerts by Israeli singers, and some even encourage their children to serve in the Israeli army. The existence of a state boasting a national flag, a powerful army, and a prosperous economy confers pride and a sense of involvement in something bigger than private life.

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This vicarious “Israelism” has replaced the traditional Jewish identity — a shift that has been all the easier given the less demanding nature of the new identity. Since traditional Jewish identity is founded upon obedience to the Torah and to the precepts that it imposes, it impinges both on the private domain, such as food and intimate relations, and public conduct, including strict requirements of ethical behavior. Judaism articulates hundreds of ritual and moral duties. At the same time, Israelism carries with it no particular...

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Jerusalemites will be the ones to pay the price for Trump's decision

Trump’s declaration will not change the fact that two nations live and will continue to live in Jerusalem, and that any solution will need to take into consideration the interests of both peoples.

By Yehudit Oppenheimer

A few hours before word got out that Trump was poised to announce he would move the American embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, I was on the city’s light rail train during rush hour. Crowded alongside me and the other passengers were several young Palestinians speaking among themselves rather loudly in Arabic. Their body language was relaxed and they were focused on their interactions with one another.

The other passengers were likewise absorbed in their own affairs, as relaxed as it is possible to be during the evening rush hour on the light rail. Every Jerusalemite knows that the light rail is the most sensitive seismograph of the state of affairs in Jerusalem. More than 150,000 Israelis and Palestinians use it daily with no barriers between them and relatively lax security measures. It reflects the unspoken status quo of the city’s residents that can be summarized as such: “this train must take us all safely to our destinations.” However, this delicate status quo can be shattered in a second, whenever another politician decides to try to earn political capital on the back of this battered city.

Jerusalemites, both Israelis and Palestinians, woke up the morning after Trump’s announcement and discovered that they had awoken to the same grey, conflicted, and impoverished reality that they have been trying — in spite of all the political spins — to make more tolerable for everyone living here. No golden emanation or bells of the messiah broke forth at dawn that day. Rather, the status quo will be stretched just a bit more, to the point of nearly breaking.

Yet, there is also mutual recognition — and the sober wisdom of experience — that can be summed up by an attitude of “live and let live,” which currently does not exist anywhere else in this country. This wisdom is formed of delicate balances that are embedded in the skin of Jerusalemites without them even being aware of them. These balances are what enable everyday life in the city, much more so than the military forces sent to maintain order every time another cynical politician decides to set the city on fire.

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East Jerusalem activists respond to Trump’s declaration

Palestinian activists from across East Jerusalem react to Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Will it lead to tangible change? Will there be an uprising? What should the Palestinian leadership do?

By Michael Salisbury-Corech, Alma Biblash, and Yael Marom

Donald Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and initiating the move of the American embassy was received with cheers and applause by the Israeli leadership and with threats and calls for protests by the Palestinian leadership. Absent were the voices of the residents of East Jerusalem—hundreds of thousands of people treated as political pawns, for whom no one is willing to take responsibility; no American president or Israeli prime minister asks about their opinions, their wants, or their well-being before making decisions.

Even before the official announcement, the streets of Jerusalem were empty on Wednesday. The cold, the rain, and mainly the warnings from various consulates to their citizens to stay away from the area had left the city desolate. Taxi drivers we spoke with told us that the tourists had disappeared from the streets. Journalists and photographers sent to the city by international media quickly took the tourists’ places—they always arrive when the smell of violence is in the air.

This morning a general strike was declared in East Jerusalem and other Palestinian cities. The shops in the Old City all were closed; the streets, empty. A strike was also declared in the city’s schools. There have been protests across the West Bank as well as Jerusalem. At the time of writing Israeli forces had wounded dozens of Palestinians.

Over the past two days, we asked Palestinian activists from neighborhoods across East Jerusalem about their thoughts on Trump’s announcement. We asked them about their fears, about life in the city and the possible consequences of the announcement. About the expectations they have or don’t have of the Palestinian Authority, and ongoing efforts to organize protests.

We Jerusalemites don’t have weapons, we have the streets’

Mohammed Abu Humus, an activist from the neighborhood of Issawiya, does not understand why Israelis are celebrating. “I don’t know why this announcement is important to Israelis. They already occupy Jerusalem, so what is this announcement going to change? Moreover, can Israeli citizens, not to mention government ministers and members of Knesset, walk freely in East Jerusalem just like on Yafo Street in West Jerusalem? What kind of capital...

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Explained: What Trump's Jerusalem declaration will and won't do

Jerusalem expert, activist, and attorney Daniel Seidemann talks to +972 about the short- and long-term ramifications of Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem, from prospects of violence to the void left behind as Washington disqualifies itself as broker in the Israel-Palestine political process.

By Joshua Leifer

Daniel Seidemann is a leading expert on the politics of Jerusalem, an attorney, and founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, an Israeli NGO that tracks Israeli policies and settlement growth in the city. He served in an informal advisory capacity to the final status negotiations about Jerusalem in 2000-2001, under Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

I met Seidemann in his Jerusalem office Thursday morning to discuss the ramifications of U.S President Donald Trump’s announcement the night before formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital Israel, and declaring his intention to move the American embassy there.

The following has been edited for length.

What is the most common misconception about Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

The most common misconception among Israelis is that it’s good for the Jews. And the fetishism: you have thousands of people in the bible belt of the United States posting their hopes and dreams about moving the embassy. The Jerusalem Municipality is having public dancing to celebrate, emulating November 29, 1947 with the approval of the UN Partition Plan. It’s grotesque, vulgar, and ridiculous.

Having said that, I think most Israelis are pleased: ‘We’ve gotten rid of this anti-Semite, Obama. We have arrived.’ That that is a very misdirected interpretation of what the genuine Israeli national interest is. But Jerusalem is probably one of the most manipulate-able, manipulated subjects around. So, most Israelis are very pleased over an event that will do nothing beneficial to either Israel, Jerusalem, or its residents.

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Can you expand on that?

It has basically led to the collapse of the existing structure which governed political processes between Israelis and Palestinians — that is, the American stewardship of these political processes. Trump didn’t invent that. The United States was never really a fair broker. Having said that, this is now the death certificate. The United States has disqualified itself from any significant role as broker in Israel-Palestine political processes, and...

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Is Sheldon Adelson behind Trump's decision on Jerusalem?

The Jewish-American casino mogul, also a major supporter of Prime Minister Netanyahu, has reportedly grown impatient with Trump’s delays to follow through on his campaign promise to move the American embassy.

By Eli Clifton

President Donald Trump is expected to announce U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday, and possibly his intention to move the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv. The move is a step toward fulfilling his campaign promise, during a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

It’s still uncertain if Trump will go through with this plan, but the pressure on Trump goes deeper than a promise to voters. His biggest campaign contributor, billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, is showing growing impatience with Trump’s slowness in moving the embassy, which would be a provocation to Palestinians who claim Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. For this reason, past presidents have refused to move the embassy on grounds that it would upset potential talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

Before Trump was even sworn in as president, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, showed a remarkable willingness to follow directions from Israel’s far-right prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The transition team appears to have worked at the request of Netanyahu to defeat a UN resolution criticizing Israel’s ongoing settlement construction. Reporting on Friday advanced the story, revealing that Kushner told former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to call members of the Security Council in an effort to stop the vote, a potential violation of the Logan Act, which criminalizes negotiations by unauthorized persons with foreign governments having a dispute with the U.S.

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When the Trump White House hasn’t been quick enough to back Netanyahu or Adelson’s proposals, Adelson, who was reportedly in close contact with Kushner during the campaign, has been quick to express his displeasure.

Adelson, who once accused Palestinians of existing “to destroy Israel,” was reportedly “furious” with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in May for suggesting in a Meet The Press interview that moving the embassy should be contingent on the peace process. Axios reported:

[S]ources say the Las Vegas billionaire doesn’t buy the argument that...

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‘How Israel turned the West Bank into its garbage dump’

A new report from B’Tselem details how Israel has exploited the legal regime in the West Bank, trucking in hazardous waste to be processed in the occupied territory.

By Joshua Leifer

Israel is taking advantage of less stringent environmental regulations in the West Bank in order to conduct much of its waste treatment in the occupied territory, according to a new report by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which it describes as a violation of international law. For example, the report found that an estimated 60 percent of all sewage sludge converted into fertilizer in 2015 was processed at a plant in the northern Jordan Valley. The Israeli government even provides financial incentives that make it more profitable to build waste treatment plants in the West Bank than in Israel proper.

The report, “Made in Israel: Exploiting Palestinian Land for Treatment of Israeli Waste,” identified at least 15 Israeli waste treatment facilities in the West Bank, including six that treat hazardous waste. “The number should be zero,” B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad said.

Read the full report here.

The report focuses on five of those plants: four of which process hazardous waste produced in Israel, “including infectious medical waste, oils and solvents, metals, batteries and electronic industry byproducts,” and one that processes sewage sludge.

Precise information about the number of Israeli waste treatment plants in the West Bank, the amount and the type of waste processed, and the environmental impact is difficult to find. Israeli facilities in the West Bank do not publish their data, B’Tselem researcher Adam Aloni said. The Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection and the army did not respond to B’Tselem’s freedom of information requests on the matter, according to the organization.

Environmental regulations in the occupied West Bank are considerably less stringent than those in Israel. Because it is occupied territory, the West Bank is ruled under Israeli military law. The military order that regulates hazardous waste treatment in the West Bank applies only some Israeli environmental laws to the settlement industrial zones where the waste treatment plants are located, the report found. Air pollution and environmental protection regulations do not apply in the West Bank.

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'I tried not to scream, I was afraid they’d hit me even harder'

An Israeli raid on Al-Aqsa compound earlier this year turned violent when hundreds of Palestinian worshippers were beaten, arrested, and marched barefoot through the streets of Jerusalem. Now two young men describe the brutality they faced that night, and the humiliation they encountered while in custody.

By Yael Marom

This past summer, two weeks after Al-Aqsa compound was closed following a lethal attack by three Palestinian citizens of Israel against Israeli police forces, worshippers were allowed to return to pray in the area.

This came following the eruption of widespread popular protests, after which Israel removed the metal detectors it had erected at the entrance to the compound. At the end of the first day back at Al-Aqsa, on Thursday, July 27, at 10:30 p.m., the police used loudspeakers to call on the worshippers to evacuate. They acquiesced, aside from a group of around 120 men who were at a closed mosque at the edge of the compound and who claim they did not hear the police’s demand.

Large police forces then raided the mosque, violently beating and arresting worshippers. A hundred of them, including teenager boys, were bound and beaten as they were marched barefoot through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. They were then loaded one after another onto a bus that took them to the police station.

A month later, 10 of those worshippers — among them three medics who were inside the mosque that night — filed a complaint with the Police Internal Investigations Department, Israel’s equivalent of an Internal Affairs unit, as was first reported on Local Call. In the complaint, filed by Attorney Noa Levy from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, they described how the police burst into the mosque while firing stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets at the worshippers. Their testimonies included descriptions of brutal violence and humiliation, as well as attacks against the medics and indiscriminate arrests.

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Not much has happened since the complaint was filed. The Internal Investigations Department has yet to take testimony from the complainants, and the case remains on the attorney general’s desk, and it is unclear whether a proper investigation will be undertaken. Meanwhile, Amer Aruri, a field researcher for Israeli anti-occupation...

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Tens of thousands protest government corruption in Tel Aviv

Netanyahu is currently facing three separate corruption probes, and his political allies are promoting legislation to shield him from accountability. (Read Dahlia Scheindlin’s report from the protest.)

By +972 Staff and Haggai Matar

Tens of thousands of Israelis packed into Tel Aviv’s posh Rothschild Boulevard Saturday night to protest government corruption, as well as new legislation that would shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from several active corruption investigations against him.

One recent failed piece of legislation would have granted immunity to the prime minister for corruption charges. The latest version, which would make it illegal to publicize the findings of corruption investigations, is being fast-tracked and could take effect in a matter of weeks.

Read more: Legal bullying in the service of the prime minister
Read more: Netanyahu scandal exposes corruption in the Israeli press

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Anti-corruption activists have been holding weekly protests outside the Israeli attorney general’s home in Petah Tikva for the past year or so. The issue of corruption in the government is a huge issue domestically, even more so as Netanyahu’s allies attempt to shield him from corruption probes.

“We are a light unto the nations in a lot of fields, but not in politics,” retired Israeli general Amiram Levin said at the rally. “In politics we are a stain upon the western world — a stain on Judaism.”

Among many others, protesters chanted calls to send Netanyahu to prison.

Read Dahlia Scheindlin’s report from the protest here.

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Hopes for solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict fall across the Mideast, poll finds

Only in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are majorities still inclined to support a two-state solution, while more than 40 percent of Lebanese, Jordanians, and Palestinians now say they no longer believe any solution is possible. 

By James J. Zogby

Many Arabs appear to have lost faith in finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are majorities still inclined to support a two-state solution, while more than 40 percent of Lebanese, Jordanians, and Palestinians now say they no longer believe any solution is possible.

These are just some of the findings of the most recent Zogby Research Services (ZRS) nine-nation Middle East poll.

There is little confidence in the Trump Administration’s ability to resolve the conflict. Almost two-thirds of Lebanese, Jordanians, Iraqis, and Palestinians give the US Administration a no-confidence vote, while significantly higher percentages of Saudis, Egyptians, and Emiratis share that negative view of Trump’s efforts.

There is also little appetite for the much-discussed proposal to form an Arab-Israeli alliance to fight extremist groups and confront Iran’s regional role. About one-half of Egyptians, Saudis, Emiratis, and Iraqis would support such an alliance, only if “Israel were to end its occupation of Palestinian lands and fulfill the terms of the Arab Peace Initiative (API).” However, it is worth noting that one-half of Jordanians, Saudis, and Emiratis state that they would be opposed to such a partnership even if Israel were to fulfill the terms of the API.

With the occupation now in its 50th year, the outlook of Palestinians has become decidedly gloomy. One-third of Palestinians report that they or their family members have been victims of violence at the hands of the Israeli military or settlers. This has taken a toll. Two-thirds still support the API but, as has been noted, they have lost confidence in efforts to end the conflict. Almost two in five Palestinians now say they are ready for a one-state solution.

More than one-half are not satisfied with the performance of the Palestinian Authority and more than two-thirds are dissatisfied with Hamas. Seventy percent say they want the Palestinian parties to work for unity, but two-thirds have no confidence that such unity will actually be achieved.

High levels of anger directed at Israel and frustration with their own leadership among Palestinians coupled with a lack of confidence in U.S. intentions across the Arab World set...

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'Local Call' wins award for social change

Local Call wins NIS 25,000 for its persistent coverage of the joint feminist struggle between Arab and Jewish women against gender violence.

By +972 Magazine

Hebrew-language site Local Call won the Dror Prize for social change, along with a NIS 25,000 cash prize, on Friday, for spotlighting the joint struggle between Jewish and Arab women against gender violence in Israel.

Spearheaded by Local Call and +972 writer Samah Salaime, along with Local Call’s editors Yael Marom and Orly Noy, the site published a series of articles in 2017 dedicated to the Arab women who often find themselves confronting not only gender violence, but a police force that does little to combat violence against women, a Jewish public that ascribes that violence to “Arab culture,” and a mainstream media that almost entirely ignores them.

In their decision, the committee, headed by former Supreme Court Justice and current president of the Israel Press Council Dalia Dorner, wrote that “Local Call’s persistent coverage of the issue has managed to affect central news outlets in Israel and across the world, and bring the mainstream closer to a joint feminist Jewish-Arab discourse.”

In 2017, Local Call — a project of ‘972-Advancement of Citizen Journalism’ (which also publishes +972 Magazine) Just Vision, and Activestills — exposed the murder of a Bedouin woman in the Negev village of Laqiya, as well as police harassment of a family that organized a protest against the police. It put a spotlight on the proliferation of weapons in all sectors of Israeli society, and the danger it poses to women. Meanwhile, Local Call writers were there to cover demonstrations organized by Arab women in Lod, Jaffa, Majd al-Krum, and other cities.

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Local Call also dedicated much of its coverage to the struggle of Jewish women against gender violence in Jewish-Israeli society, including articles on initiatives to end sexual harassment in Israel’s nightlife scene, the hardships of economic violence, as well as a critical look at the Israeli policies that seek to bring an end to the murders. News articles were accompanied by op-eds that sought to understand the challenges of Jewish-Arab partnership in the struggle against violence against women.

The Dror...

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The unknown history of the UN plan to partition Palestine

Twenty years after the Palestinian leadership declared partition ‘entirely illegal,’ they reversed course and recognized that accepting the division of the homeland could lay the groundwork for an independent state.

By Jerome M. Segal

A few days ago, Israel and its supporters worldwide marked the 70th Anniversary of the 1947 Partition Resolution, which was passed by the UN and called for the division of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish.

Why did the Palestinians say “no” to partition? The answer is simple. They believed that it was unjust, that all of the land was rightfully theirs, and, more to the point, they believed they did not have to accept it. Everyone knew that war was imminent, and the Palestinian could not imagine that 600,000 Jews could withstand the overwhelming power of the Arab armies.

But in their celebrations, the commemorators missed a different anniversary. It occurred, largely unnoticed, two weeks earlier: the 29th anniversary of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, proclaimed by the PLO on November 15, 1988.

Without familiarity with the Palestinian Declaration, however, the fuller story of the partition resolution cannot be understood. In their declaration, the Palestinians reversed their historic position on the partition resolution, as stated in the Palestinian National Covenant adopted in 1964:

Interestingly, the covenant took a position on international law, claiming that partition was “illegal, regardless of the passage of time.” Then, almost to the day, some 41 years after partition was adopted in Flushing Meadows, the Palestinian Declaration of Independence made a quite different assertion. Still believing in the injustice of partition, a re-unified PLO that even included hardliners such as George Habash, reversed its stance on international law; rather than saying that partition was illegal, they acknowledged the legitimacy of the resolution. Noting that it provided for a Jewish state, they went on to invoke it as the basis in international law for a Palestinian state, writing:

In those days, no one was demanding that the PLO revoke its position on the resolution. Indeed, Arafat’s legal advisors had provided him with a quite different draft of a Declaration of Independence — one that did not base the Palestinian state on the partition resolution at all, but solely on the Palestinian right to self-determination. This alternative did not tie the legitimacy of the Palestinian state- to-be to that of Israel. Arafat rejected this earlier draft, and turned to Palestinian national poet, Mahmoud...

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+972 Writer Mya Guarnieri Jaradat's book long-listed for the Wingate Prize

+972 Magazine congratulates writer Mya Guarnieri Jaradat on her book, The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others, being long-listed for the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize, alongside books by Amoz Oz, Joshua Cohen, Linda Grant, Nicole Krauss, and Nir Baram.

The Unchosen is deeply reported look into the lives of asylum seekers and migrant workers in Israel. It was published by Pluto Press in March 2017.

In her review of The Unchosen for +972, Natasha Roth writes:

Read the rest of Natasha Roth’s review of The Unchosen here.

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The insecure residence of East Jerusalem Palestinians

The goal of Israel’s policies in East Jerusalem is to shrink the size of the city’s Palestinian population. Here’s how.

By Yaël Ronen

More than 300,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem today. The vast majority are not citizens of Israel but permanent residents, who may naturalize in accordance with the Citizenship Law. For many Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, their residency status is more important than citizenship. This is because the government is obligated to respect and protect the civil rights of everyone present within its borders, not just its citizens; and its obligation to ensure social and economic rights, like education and social security, hinge on residency, not citizenship. However, because the residency status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem is not secure, they lack security in the rights to which they are entitled.

The status of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem was formally stated in the Awad case in 1989. Mubarak Awad was born in East Jerusalem in 1943, and registered in the city’s population registry as a resident in 1967. In 1970 Awad moved to the United States. In 1987 he tried to return to Jerusalem but was denied entry to Israel by the Interior Ministry, which claimed that his residency had been invalidated. In ruling on Awad’s petition, the Israeli High Court of Justice held that the legal status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem was that of permanent residents. Permanent residency is contingent upon actually living in the country, and individuals who live elsewhere, as Awad did, lose their status as permanent residents.

The treatment of East Jerusalem Palestinians as ordinary permanent residents is problematic both in principle and in practice. In principle, the status of permanent residents presupposes citizenship in another state, to which they may return and which would be obligated to accept them. This poses a problem for stateless individuals, who are not citizens of any country; if they lose their residency status, they remain with no legal status whatsoever. This is precisely the situation of East Jerusalem Palestinians: they are not citizens of any country that could take them in were they to lose their residency.

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There are those who claim that East Jerusalem residents deprived...

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