High Court to Decide if Hamas Terrorists Can Be Deported

NIF-funded NGO involved in Hamas terrorists' appeal against their deportation from Israel, in possible precedent-setting case.

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Shimon Cohen and Tova Dvorin,

High Court of Justice (file)
High Court of Justice (file)
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An expanded panel of nine justices will deliver a verdict Tuesday, on an appeal by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), a major grantee of the New Israel Fund, and four senior Hamas members from Jerusalem against the terrorists' deportation from Israel.

If the terrorists' appeal is accepted, this would practically cancel the government's ability to revoke Israeli residency permits of Arabs from eastern Jerusalem, who are involved in terror.

Removal of permanent residency status means the terrorists are stripped them of their Israeli ID cards and their benefits, including social security, national health insurance and freedom of movement throughout the country. 

The petition in question was submitted by ACRI and senior Hamas members Khaled Abu Arafa, Muhammad Abu Tir, Mohammed Totah and Ahmed Atun, all of whom are campaigning against their deportation from Israel.

The petition was filed against the Minister of the Interior. Legal rights group Shurat Hadin has become involved with the case as well, providing support for the Interior Ministry's side and for the decision to deport the terrorists to the Palestinian Authority (PA). 

According to Shurat Hadin, three of the petitioners, including the well-known Abu Tir, were selected in January 2006 to become members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (the parliament of the Palestinian Authority) on behalf of Hamas, and one of them (Khaled Abu Arafa) was appointed "Minister for Jerusalem" in the Hamas government.

The four petitioners were living in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and had permanent residency status. 

In June 2006, the interior minister at the time, Roni Bar-On (Kadima) revoked the permanent residency statuses of the four, after he gave them a chance to resign their positions with Hamas and they refused to do so.

The Interior Minister said that the decision rested on the fact that Hamas is a terror organization which operates against the State of Israel's own existence, and that this fact made it possible to revoke their residency status.

All interior ministers that followed Roni Bar-On, from different parties, rejected ACRI's demands to return Hamas officials their Israeli ID cards.

But on Tuesday, the High Court for Justice will decide on a formal appeal, after asking the current Minister of Interior (Likud MK Gilad Erdan) why he has also chosen not to return the terrorists' residency status. In hearings over the ACRI petition, the justices offered various compromises and in fact "suggested" to the government to restore the senior Hamas terrorists their ID cards. 

Shurat Hadin has argued, however, that the revocation of permanent residency is crucial to preventing more terrorism. 

"The revocation of terrorists' residency status is an elementary step in protecting Israeli citizens and deterring residents of East Jerusalem from militant activities," Shurat Hadin stated. "Experience shows that Israeli identity cards have great value in the eyes of residents of East Jerusalem and revoking them is a severe blow." 

The ruling could set an important precedent for how the State handles future attacks, amid waves of terrorism rocking Jerusalem and Israel at large and after current Interior Minister Gilad Erdan revoked the permanent residency of at least one terrorist last month. 

In November, Erdan revoked the ID card and negated the rights of Mahmoud Nadi, the driver for the suicide bomber responsible for the bombing at the Dolphinarium Disco in Tel Aviv in June 2001. That attack murdered 21 people and wounded over 100 others.

"The State of Israel is currently suffering a wave of terror and incitement," Erdan explained at the time. "[Terrorists] are involved in carrying out attacks on the country's citizens, [and] help them and justify them, and incite others to commit crimes and murders."

He said, "These people are not able to continue to enjoy the status of permanent residents in the country, and I will work very hard to revoke this residency and deny them any economic benefit reaped from this grant."