Bassem Eid
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
August 24, 2010 - 12:00am

Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, wrote a timely report last month entitled “Are the Palestinians Building A State?”

His paper discussed the Palestinian Authority under Salam Fayyad and his claims to be building the institutional apparatus necessary for a Palestinian state. The report acknowledged that he is “unmistakably doing so in an authoritarian context.”

In comparison to the nature of Arafat’s authoritarianism, Brown described Fayyad’s as “less venal and probably less capricious. But it is also more stultifying.”

With authoritarianism comes discrimination, and Fayyad’s government is unfortunately no exception.

ASPECTS OF this crippling discrimination are now tangible for many Palestinians, my son included.

Over a month ago, my son, an Israeli ID holder, bought a plot in Jericho on which which he plans to build. He submitted a Land Purchase Permit application to the PA Land Authority in Ramallah. This Purchase Permit is required when Israeli ID holders want to buy land in the West Bank. Without such a permit, the land is not registered on the tabu [the Land Registry]. Within the West Bank, in particular, registered land ownership is needed in the event of land seizure by the Israeli state or settlers.

To complete the Land Purchase Permit application, my son provided the Land Authority with his ID card (which would need to be translated into Arabic), a copy of the Registration Document from the seller and a form listing his name, ID number, date of birth and permanent address in East Jerusalem.

On the same form, he had to provide the name, ID number, date of birth and permanent address in the West Bank of the seller. Having submitted his application, he was told it could take between one to two months (or more) to process and to call back at a later date.

He has dutifully called the Land Authority several times since to inquire about the progress of his application only to be told that they do not know where his application is. They told him it that they distribute the applications to the Security Forces, of which there are seven, and that it could currently be held by any one of them. From the tens of other East Jerusalemites I know who are attempting to do the same as my son, I have heard that the security forces send representatives to the address of the buyer in East Jerusalem and question the neighbors about the buyer’s character and interests. I can only assume that my son’s suitability for receiving a permit is left to the discretion of our neighbors; lucky for us, we have good relations with them.

My son has also been told by the Land Authority that there is no way of knowing how much longer it will take for his application to be processed; between Hebrew-to-Arabic translations, the recovery of longstowed personal records of the buyer and seller, and individual visits to neighbors, the permit does not look imminent.

QUITE APART from the frustration of this bureaucratic process, my son is now sitting on a plot of land on which he is unable to build. If he does not receive the permit, for whatever reason the Land Authority may decide, he will be unable to build on the land at all and, more worryingly, will also be unable to sell it, as he will not be able to provide a Registration Document to any prospective buyer. The alternative is to register ownership in the name of a family member living in the West Bank, for whom the process of registering is so much simpler. But that does not change the fact that while the Palestinian Authority and Abbas are constantly claiming that East Jerusalem should be the capital of the coming Palestinian state, the same PA is dealing with residents of East Jerusalem as though they are foreigners.

My question is this: If Salam Fayyad is promising Jewish settlers allowed to remain in the future Palestinian state can be guaranteed their civil and political rights, can he also guarantee mine?

East Jerusalemites suffer significant discrimination under Israeli authority; the PA should be working to alleviate the effects of such discrimination. It should be reminded of the spirit in which the PLO agreed to Article XVI of the Oslo Accords, which stated that Palestinians who “maintained contact with the Israeli authorities” would not be subjected to “harassment, violence, retribution or prosecution.”

The PA should integrate such an approach within the institutions being developed for the future Palestinian state. The Palestinian Cabinet and the Ministers’ Council should be working diligently towards reducing, if not ending, the constraints of this bureaucratic and discriminatory process, providing all Palestinians the freedom to purchase land in their own country.


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