Israel revokes the work permit of hundreds of Palestinians who happen to share the same name

By Middle East Affairs

Israel is revoking the work permits of Palestinians who hold the same names as believed terrorists.

Bashar Jamal is a Palestinian who after working as a gardener for 20 years in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion is now unable to continue with his duties because his work permit has been revoked for some time now.

He enjoyed his job, and liked his customers, they liked him too and still call him asking when he will return, but the answer is unclear.

From his home in the outskirts of the West Bank town of Beit Surik he can look out in his old work area just a few kilometers away, that he is now unable to visit.

His life changed when three Israeli were killed in a terror attack in Har Adar last September, that is when Israel’s Civil Administration contacted him and notified him that his work permit was revoked.

The attack that killed two security guards and a community security coordinator was done by a man named Nimr Mahmoud Ahmed Jamal.

This came at the time that Israel announced that it would revoke the work permits for “the terrorist’s entire family.” It doesn’t matter that Bashar Jamal has never taken part in the Palestinian conflict with Israel, to this claim Israel has never offered evidence saying otherwise.

He has never even met, let alone be related to the man that carried out the attack.

But still, Jamal is unable to get his old job back.

Bashar Jamal. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi

The only thing they have in common is that they live in the same village and share the same common last name as many in their village do.

There are 159 Jamal’s in Beit Surik, all of them have had their work permits revoked following the attack, not one of them has been told for how long.

This is something that has happened in other Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

In Yatta, 660 residents sharing the same last name, Abu Adham or the alternative English spelling of Abu Aram lost their work permits after a man with the same name was involved in a stabbing.

One hundred people sharing the name of Kabha in Barta’a al-Sharqiya lost their work permits after a car ramming incident.

The Civil Administration has only addressed its actions as canceling the work permits of a “clan” in order to keep Israel safe.

Without being able to work Bashar Jamal has been forced to take out loan after loan, uncertain as to whether he will be able to repay them, but for the time being it is the only way that he can support himself and buy necessities such as food.

There is no work for him in his village, Jamal said, “I’m 50 now,” he says. “No one will hire me at age 50 here. Everyone knows that I worked in Israel and that I did something else (gardening, not construction, the mainstay of employment for many Palestinians). It’s a different line of work to get into now.”

He has worked in Israel since 1989, in that time he has learned Hebrew.

Since losing his job, Jamal’s family and his seven children have been severely affected.

Two out of his seven children are in university, but he can no longer afford their university, Jamal said, “It’s 13,000 shekels ($3,650) a year for each, before travel, food, test preparation and things like that,” he says. “I buy on credit from the supermarket. I take from my uncles, anyone who can give until I can return to work and sort things out. I can’t pay my children’s school fees.”

The 159 other Jamal’s who lost their work permits are in similar situations, Mahdi Jamal 33 is one of them.

He said in speaking to Haaretz, “The army told us there was someone in the village who did something at Har Adar and told us, the punishment is on the family. We’re not blood relatives, it’s only the same last name. There are people here with children, children in university, and they’re being punished because of something that someone else did — they put [the name] into the computer and suspended everyone’s permits.”

Mahdi Jamal worked in construction in Har Adar before his work permit was revoked, now he says he doesn’t know who to turn to try to solve this problem.

“We can tell [the army] and they say — what do we care, it has nothing to do with us,” said Jamal.

With a wedding coming up, his economic situation has made everything that much more difficult, his brothers are trying to help him but they are in a similar situation.

Jamal said, “In my home, now I don’t have anything,” he says. “We haven’t made any wedding plans, but I can’t tell people that. I want to return to work but there’s no work. Everyone here always worked in Israel. We want peace, we don’t want trouble.”

B’Tselem executive director, Hagai El-Ad is aware of the situation facing many Palestinians and calls it, “bureaucratic violence”.

Punishing an individual especially when the name is a common one is a bureaucratic violence said El-Ad.

“Depriving hundreds of people who committed no crime and have no connection to the perpetrators of the attacks of their livelihoods exemplifies the capriciousness with which Israel manages the lives of its Palestinian subjects, including those who are lucky enough to be able to support themselves and their families,” El-Ad says.

Jobless Palestinians protest in Yatta, in the West Bank, March 2018. Alex Levac

Sabri Abu Adham, a resident of Yatta said, “There was some boy whose father didn’t want to marry him off, so he went and hurt people and now thousands of people have to stay at home because his name was Abu Adham, but I’m not connected to that boy. There are five or six clans named Abu Adham they have nothing to do with that terror attack.”

Since losing his job, Adham who supports his 15 children barely makes 80 shekels a day pouring concrete in his village, this is not nearly enough to feed his entire family.

When he went to the Civil Administration to ask for him, they told him that his work permit was revoked for his entire lifetime.

Adham said, “They told me it’s for 100 years,” he says. “You go to the Civil Administration and they say, this isn’t from us, it’s from above us. I don’t know where it’s from.”


In Barta’a ash-Sharqiyya, near Jenin in the northern West Bank, the situation is the same, only the name here is Kabha.

Ala Ratab Abed Al-Latif Kabha, a 27-year-old rammed a car into Israeli soldiers killing two and injuring two more, that was in September, shortly after, 98 men with the same last name lost their work permits.

Zakaria Kabha, a 37-year-old electrician with a wife and three children was one of the 98 men to lose his work permit. He also supports his mother and his three siblings, one of who has Down’s Syndrome.

He has been the family’s sole provider since his father died.

On March 18, he and four other family members lost their jobs, until then Kabha had traveled from the West Bank to Hadera every day for work.

He said, “I can’t support my family anymore. It’s collective punishment of innocent people. Once every couple of days I call the company that employed me to ask if the ban has been lifted. A whole month we’ve been stuck at home without income. We have no other way to support the family.”

The Civil Administration has responded that “Regarding the Abu Adham family, on August 2, 2017, Ismail Abu Adham from Yatta stabbed a man in Yavne, and the permits given to the clan he belonged to were instantly suspended.”

Regarding the Kabha family, their statement read, “As for the Jamal family, on September 26, 2017, Nimar Mahmoud Ahmed Jamal shot and murdered two civilian security guards and a border police officer at Har Adar, and badly injured the army security officer of the settlement. Permits granted to the clan he belonged to were therefore immediately suspended. Regarding the Kabha family, on March 16, 2018, Ala Ratab Abed Al-Latif Kabha carried out a terror attack by car by the town of Ya’bad in which two soldiers were murdered and two others were badly hurt.”

The Administration also wished to remind Palestinians that Israel is an independent nation and that entry inside its borders is not a given right.

It writes “Examination of entry permits to Israel is based on broad discretion and criteria. Accordingly, an emphasis is placed on deterring the family of the terrorist.”

They said that Israel would carry out such a policy depending on its assessment of its security, their statement reads,, “Any resident can contact the regional Coordination and Liaison Administration to have the ban lifted. Every request will be examined individually, in compliance with procedure.”

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