Khaled Abu Arafeh (b. October 3, 1961, in Silwan, Jerusalem) was appointed minister of Jerusalem affairs in 2006. Before getting the chance to take on that role, he and the other elected representatives of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) (under Hamas) were arrested by Israel. After more than a 12-year judicial battle in defense of his right to live in Jerusalem, Abu Arafeh’s residency was revoked. He was held under administrative detention for many years thereafter.
Khaled Abu Arafeh
Abu Arafeh studied at the Arab Institute High School in Abu Dis. He graduated from high school in 1979, with a certificate in the scientific stream. In 1983, he received a BSc in mechanical engineering from the Technology University in Baghdad. He then pursued his master’s degree in Israeli studies from the Regional Studies Institute of Al-Quds University, graduating in 2015.
Upon his return from Baghdad, Abu Arafeh worked as a businessman at his father’s store on Salah al-Din Street in Jerusalem. He was appointed head of maintenance at Sinokrot Global Group, a food company in Ramallah. He worked there from 1987 until 1993. He then worked as a mechanical engineer at an engineering office in East Jerusalem.
After that, he returned to work in free trade at his father’s hardware store until 2005. In 2006, when Hamas won the PLC elections, Abu Arafeh was appointed the first-ever Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs in the newly elected Hamas government and became more politically active and prominent.
Involvement in the Islamic Movement
Coming from a conservative background and having both his father and grandfather tied to the Muslim Brotherhood Brigades, Abu Arafeh was introduced to Islamic ideology from an early age. Upon his return from Iraq in 1983, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 1980s, he had an active role in the Islamic Movement’s activities, particularly at the al-Aqsa Mosque. During the First Intifada, he supervised on behalf of the Islamic Movement activities related to distributing political statements and slogans, as well as raising flags and organizing demonstrations.
Abu Arafeh was also involved in institutional and trade union work. He contributed to establishing the Palestine Scholars Association. Furthermore, he managed to include the Islamic Movement within the various chambers of commerce, as well as in the Engineers Association (in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem). He had an influential role as executive board member in several associations, including the Community Development Institute, the Land Defense Committee in Silwan/Ras al-Amud, the Holy Quran Home Institute in Ras al-Amud, and the Silwan Charitable Society. His involvement came at a heavy price, however, as he was arrested several times by Israel.
Minister of Jerusalem Affairs: Hamas Representative of the PLC
In 2006, Abu Arafeh was elected to the PLC on the Change and Reform list, which was affiliated with Hamas. In March of the same year, when the newly elected Hamas government decided to establish the first-ever Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh appointed him as minister of Jerusalem affairs in the tenth Palestinian government. Noting that it had already been controversial for the Palestinian Authority to work in Jerusalem, Abu Arafeh’s task as a Hamas-affiliated individual proved impossible. Being a Palestinian, on the one hand, and affiliated with Hamas, on the other, he would undergo a long list of personal sanctions and arrests.
Upon his appointment as minister of Jerusalem affairs, Abu Arafeh was abducted, detained, and interrogated by Israel on several occasions. However, this type of penalizing was not new to him. Abu Arafeh had been arrested several times before, starting from the 1980s. In fact, he had spent an entire year in Israeli prisons from 1989 to 1990. He was also arrested in 1994 and held under administrative detention for four months.
In June 2006, the newly appointed minister and three other PLC representatives were arrested in an Israeli military sweep against Hamas. The Israeli Ministry of Interior notified them that unless they resigned from their government posts, their permanent residency would be revoked, and they would be deported from Jerusalem.
As a result, on July 11, 2006, Abu Arafeh was sentenced to prison. He was imprisoned for more than two years. He was released in September 2008.
Red Cross Sit-in and Detention of the Four Men
Abu Arafeh underwent protracted hearings at the Supreme Court in an attempt to appeal the Interior Ministry’s decision to revoke his residency permit and ID. However, the High Court of Justice denied him residency on June 20, 2010. The Israel Security Agency (also called Shabak or Shin Bet) required him and the three other Palestinians who had been elected to the PLC to represent Jerusalem on the Change and Reform list to leave the country by June 30, 2010.
Abu Arafeh took shelter at the Jerusalem headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), where he sought protection for 19 months with two of the other elected officials who also faced the same predicament (one was arrested before they took shelter). He was arrested there on January 23, 2012. The four men were held without charge or trial under administrative detention.
Long Judicial Battle
After two years in jail, Abu Arafeh’s health deteriorated. He was released in January 2014, on condition that he be deported from his native city of Jerusalem. He moved to Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, and then to Ramallah.
Eventually, after more than a decade of litigation, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on September 13, 2017, to revoke Abu Arafeh’s permanent residency. The court then gave a six-month delay, after which it entirely stripped the Hamas-affiliated PLC members’ residency. This order was realized by the Israeli interior minister on March 10, 2018. Abu Arafeh, in this respect, lost not only his ID but also all permits and documentation. He lost his Jerusalem residency, his Jordanian citizenship, and—being from Jerusalem—has been unable to apply for Palestinian citizenship either. As a result of having no formal residency of any sort, this made it nearly impossible for him to move, not only across the borders, but even between West Bank cities.
In November 2020, Abu Arafeh was arrested yet again. He was interrogated at Ofer Prison. The Israeli court extended his detention for an additional 72 hours, and then put him under administrative detention for another four months. During the same month, under the coronavirus pandemic, the Israeli forces expelled about 14 Palestinians from Jerusalem. At the time of writing (February 7, 2021), Abu Arafeh is still in detention.
Perspectives and Publications
Abu Arafeh has often expressed that Palestine is the integral issue in the Arab and Islamic communities. In his view, the solution for the Palestinian cause lies in transforming the Arab reality while sustaining resistance in the face of the Israeli occupation. He sees that major changes in the Arab region will eventually yield positive effects on the Palestinian situation.
On the other hand, he finds that the political concessions, such as the Oslo Accords and others, have curtailed the conditions of Palestinians and belittled their struggle. Those who signed the agreements, in his opinion, are accountable for the devastating consequences that followed. He considers it a historic crime that the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem “were offered to the Israelis on a platter of gold.”1
Meanwhile, the Hamas/Fatah division has been “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause,” to which the remedy is “the attainment of national partnership.”2
With this in mind, Abu Arafeh has continuously championed all forms of resistance, “as condoned by the heavens and in line with the United Nations and Security Council resolutions.” It is Israel, as he sees it, that must bear the responsibility of all types of resistance that Palestinians are obliged to withstand in defense of their rights.
Abu Arafeh has been described as highly tolerant and open-minded. He is married and has two daughters and three sons. He has frequently been invited to academic conferences and discussions on cultural issues. He has also published a few books (all in Arabic), including al-Muqawama al-Filastiniyya li-l-ihtilal al-Isra’ili fi Bayt al-Maqdis, 1987–2015 (Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation in Jerusalem, 1987–2015).
Arnaout, Abdelraouf. “Israel Bans Palestinian Official from Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Andalou Agency, November 4, 2020.
The Electronic Intifada. “Red Cross Slammed for Silence Over Arrest of Palestinian Lawmaker.” October 15, 2011.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRS). “Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territory: Three Palestinians from East Jerusalem Staging Sit-in on ICRC Premises.” September 28, 2010.
Jerusalem Media & Communication Centre. “Two Hamas Lawmakers Indicted in Jerusalem Court.” February 8, 2012.
Kuttab, Daoud. “Meet Khaled Abu Arafeh—Hamas’s Mr. Jerusalem.” Jerusalem Post, March 26, 2006.
Mizrahi, Rahela. “Fighting Expulsion and Western Hypocrisy in Jerusalem.” Electronic Intifada, August 19, 2010.
Palestine Scholars Association in the Diaspora. “Biography of Former Minister—Engineer Khaled Ibrahim Abu Arafeh ‘Abu Muhammad.’” [In Arabic.] July 31, 2010
Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA). “Abu Arafeh, Khaled (1961–).”
Palestinian Information Center. “Extension of Arrest of Former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh.” [In Arabic.]
Palestinian Information Center. “Israeli Intelligence Detains Former Minister Khaled Abu Arafeh.”
Reuters. “Israel Expels Jerusalem Hamas Lawmaker to West Bank.” December 8, 2010.
Samidoun (Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network). “Totah and Abu Arafah Barred from Jerusalem, Sentenced to 30 Months in Israeli Prison.” July 14, 2013.
Samidoun (Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network). “Israeli Supreme Court Rules Stripping of Jerusalem Residency of Imprisoned Palestinian Parliamentarians Was Illegal.” September 13, 2017.
Vision for Political Development—Encyclopedia of the Palestinian Elites. s.v. “Khaled Abu Arafeh.” [In Arabic.] September 2, 2019.
Wikipedia. s.v. “Khaled Abu Arafeh.” [In Arabic.] Last modified March 4, 2021, 11:52.
Wilson, Nigel. “‘Jerusalem Cannot Be Replaced by Any Other City.’” Al Jazeera, October 7, 2017.
Al-Zaytouna Center for Studies & Consultations. Review of Palestinian Resistance against Israeli Occupation in Jerusalem, 1987–2015.