Report: Military order targets thousands for deportation
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Two signed military orders awaiting implementation give military officials broad and almost total control over the deportation of Palestinians whose residency status in the West Bank is called into question.
Specifically, the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual alleged that the order will be used to deport residents of Gaza from the West Bank, and will likely also target foreign passport holders and non-Palestinian spouses of West Bank residents.
The center said tens of thousands of Palestinians and West Bank residents could be caught in the net of the orders, which Israeli journalist Amira Hass said in a Sunday report were "expected to clamp down on protests in the West Bank."
The new orders, by substantively changing the definition of an “infiltrator,” HaMoked said in a statement "effectively apply [the term] to anyone who is present in the West Bank without an Israeli permit," noting "the orders do not define what Israel considers a valid permit," and that "the vast majority of people now living in the West Bank have never been required to hold any sort of permit to be present therein."
The amendments apply to a 1969 order issued following the start of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. The order was first amended in 1980, when an infiltrator was defined as "a person who entered the Area knowingly and unlawfully having been present in the east bank of the Jordan, Syria, Egypt or Lebanon following the effective date."
In the latest order, an "infiltrator" is defined as: "A person who entered the Area unlawfully following the effective date, or a person who is present in the Area and does not lawfully hold a permit."
The presumption that the orders will be used to clamp-down on Palestinians participating in popular protests against land confiscation and the construction of the separation wall follows a series of failed measures by the Israeli army to stifle the increasingly broadly supported actions.
In March, Israeli forces entered the villages of Ni'lin and Bi'lin to post orders declaring the zone typically used as a protest site a "closed military zone" from that day until August. Once an area is declared a closed zone, Israeli forces say they have the power to make arrests. Protest sights are often declared closed zones as demonstrators gather.
The pending orders also recall the case of Bethlehem University student Berlanty Azzam, a Gaza Christian only one semester away from graduation. The business administration student was pulled from a shared taxi on the Ramallah-Bethlehem road because her ID card had her registered as a Gaza resident. Berlanty had left Gaza on a legal permit three years before and traveled to the West Bank to study.
Without appearing before a judge, Berlanty was bound, blindfolded and driven directly to the northern Erez crossing at Gaza and told to re-enter the Strip. Human rights lawyers challenged the deportation, saying Israel had no right to determine where Palestinians lived, particularly when they were moving from one Palestinian-controlled area to another.
The second amendment, the HaMoked statement said, will allow the Israeli military to "prosecute and deport any Palestinian defined as [an] infiltrator in stark contradiction to the Geneva Convention," and noted that "there is a possibility that some of the deportees will not be given an opportunity for a hearing before being removed from the West Bank."
According to the orders, the deportation may be executed within 72 hours whereas it is possible to delay bringing a person before the appeals committee for up to eight days from issuance of a deportation order.
IDF order will enable mass deportation from West Bank
By Amira Hass
A new military order aimed at preventing infiltration will come into force this week, enabling the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years.
When the order comes into effect, tens of thousands of Palestinians will automatically become criminal offenders liable to be severely punished.
Given the security authorities' actions over the past decade, the first Palestinians likely to be targeted under the new rules will be those whose ID cards bear home addresses in the Gaza Strip - people born in Gaza and their West Bank-born children - or those born in the West Bank or abroad who for various reasons lost their residency status. Also likely to be targeted are foreign-born spouses of Palestinians.
Until now, Israeli civil courts have occasionally prevented the expulsion of these three groups from the West Bank. The new order, however, puts them under the sole jurisdiction of Israeli military courts.
The new order defines anyone who enters the West Bank illegally as an infiltrator, as well as "a person who is present in the area and does not lawfully hold a permit." The order takes the original 1969 definition of infiltrator to the extreme, as the term originally applied only to those illegally staying in Israel after having passed through countries then classified as enemy states - Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
The order's language is both general and ambiguous, stipulating that the term infiltrator will also be applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties (such as the United States) and Israeli citizens, whether Arab or Jewish. All this depends on the judgment of Israel Defense Forces commanders in the field.
The Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual was the first Israeli human rights to issue warnings against the order, signed six months ago by then-commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria Area Gadi Shamni.
Two weeks ago, Hamoked director Dalia Kerstein sent GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi a request to delay the order, given "the dramatic change it causes in relation to the human rights of a tremendous number of people."
According to the provisions, "a person is presumed to be an infiltrator if he is present in the area without a document or permit which attest to his lawful presence in the area without reasonable justification." Such documentation, it says, must be "issued by the commander of IDF forces in the Judea and Samaria area or someone acting on his behalf."
The instructions, however, are unclear over whether the permits referred to are those currently in force, or also refer to new permits that military commanders might issue in the future. The provision are also unclear about the status of bearers of West Bank residency cards, and disregards the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the agreements Israel signed with it and the PLO.
The order stipulates that if a commander discovers that an infiltrator has recently entered a given area, he "may order his deportation before 72 hours elapse from the time he is served the written deportation order, provided the infiltrator is deported to the country or area from whence he infiltrated."
The order also allows for criminal proceedings against suspected infiltrators that could produce sentences of up to seven years. Individuals able to prove that they entered the West Bank legally but without permission to remain there will also be tried, on charges carrying a maximum sentence of three years. (According to current Israeli law, illegal residents typically receive one-year sentences.)
The new provision also allow the IDF commander in the area to require that the infiltrator pay for the cost of his own detention, custody and expulsion, up to a total of NIS 7,500.
The fear that Palestinians with Gaza addresses will be the first to be targeted by this order is based on measures that Israel has taken in recent years to curtail their right to live, work, study or even visit the West Bank. These measures violated the Oslo Accords.
According to a decision by the West Bank commander that was not backed by military legislation, since 2007, Palestinians with Gaza addresses must request a permit to stay in the West Bank. Since 2000, they have been defined as illegal sojourners if they have Gaza addresses, as if they were citizens of a foreign state. Many of them have been deported to Gaza, including those born in the West Bank.
Currently, Palestinians need special permits to enter areas near the separation fence, even if their homes are there, and Palestinians have long been barred from the Jordan Valley without special authorization. Until 2009, East Jerusalemites needed permission to enter Area A, territory under full PA control.
Another group expected to be particularly harmed by the new rules are Palestinians who moved to the West Bank under family reunification provisions, which Israel stopped granting for several years.
In 2007, amid a number of Hamoked petitions and as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, tens of thousands of people received Palestinian residency cards. The PA distributed the cards, but Israel had exclusive control over who could receive them. Thousands of Palestinians, however, remained classified as "illegal sojourners," including many who are not citizens of any other country.
The new order is the latest step by the Israeli government in recent years to require permits that limit the freedom of movement and residency previously conferred by Palestinian ID cards. The new regulations are particularly sweeping, allowing for criminal measures and the mass expulsion of people from their homes.
The IDF Spokesman's Office said in response, "The amendments to the order on preventing infiltration, signed by GOC Central Command, were issued as part of a series of manifests, orders and appointments in Judea and Samaria, in Hebrew and Arabic as required, and will be posted in the offices of the Civil Administration and military courts' defense attorneys in Judea and Samaria. The IDF is ready to implement the order, which is not intended to apply to Israelis, but to illegal sojourners in Judea and Samaria."
HaMoked: "Press Release – A New Military Order Defines All Residents of the West Bank As “Infiltrators” Who May Be Jailed and Deported" (11.4.2010)
PCHR: "PCHR Condemn New Israeli Military Orders Aimed at Expelling West Bank Palestinians"
Monday, 12 April 2010 11:00
BBC: Fears military order may allow West Bank deportations
Monday, 12 April 2010 15:17 UK