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IDF Order Will Enable Mass Deportation from West Bank

Amira Hass

Israeli human rights groups say that Palestinians and any foreigners living in the West Bank could be deemed 'infiltrators' and deported within 72 hours or jailed for seven years if they are found without the correct permit under the new orders. (Photograph: Musa Al-Shaer/AFP/Getty Images)

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

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

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

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."

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