Israel’s leading human rights groups are mobilizing to halt two new military orders that are to take effect April 13, which will make any resident of the occupied West Bank who does not have an Israeli-issued permit liable for deportation or imprisonment. The new “Order Regarding Prevention of Infiltration” and “Order Regarding Security Provisions” have “severe ramifications,” the rights groups say. Palestinians, and any foreigners living in the West Bank, could be labelled infiltrators and deported within 72 hours or imprisoned for seven years if they are found without the correct permit. But the orders do not define what Israel considers a valid permit.
“The orders…are worded so broadly such as theoretically allowing the military to empty the West Bank of almost all its Palestinian inhabitants,” said the 10 rights groups in a joint statement, including HaMoked, B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights. Until now the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank have not been required to hold a permit just to be present in their homes, the groups note.
“The military will be able to prosecute and deport any Palestinian defined as an infiltrator in stark contradiction to the Geneva conventions,” they said. The orders broaden the definition of an “infiltrator” and could allow Israel to transfer some Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza, to deport foreign passport holders married to West Bank Palestinians, or to deport Israelis or foreigners living in the West Bank. The groups said tens of thousands of Palestinians are in these categories.
The groups also protest that Israeli military authorities did not publicize the orders among the Palestinian population as required, raising concerns about an effort to bypass public debate or judicial review.
Except fopr a brief period in 2007, Israel has since 2000 frozen applications for renewal of visitor permits for foreign nationals, or applications to grant permanent status in the occupied territories. Therefore, many Palestinians live in the West Bank without formal status and are now vulnerable under the new orders. The human rights groups wrote to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, asking him to delay or revoke the orders, which they said were “unlawful and allow extreme and arbitrary injury to a vast number of people.”
The Israeli military said in a statement that the purpose of the orders is “the extradition of those residing illegally in Judea and Samaria.” It further stated that the orders had been “corrected” in order to “assure judicial oversight of the extradition process.”
However, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said: “These military orders belong in an apartheid state. They are an assault on ordinary Palestinians and an affront to the most fundamental principles of human rights. Israel’s endgame is not peace. It is the colonisation of the West Bank.” (The Guardian, HaMoked, April 11)