Sunday, April 11, 2010

Military order targets tens of thousands for deportation

Report: Military order targets tens of 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 up 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 Gazan 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 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.

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