New law could deport thousands of West Bank Palestinians

The new order makes it a criminal act for anyone to live in the West Bank without a permit.

palestinians idf hebron 311 (photo credit: AP)
palestinians idf hebron 311
(photo credit: AP)
New legislation is due to go into effect on Tuesday granting the army authority to deport thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip or Arab countries from which they originally hailed, even if they entered the area legally and have lived there for many years, Israeli human rights organizations warned Sunday.
The new order makes it a criminal act for anyone to live in the West Bank without a permit. Violators can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
In a letter addressed to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the organizations demanded that he revoke two military orders or at least postpone them “as they are unlawful and allow extreme and arbitrary injury to a vast number of people.” The letter was signed by Hamoked – Defense of the Individual, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Bimkom, Planners for Planning Rights, B’Tselem, Gisha, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel, Yesh Din, Adalah, Rabbis for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights.
The key new military order is and amendment to the Order regarding Prevention of Infiltration, which was originally legislated in 1969 to prevent and punish infiltration from Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, all of which were enemy countries at the time.
The amendment, however, is aimed at anyone living in the West Bank who does not have a legal permit or certificate issued either by the West Bank military commander or the Interior Ministry.
According to an attorney for Hamoked, Elad Cahana, the military commander of the West Bank has never issued such permits so that even Palestinians who were born in the West Bank do not have them. Nevertheless, according to the amendment, an infiltrator is defined as “anyone who enters the Area [i.e. the West Bank] illegally after the date established by this law or who is [already] residing in the Area and does not have a permit in accordance with the law.”
Cahana told The Jerusalem Post that based on recent Israeli policy, the main target of the legislation are Palestinians who moved from Gaza to the West Bank, the overwhelming majority of which did so in order to marry.
Until 2000, Cahana said, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza could move back and forth between the areas without restrictions. In the following years, they had to receive permission from military authorities to do so. But in 2007, the authorities began to turn down requests from Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip to move to the West Bank. In many cases, Gazan women could not join their husbands and even in humanitarian cases, the army established narrow criteria for allowing the move.
Several petitions, mostly filed by individual Palestinians from Gaza seeking to move to the West Bank for family reunification or humanitarian reasons, are currently being heard in the High Court of Justice.
The problem is intensified by the fact that over the past 10 years, except for a brief interlude, Israel has refused to grant residential status to non-West Bank natives, from Gaza or foreign countries, who have been living in the West Bank. These Palestinians lack residential status and all the benefits that go with it, such as the right to work, because of Israeli policy. But with the new military law, they also face the prospect of going to prison.
Another group that stands to be hard hit by the new order is immigrantsto the West Bank from Jordan, most of whom moved there to marry.
Cahana said Barak has not yet replied to the organizations’ letter.
The IDF Spokesperson said in response to the report: “The laws in Judeaand Samaria have in the past permitted the expulsion of Palestinianswho are illegally residing in the West Bank.
“The objective of changing the order to prevent infiltrations that willgo into effect on April 13 and was signed a half-a-year-ago and waspublicized is to allow for a legal process on the deportation procedureof Palestinians illegally in the West Bank by a committee which isheaded by a judge and to enable additional oversight of thisprocedure,” the IDF added.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.