Any Palestinians or foreigners unable to produce a valid permit risks being deported within 72 hours or being faced with a lengthy seven-year spell in prison, under new orders issues by the IDF. Rights groups say the order is so loosely worded it could become an excuse for driving thousands of Palestinians out of the West Bank. It is all very reminiscent of the pass laws of Apartheid-era South Africa.
Israel's leading human rights groups are trying to stop two new Israeli military orders which will make any resident of the occupied West Bank who does not have an Israeli-issued permit liable for deportation or jail.
The new Order Regarding Prevention of Infiltration and Order Regarding Security Provisions, which comes into force on Tuesday 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 jailed for seven years if they are found without the correct permit. It does 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, which include Ha-Moked, 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 say.
"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 law broadens the definition of an "infiltrator" and could allow Israel to transfer some Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza, or 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 were in those categories.
Israel effectively controls the Palestinian population register and since 2000, apart from once in 2007, the Israeli authorities have frozen applications for renewal of visitor permits for foreign nationals, or applications to grant permanent status in the occupied territories. As a result, many Palestinians live in the West Bank without formal status and are now vulnerable under the new orders. The human rights groups wrote to the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, today 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 the purpose of the orders was "the extradition of those residing illegally in Judea and Samaria," an Israeli term for the West Bank. The orders had been "corrected" in order to "assure judicial oversight of the extradition process," it said.
However, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the orders would make it easy for Israel to imprison or expel Palestinians from the West Bank. "These military orders belong in an apartheid state," he said. "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." more