Israeli human rights organizations say that a new Israeli military order, slated to take effect Tuesday morning, could lead to the deportation of tens of thousands Palestinian residents of the West Bank.
The order changes the definition of the term infiltrator, deeming anyone who lacks an Israeli-issued permit to be an infiltrator subject to automatic deportation or a lengthy jail sentence.
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 Israeli NGO HaMoked, Center for the Defense of the Individual, explains that the order is "worded so broadly" it can allow "the [Israeli] military to empty the West Bank of almost all its Palestinian inhabitants."
A coalition of nine human rights organizations, including HaMoked, has issued an urgent call to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, requesting that he cancel the orders. In a letter addressed to Barak and other officials, the NGOs state: "Once the orders go into effect, every Palestinian in the West Bank may find him or herself in danger of being criminally prosecuted and deported or being deported without a process of appeal or review as required by law."
The organizations stated that they believe the army will first target foreign nationals who live with their families in the West Bank and West Bank residents whose registered addresses are in the Gaza Strip -- affecting tens of thousands.
The letter also reminds Barak that the new order comes after Israel's almost decade-long freeze on issuing residency permits to those who live in the West Bank. "This is among the causes for the fact that many people are currently living in the West Bank without status," the organizations write. "These are individuals who have been living in the West Bank for many years and have had families there, yet, the "freeze" policy has suddenly turned them into "illegal aliens" in their homes.
Speaking to Haaretz, the IDF spokesman's office comments:
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.
In other words, settlers will be exempt from the order.
This was not lost on human rights organizations. In their letter to Barak, the NGOs say the order "will be another improper step toward creating demographic changes in the West Bank and entrenching a regime which discriminates between people on the basis of religion and nationality."
The order also seems to be an attempt to further restrict Palestinian freedom of movement. Gazans suffer from an inability to access medical facilities outside the Strip, including those in the West Bank, are often unable to attend studies in the West Bank or abroad, and are prevented from visiting their families in the West Bank.
Despite the severity of the new instructions, HaMoked says, the IDF did not publicize their intent to issue them. That the army kept a tight lid on its plans means that there was no opportunity for public debate or judicial review. In the past, Israeli courts managed to keep the army in check by canceling other such orders.