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From the field

22.4.2010: New military order defines tens of thousands of Palestinians “infiltrators” who may be expelled and imprisoned


On Tuesday, 13 April 2010, the Order Regarding the Prevention of Infiltration (Amendment No. 2) and the Order Regarding Defense Regulations (Amendment No. 112) came into force. The orders were signed by former OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni in October 2009. Under the orders, any Palestinian who enters the West Bank “unlawfully” and any person who is present there without an Israeli permit is deemed an “infiltrator” and may be deported from the West Bank by Israel. The definitions in the orders are vague: they do not determine, for example, what is considered a valid permit and whether a Palestinian identity card constitutes one.

The new definition of “infiltrator” turns persons whom Israel previously classified as “persons staying illegally” in the West Bank into criminals, who are subject to seven years' imprisonment. Persons able to prove they entered the West Bank lawfully, but remained after their permit expired, are subject to up to three year's imprisonment.

Given Israel's current policy, B'Tselem is concerned that the orders will be used primarily against Palestinians who have lived in the West Bank for many years and have established their lives there, but whose official address remains in the Gaza Strip because Israel refuses to change their address in the population registry. It is also feared that Israel will use the orders to deport spouses of residents of the West Bank when the spouse holds a foreign passport and Israel refuses to grant their application for family unification. It is estimated there are tens of thousands of persons in these categories.

Ten human rights organizations, B'Tselem among them, wrote to the Defense Minister demanding that he postpone the entry into force of the two orders pending a serious and comprehensive discussion on the matter.

Following the publication of the order in the media, military officials announced that, since the beginning this year, only five Palestinians had been deported from the West Bank to Gaza, and that the orders do not significantly change the existing situation. The officials stated that the only change is the establishment of a military appeals committee, which will provide greater protection to Palestinians subject to deportation. Ha'aretz reported that the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories informed the chairman of the Palestinian Authority that Israel does not intend to harm Gazan residents living in the West Bank.

Contrary to Israel's declarations, however, the orders make it easier for Israel to carry out the deportation. In the past year, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice in a number of cases in which the army ordered that Palestinians in the West Bank who were registered in the population registry as Gazan residents be deported to Gaza. In some of the cases, the justices sharply criticized the deportation and the army was compelled to cancel the orders. According to HaMoked, the new order is intended to serve as a ”High Court bypass” mechanism, facilitating deportation in similar cases in the future, in that the army must bring candidates for deportation before the committee within eight days, while they can be deported without judicial review within 72 hours. At the same time, the candidates for deportation are not allowed to appeal to the committee, or to any court, during these eight days.

Every person has the right not to be removed from his home and from his place of residence. The Fourth Geneva Convention imposes an absolute prohibition on the forced removal of civilians from their homes, the violation of which is deemed an especially grave breach of the Convention.