‘. . . ISRAEL WAS FOUNDED ON A POLICY OF SYSTEMATIC POPULATION TRANSFER, AND IT HAS BEEN COMMITTED TO THIS POLICY EVER SINCE . . .’ – statement by the Palestinian Return Centre

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THE Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London has issued a report on the recent Israeli order of mass expulsion – the Israeli Order regarding Prevention of Infiltration (Amendment No. 2) and the Order regarding Security Provisions (Amendment No. 112) passed on Tuesday, April 26 2010.

Behind the euphemism ‘Prevention of Infiltration’ lies a truth which Israeli officials are trying desperately to conceal. This simple truth has been cardinal throughout Israel’s existence and continues to be so. It is a truth that connects the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948 and the recent military order that would result in the forced expulsion of many thousands of Palestinians. It is the truth that Israel was founded on a policy of systematic population transfer and it has been committed to this policy ever since its inception.

This simple fact is a natural outcome of Israel’s central creed: ‘redemption of the land with as few of the indigenous people as possible’. Since its inception its central strategy has been efficiently carried out through modern methods of population transfer and land appropriation. This explains why, even as rhetoric and politics change, expulsion and dispossession continue through various methods.

Israel’s existence commenced with a total denial of the Palestinians as a people. Since then, over many decades, Israel has developed and refined policies to disperse, imprison and impoverish the Palestinian people, in a relentless effort to destroy them as a nation. It has industrialised Palestinian misery through ever more sophisticated systems of curfews, checkpoints, walls, permits and land grabs. It has transformed the West Bank and Gaza into laboratories for testing the infrastructure of confinement, human resolve and the limits of human despair.

Throughout its history Israel has rarely missed an opportunity to implement the core principle of population transfer, relentlessly pursued through its many wars, creeping colonisation through illegal settlement building, a regime that combines occupation, apartheid and colonisation.

Israel’s entire legal structure in the occupied territories is designed to serve this end. Since 1967, in order to control the occupied Palestinian population, Israel has enacted more than 1,200 military orders and has altered the administrative and legal situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in violation of international humanitarian law. Other parts of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, were annexed by Israel immediately after the 1967 war and colonisation of the occupied city is ongoing in violation of international law. Its military regime has in effect legalised the illegal.

In securing its aspiration and maintaining Jewish privileges over the land, Israel enacted the Law of Return (1950), the Law of Absentee Property (1950), the Law of the State’s Property (1951), the Law of Citizenship (1952), the Status Law (1952), the Israel Lands Administration Law (1960), the Construction and Building Law (1965), and the 2002 ‘temporary’ law banning marriage between Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians of the occupied territories. Consistent with this trend it enacted in April 2010 two further military orders, the Order regarding Prevention of Infiltration (Amendment No. 2) and the Order regarding Security Provisions (Amendment No. 112).

This military order is part of a series of steps implemented by Israel to empty the West Bank of Palestinians, specifically by removing them to Gaza. It will cause tens of thousands of Palestinians to be deported from the occupied West Bank. The orders substantively changed the definition of ‘infiltrator’ and, in effect, apply it to anyone who is present in the West Bank without an Israeli permit.

The orders do not define what Israel considers a valid permit. The vast majority of people now living in the West Bank have never been required to hold any sort of permit to be present in their own land and a demand to do so is outrageous.

There are tens of thousands of people at risk, who pose no security threat whatsoever. The order will turn them into criminals – making it a criminal act for them to be present in their own home and tearing away at the fabric of life in the West Bank.

The order classifies people without the correct Israeli paperwork as ‘infiltrators’. The wording of the order has been amended from the original order drawn up in 1969, which even then was in contravention of international law. The definition of ‘infiltrator’ was then: ‘A person who entered the area knowingly and unlawfully after having been present in the east bank of the Jordan, Syria, Egypt or Lebanon following the effective date (of the order being given).’ Under the new order this is to be changed to: ‘Infiltrator – 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 orders are worded so broadly that they allow the military to empty the West Bank of almost all its Palestinian inhabitants. The document itself does not specify exactly what is meant by ‘a permit’ and leaves Palestinians at the mercy of the Israelis.

Such an indiscriminate proposal is criminally indifferent to the composition of the Palestinian people. Since the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their land in 1948 the vast majority are forced to live as refugees in host countries across the Middle East and many have also been forced to flee to other parts of the world. The nature of Diasporas is such that people are forced to live under various different regimes with many different challenges and the community functions under extreme duress. Such challenges have not stopped Palestinians from returning to their land and living as Palestinians in Palestine.

This indiscriminate assault on the Palestinian family and the Palestinian community contravenes international law and basic humanity. The average Palestinian family has global ties and this military order has been granted to separate Palestinian families. This will have huge implications and the pain, anger and frustration felt may well be vented on the streets.

As many as ten different human rights group condemned these measures including B’Tselem, the leading Israeli group. The groups have raised grave concerns over the long-term impact of the orders which mean tens of thousands of Palestinians can conceivably be thrown out of their homes. The human rights organisations have also mentioned its immediate impact, which will be felt by two distinct groups of Palestinians; those from Gaza and Palestinians and non-Palestinians from other countries married to Palestinians in the West Bank. Suspected ‘infiltrators’ could also be jailed for up to seven years under the new orders. Furthermore, anyone being removed might also have to pay for the cost of their own deportation.

Implicit in the order is Israel’s effort to further fragment the Palestinian cause and hasten Palestinian ‘politicide’. Gaza and the West Bank are a single entity and Israel has no jurisdiction legitimacy to alter that fact. Palestinians in Gaza and Palestinians in the West Bank are all Palestinians exactly as British citizens in London and British citizens in Birmingham are equal, and there is no moral and legal authority to prejudice the rights of one over the other.

Dividing the Palestinian people is a blatant attempt to dissolve the Palestinian cause into manageable units with the intention to prejudice and maybe even scupper final status negotiations.

Israel’s policy of annexation knows no bounds. It continues to behave like a rogue state with wanton disregard for human rights and international law. The international community cannot be surprised at this new development as it is simply another manifestation of its core tenet coursing through its history.

These military orders belong in an apartheid state not in a celebrated democracy. They are products of a world view based on racist assumptions and not the values of human rights and human freedom.

The international community, if it is serious about peace and the rule of law, should not accept this military order. No propaganda should be allowed to mask the fact that this is 21st century legalised mass expulsion. It is a product of a creed that seeks systematic transfer and expulsion of Palestinians from their land; when war is not an option, when open population transfer is internationally intolerable it seeks other, less conspicuous, means.

The West knows that this is occupied territory and that Israel’s occupation contravenes international law every day without any compunction and yet rewards it with a likely membership to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Rewarding Israel when Israel is little short of a pariah state has been a constant theme and is the root cause of the constant failure to bring peace and justice to the region. Peace requires justice and justice is never served by double standards in statement and action.

By The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC)

April 2010