William Churchwestbankvoices@gmail.comOn 13 April 2010, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Order 1650 (Order regarding Prevention of Infiltration) went into effect.  Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have predicted mass deportation of Palestinians.  The Israeli government’s public relations machine has gone into high gear spinning the order as a beneficial human rights move and they claim only 30 to 60 Palestinians a year may be subject to the order.However, the reason why the controversial order was instituted remains a mystery and clouded in suspicion.  At the heart of the issue is what some Palestinians call the Permit Maze, which fosters insecurity and fear.  This is also coupled with a range of IDF activities from forced home searches where unregistered Palestinians are arrested to a warren of roadside checkpoints that the United Nations has estimated at over 180 that includes 49 metal gates, 200 earth mounds, eight earth walls and trenches and suddenly appearing “flying” checkpoints along the main roads connecting key West Bank towns.IDF Order 1650 highlights the fact that West Bank Palestinians live under daily occupation by a foreign government, and this is an undisputed fact and is probably the only thing that both sides agree upon.  Order 1650 and its companion Order 1649 have two primary thrusts.First, 1650 changes the definition of an infiltrator.  Originally, it only referred to someone who illegally entered the West Bank having first been present in four countries: Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon, and this had historical significant meaning at the time it was first instituted.The new definition is curiously broad. It defines an infiltrator in the following manner: “A person who is present in the Area (Judea and Samaria) and who does not hold a permit as required by law.”  No reason has been given for this change, but the logical explanation is that Israel sees a different threat and wants to be able to act when necessary.It is the second thrust of the dual orders that Israel trumpets as a human rights advancement.  The original order lacked a review process and the Israel High Court of Justice (HCJ) has criticized the original order.  The HCJ recommended an internal judicial oversight mechanism be established as an additional layer of scrutiny over any repatriation decision.  On the surface, this has been accomplished with the recent IDF Order 1649.Israel’s Foreign Ministry, in a response to growing criticism to Order 1650/1649, issued a press release, as reported by Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, which claimed “the amendments were introduced out of concern for Palestinian human rights, and it will improve the current situation rather than worsen it.”Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor wrote, “Pursuant to the recommendations of the High Court, a judicial committee of Jewish and Arab judges will deliberate on each case.”  The problem with this explanation is that it is not what Order 1649 says.  The order does establish a military review process so in theory it meets the HCJ recommendation; however, it is not the even-handed approach as pushed by the Israeli government.First, the “judges” are IDF officers of Major or higher, and they are not civilian or subject to civilian review. Second, no where does the order specify that there will be Arab and Jewish military officers. Third, in most cases, it will not be “judges” but a single judge, who is empowered by the Military Commander.Order 1649 instructs the commander of the IDF to appoint judges who hold at least the rank of Major, to be on the Committee, and that the head of the Committee “shall appoint from among the members of the Committee members who shall preside as a single judge.”  There is not a single mention of the ethnic or religious make-up of the Committee.Even if this was as stated in the Foreign Ministry’s statement, it would not be practical or it would be meaningless.  The only Arabs, except for a very small number of Bedouins, who serve in the IDF, are Druze.  The Druze are closely affiliated with the Israeli government, and there is very little chance of them not siding with current IDF sentiment.The bottom line is that Orders 1649/1650 only meet the HCJ recommendations in form only and definitely not the spirit of the judicial decision.  It is the IDF judging the IDF action. Interestingly enough, even if the Military Commander is over-ruled later, the Commander can refuse to release the prisoner and claim the circumstances of the arrest have changed and re-arrest the Palestinian all over again and start the process from scratch.These judicial points seem minor in face of the larger issue of how many Palestinians this order will effect.  Once again the Foreign Ministry downplays the scope of the deportations. Palmor reports that “there is a minuscule number of individuals to whom the orders are pertinent.”At the center of the disagreement is the order’s definition of an infiltrator as someone who does not hold a permit as required by law.  The Al Mezan Centers for Human rights has condemned the definition.“The vagueness of the definition in the new military orders allows Israel,” Al Mezan writes, “to apply them to every person currently in the West Bank  because every person could need a permit and there is no such permit issued.”  This vagueness is the core fuel behind the fears of mass deportations, but in reality there are tens of thousands of Palestinians who do need a permit or are not residents of the West Bank that this law could directly impact.First, there is an estimated 12,000 Palestinians living in what are called seam zones around the Israeli Security Fence. They are required to have a permit to enter and live in the area.  Another group are the farmers who must have a permit to go to their lands around the wall.  Since there is a clear need for them to have a permit and such a permit exists, this new order would pertain to them if their permits were suddenly withdrawn, denied or no longer issued.  Under these circumstances the IDF could clear the seam zones and deport the residents from the area.A much larger group are Gaza legal residents who live in the West Bank.  Their right to live in the West Bank has been a lingering problem.  There have been efforts to normalize this process and at one point there were as many as 50,000 applications to gain legal status in the West Bank.  There was a freeze on approvals until 2007 by the Israeli government when some 30,000 were approved.  By some counts this leaves 20,000 people without proper residence status in the West Bank and in reality it is nearly impossible to change the residence address.According to the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, this could leave nearly 20,000 Gazans vulnerable in a variety of ways.  The IDF regularly arrest Gazans in the West Bank at numerous internal checkpoints.  Berklanty Azzam is a good example. She was from Gaza but a student living in Bethlehem who was stopped on the Nablus-Bethlehem road, arrested and deported.  She had entered the West Bank legally but her residence was still listed as Gaza.The IDF also regularly enters homes in the West Bank and arrests those whose address on the identification cards is in Gaza.  Another category of vulnerable Gaza residents are prisoners who are deported from the West Bank at the end of their sentence even though they have family and homes in the West Bank.The IDF has already signaled they will use the new order to achieve this end in the case of Ahmad As-Sabah.  He finished his nine-year sentence and was immediately deported to Gaza under Order 1650, despite the fact that he has a family in the West Bank.  Eventually, the deportation was stopped when Gaza borders official refused to accept him, but this is a clear signal of how Order 1650 is being used.Considering that the decades old occupation has criminalized nearly 20 percent of the West Bank population with that percent being either detained or arrested during their life time.  There are nearly 1,000 prisoners from Gaza in IDF jails who will be subject to the order, which is not the “miniscule” number projected by the Foreign Ministry press release.The reality of Order 1650 is that it continues the fear of many people in the West Bank that they will be arrested and they do not risk travel through a checkpoint. They live in a constant state of intimidation.Despite the public relations offensive by the Israeli government, most of the Arab governments in the region have denounced the deportation orders.  Jordan has flatly stated that it will not accept any deported Palestinians.Perhaps the strongest statement has come from South Africa, which is a government that has more than a passing knowledge of what it is like to live under an Apartheid regime.  It called Order 1650 a violation of individual human rights.“South Africa, because of its history, is particularly sensitive to the infringement of human rights and the carrying of permits,” it said, comparing the IDF policies to the old South African Apartheid regime.It is possible that the protests against Orders 1649/1650 have put the Israeli government on notice, but there is a lingering suspicion that it is just a matter of time before the real scope of these military orders will be felt.

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