From lockdown to deportation

April 15, 2010

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) has issued an order that will enable the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, according to an article by Amira Hass in Israel's Haaretz newspaper. According to Hass, when the order comes into effect, "tens of thousands of Palestinians will automatically become criminal offenders liable to be severely punished" with expulsion or indictment on charges that carry a seven-year prison sentence.

Hass believes the order will be used against Palestinian residents of the West Bank whose ID cards bear home addresses in Gaza; those who for various reasons had their residency status revoked by the Israeli government; and the foreign-born spouses of Palestinians.

Manal Khalil is a Palestinian resident of the West Bank who spoke to The Sitch Web site in March when the IDF put the West Bank on lockdown. With the situation intensifying and the threat of mass deportations looming, Adriano Contreras and Brian Lenzo spoke again to Manal about the latest developments in Israel's occupation.

ACCORDING TO Haaretz, the IDF has issued new orders to deport Palestinians in Israeli territory and expel those in the West Bank who it deems to be "infiltrators." What are your thoughts on that?

FIRST, I would just like to point out that those who Israel calls infiltrators are Palestinian citizens. Some of them were born in Gaza, or their parents were, and that's what their Palestinian ID states.

For Israel, this means that they cannot be living in the West Bank and should be deported. So it's not only that Palestinians can't travel between the West Bank and Gaza, but if a Gazan is married to a Palestinian in the West Bank, they can't live there anymore! This implies that many families are going to be affected by this, because they will be forced to leave, or at least one of the parents or kids will--if not imprisoned, then charged with fines.

The second group is Palestinians who were denied their Palestinian IDs for different reasons, which include living outside Palestine for a long while.

An IDF soldier examines a Palestinian woman's papers at the Beit Iba checkpoint outside Nablus in the West Bank
An IDF soldier examines a Palestinian woman's papers at the Beit Iba checkpoint outside Nablus in the West Bank

Many of these people came back to Palestine, depending on getting what's called "lam shamel" [a permission for family reunion/purposes], but were never given approval by Israel to be considered legal Palestinian citizens. They're living in Palestine without having Palestinian IDs, and many of them haven't left the cities they live in for tens of years because if they get stopped at checkpoints, they will be deported.

I know that, as you read, you might find it difficult to believe that it's actually "Israel" who decides and approves who gets a Palestinian ID, and who is considered a "legal" Palestinian citizen, but that's how it is here.

This also includes the citizens of East Jerusalem, whose houses have been separated by the segregation wall, and are outside the wall and no longer considered part of Jerusalem, like el Ezareyye and other Palestinian areas. Many of these people had to rent new houses inside Jerusalem in order to keep their Jerusalem IDs, but still have their own houses on the other side.

So now they'll have to get permission for living in their original houses, which have been separated outside the wall or else will be imprisoned and/or fined for being in areas considered part of the West Bank. As you can see, this will affect so many families and people.

What does Israel have to do with the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza and who lives there or not?! None of them are allowed into areas that are under "Israeli" authority in the first place. But "Israel" is willing to do anything to deny Palestinians their right of citizenship even inside the West Bank.

WHAT DOES this mean for the people who visit the separation wall to protest every week? Do you think there will be a crackdown on dissenters as well as people that the IDF suspects of being "infiltrators"?

AGAIN, LET'S not use the word "infiltrators," because this is what Israel is trying to show to the whole world. These are all Palestinians.

I think that part of this decision is directed against those who protest the wall every week, and who have gained huge media coverage and international support. Note here that all internationals who come to Palestine and go to protest the wall with the Palestinians are given visas by Israel. They don't mention at the border that they're going to visit any Palestinian areas. They're not actually supposed to be in Palestinian areas, and so that might be part of this decision as well.

I still don't think this will stop the protests, because the IDF announced that the areas of protests--such as those in Bil'in and Ni'lin--were military areas, and still people protested. This movement is growing every day, and I don't think people are going to be stopped.

HAVE THERE been protests in your area?

YES. MANY protests have taken place lately, some against the Israeli movements to continue the building of the segregation wall in the Beit Jala area.

Others have been at other parts of the wall and at the major checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, through which only Jerusalem ID holders and Palestinians with permits are allowed, because of Israel denying many Palestinians going to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, and attend prayers there. Many were arrested in this last protest, but were later set free.

THERE HAVE been a number of protests and statements internationally in support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Do you ever hear of them in the West Bank? Do people feel that the BDS movement is progressing?

YES, WE know of most of the protests and statements made in support of the BDS campaign. But I think there should be more concentration on such news, so that they'll gain more popularity and be spread more.

I would like to mention here that the BDS campaign has been growing inside Palestine as well, and campaigns were started by students in the different Palestinian universities. Some of these were part of the "Sixth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week," which took place in many cities around the world and in Palestine.

WHAT DO people think about Obama and the U.S. government's actions with regard to Palestine one year later, compared to what they thought just after he was elected?

THERE ARE two groups of Palestinians: Those who expected that Obama would be different and are very disappointed. The U.S. is simply doing nothing, and is unwilling to stop Israel from doing anything it decides.

Then there are those who knew that Obama wouldn't bring any change--this is the majority--because they know that it's about the American policy and not the president. And that Obama, just like any U.S. president, expressed his concern about Israel's security and his support of it.

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