A new military order to enable Israel to capture or deport every Palestinian resident in the occupied West Bank who does not have a permit issued by the Israeli authorities came into force on Tuesday 13 April at 5pm.
This means that 60-70,000 Palestinians with papers naming their birthplace as the Gaza Strip who were living or working, with Israeli “permission”, in the West Bank are likely to be criminalised under the new order. The order also criminalises many others who were born in the West Bank or abroad who have lost their residency status for any reason.
Many people have married here and their spouse has a different ID. Their children may also have different IDs if they were born in Gaza, the West Bank or abroad. Consequently families will be split and segregated and any chance of their visiting each other denied. Should anyone not leave within 72 hours of being given the order to go, they could suffer up to seven years in prison and an enormous fine.
It is a deliberate and inhumane provocation of Palestinians who are already humiliated by perpetual checkpoints and restrictions relating to every aspect of their lives. Many of those affected are already considered to be refugees under international law having being driven from their homes and land since the Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948. The repercussions of the latest racist act by the Israeli state are that families will be divided still further and the suffering will be extended to many others. There is also concern that the order may extend to segregate Palestinians within the West Bank, restricting movement to the “town of residency” on Palestinian ID.
Facts on the ground
The military order’s language is deliberately general and ambiguous so that the term “infiltrator” could be applied to both Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, all international citizens and could be left to the judgement of Israeli Defence Forces in the field. The ramifications of this are in effect are that what little was left of the Oslo Accords is dead and with it any prospect of a two state solution.
It is a deliberate act of provocation following the Israeli government giving permission for a further 1,500 homes during peace talks. The Israeli strategy is to create “facts on the ground” regardless of international law. Settlements in the West Bank are illegal, yet Israel continues to build them. There are now nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers living illegally in over 100 colonies in the West Bank. Checkpoints are illegal, yet they continue to harass and detain people unjustly and are even prepared to privatise them. Work camps falling in 'no mans land,' deliberately designed to fall out of all jurisdiction, continue to horribly exploit Palestinian workers in the most appalling two tier conditions. Zionist settlers setting fire to homes to force people out in Hebron or simply kicking families out on the street in Sheik Jerrar, Jerusalem, violates every aspect of humanity. Yet they are fully protected and encouraged by the Israeli state and the British and US governments stay silent.
Many feel the continued ethnic cleansing, mass expulsion of people from their homes, pressure from the settlements and forced evictions from areas for “strategic development” will accelerate greatly. This is all part of a greater plan aimed at phasing out all elements of the Palestinian issue. This includes the rights of return of return of refugees, the rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem, Palestinian sovereignty over borders, the Jordan valley and water resources. It is an attempt to curtail the right to movement and convert all residents to a group of prisoners in a prison away from the eyes of international observers and the world community.
The decision not only debunks any claims by Binyamin Netanyahu’s government that it has any intention of agreeing to a Palestinian state but also flies directly in the face of the international peace talks and quartet. It not only 'legalises' the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians within the 1967 borders but crystalises starkly, now more than ever, that Israel is an apartheid state, ghettoising all within the West Bank and Gaza in a series of cantons and Bantustans.
In an act of defiance Palestinian citizens with Gaza IDs, internationals and residents from across the West Bank held a protest in the centre of Ramallah on Tuesday united under the banner of popular resistance. The protest sent a clear message that Palestinians will continue to resist and confront the decision regardless of the order.
Mustafa Barghouthi, the secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, said “This is like British citizens from London being told that it is now illegal to live in Manchester, being given 72 to hours to leave or face heavy fines and up to seven years in prison.” He went on to call upon the international community to “counter the decision through popular resistance and the imposition of a boycott, sanctions and disinvestment against Israel’s attempt to consecrate the elements of apartheid and liquidate the Palestinian cause”.
Activists from Birmingham Ramallah Twinning Initiative and Walsall Kobar Friendship Association joined hundreds of protesters to express their solidarity.
As international visitors, activists could also fall foul of the new order. A representative from the delegation said, “We have all been shocked and sickened by what we have witnessed on our visit to Palestine and the furtherance of Israel’s racist apartheid state in this latest violation of human rights. This situation would be unimaginable at home. Despite this we have also been inspired by the immense resilience of Palestinians and their daily resistance. Having witnessed this we all felt it was important to join the protest today and when we return home we will organise in our workplace and community to ensure Palestinians are not alone. The British government does not represent its people and we will stand shoulder to shoulder Palestinians in their struggle, until Palestine is free.”
It is clear there is a massive imbalance of forces between the fourth most heavily armed state in the world and the Palestinian people. This balance of forces can only be addressed by workers throughout the world standing shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians. Israel is dependant militarily and financially on the US and Britain.
The stakes are high—if there is no justice, there will be no peace. Therefore we must organise in our workplaces, schools, universities and every aspect of society to create our own “facts on the ground.” Not only to bring pressure to bear on our governments but to provide practical solidarity to Palestinians. For Palestinians to exist is to resist therefore every workplace meeting, every letter written to the thousands of prisoners in Israeli detention, every successful boycott, sanction or disinvestment matters.
Buildings and infrastructure can be rebuilt or destroyed, EU and UN money can come and go, UN resolutions can be passed and ignored, agreements can be made and broken but nothing is more powerful than solidarity. Palestinians must know the whole world is watching and will stand with them.