Israel commenced a policy of deportation against leaders and activists within the Palestinian political and social communities immediately following the occupation of 1967. This policy, however, didn’t end in the immediate post-war period, but continued due to the lack of international will to prevent such a practice.
by Rasem Obeidat – Alternative Information Center
Prior to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, deportations were made to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and others, but to Jordan and Lebanon in particular. Following the outbreak of the first intifada, Israel stepped up its deportation of activists and leaders, with a peak in December 1992 during which 418 activists from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were deported to southern Lebanon in response to their military operations. Now, for the first time there was international will to oblige the Israeli government to return the exiles home in the form of UN resolution 799, through which some returned home and others to Israeli prison.
The UN resolution eased Israel’s pace of deportations but following outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, deportations began in earnest. In May 2002, following Operation Defensive Shield, 39 Palestinian militants barricaded themselves in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. They were exiled to the Gaza Strip and to several European countries, ostensibly for three years, although since that date no one has been allowed to return home. Not even Abdullah Awad, who died in exile; the Israeli government did not allow the return of his body to be buried in his hometown.
With intensification of the attack on Jerusalem in general and the al Aqsa mosque in particular following the 2009 formation of a nationalist and extremist religious government led by Netanyahu, deportations took another turn – against the Palestinians of Jerusalem and Israel. Dozens of Palestinians were prohibited to enter the al Aqsa mosque or the city of Jerusalem for varying lengths of time, what to mention those being arrested on the backdrop of settler attacks on al Aqsa. This Israeli policy, systematic and clear, is aimed at breaking the will and spirit of Jerusalemites, to push them to despair and out of the nationalist and militant circles.
These deportations also touched upon Palestinian prisoners held in Israel jails. A number of Palestinian prisoners undertook hunger strikes in protest of their administrative detentions, which contradict international norms and conventions, and were subsequently deported to the Gaza Strip.
Deportation policy also affected elected Palestinian legislative council members from Jerusalem – Mohammed Abu Teir, Mohammed Totah and Ahmed Atton – in addition to the former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Khaled Abu Arafa. Even though the Palestinian legislative council members were duly elected in the January 2006 elections, approved by both the United States and Israel, they lost their Jerusalem residency status.
Israel subsequently stepped up its war against Jerusalem and al Aqsa, believing that the Palestinian division is a weakness and that the collapse of Arab countries into factional, sectarian and ethnic conflicts, what to mention a lack of international capacity to impose a political solution on the Israeli government, render this an opportune time to control al Aqsa mosque.
Yet the crime of burning alive Mohammed Abu Khdeir shifted the landscape in Jerusalem, and Israel saw that Jerusalem – with all of its contradictions and components – is resistant to breakage. Israel entered a period of confusion and loss of control over the situation in the city, particularly following the military operations. On 20 November, Israel’s government and security establishment took a series of actions, laws and decisions they believed would enable them to regain the initiative and control over Jerusalem. These included collective punishment, expulsion and deportation of the families of martyrs, activists and “agitators”.
Additionally, Israel decided to expel three Jerusalem activists: Daud Ghoul, Majed Darwish and Saleh Derbas for a period of five months from 30 November. This demonstrates a clear policy of expulsion, forced displacement and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians of Jerusalem, a policy which can only expand in light of Israel’s war against Jerusalem and Jerusalemites. These policies blatantly infringe upon Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and this infringement requires serious and urgent action by the Palestinian leadership (PLO and PA). An emergency session of the UN Security Council should be called to discuss what Israel is doing in Jerusalem – collective punishment, home demolitions, deportation, expulsion and displacement.
Palestinian leadership should further accelerate its membership application for the International Criminal Court, as well as invite the Human Rights Council to convene and take punitive actions against Israel for such racist crimes and practices. Additionally, it is essential that there be Palestinian, Arab and Jerusalem movements to meet Israel’s criminal policy which targets Jerusalem’s political, national, religious, community and other representatives.