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Begin Was Right, Deportation Is A Nazi Policy

By Daoud Kuttab

20 April, 2010

There is a reason for the fact, that in modern times laws are written by representatives of the people to whom they are applied: Governments and parliaments come and go, but laws often outlive them.

Except in dictatorships, laws are not written by the executives who enforce them or the judges who interpret them. Even some totalitarian rulers create a symbolic legislature, made up of people's representatives to write new laws into existance. Laws were not mean to be written by foreign rulers, and certainly not by foreign military rulers. Well, everywhere except in the occupied Palestinian territories.

When the Israeli army occupied Palestinian lands in 1967, the Israeli military commander issued an order giving himself the sole right to legislate for the people under his army's control. Military order number one combined executive, legislative and judicial powers regarding Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Since then, thousands of laws have been issued by successive military commanders who single-handedly amend existing laws or issue totally ones without discussion, debate or even a public announcement.

The orders are issued in Hebrew and the Palestinian public is by and large unaware of their existence.

As a responce, the Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq began, in the 1980s, the hard work or translating and publishing these laws. One of the co-founders of the human rights organization, Raja Shehadeh, wrote an entire book on the process of Israeli control of the West Bank. The mechanisms of occupation, he wrote, turn around the concept of the "rule of law" to "rule by law."

This long introduction is meant to highlight the Kafkaesque legal structure that Palestinians under occupation are subject to. They have an elected Palestinian parliament whose laws are argued by civilians coming from the communities where the laws are to be implemented. Local press and electronic media cover the debates, often publish draft laws and announce the agreement on these laws once voted on. Once signed by the Palestinian president, the laws are published in the Official Gazette and have the power of laws that local Palestinian judges can enforce using local lightly armed police, on the condition that they only serve the court decisions within areas designated as "A" under the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, aproximately 17% of the area of the West Bank.

At the same time, the signature of a single military commander can make a law that is enforceable in 100% of Palestinian areas with the help of a powerful military army and its bands of intelligence officers and local collaborators. Such was the case on October 13, 2009, when Major General Gadi Shamni, commander of the Israeli army in the West Bank, chanegd the legal definition of an "infiltrator" to anyone in the West Bank without a special Israeli-issued permit, and defined the punishment for those deemed infiltrators as seven years in jail, 3,500 shekels (1,000 US dollars) and/or deportation.

To be fair, order number 1650 of 13 October gave Palestinians six months to get their act in order. However, few Palestinians were even aware of this military order until an Israeli reporter quoted Israeli human rights organisations saying that the six months were to expire on 13 April, putting tens of thousands of Palestinians in danger of imprisonment, fine and deportation.

Deportations are not new, of course, even though the Israelis have not been using them directly.

The Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem says that Palestinians from the occupied territories are deported pursuant to the authority of regulation 112 of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945. This regulation authorises the regional commander "to make an order under his hand, requiring any person to leave and remain out of Palestine."

The emergency regulations were called "Nazi" by then commander if the pre-Israel Irgun Zvati Leumi (National Military Organization) which took arms against the British mandate, Menachem Begin. The man was later prime minister of Israel.

The British regulation was rescinded within Israel in 1979, but remains in force in the occupied Palestinian territories. According to B'Tselem, from the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967 to 1992 when Israel ceased deportations ahead of the Oslo Peace talks, 1,522 Palestinians were deported from the occupied Palestinian territories. None of the deportees had been charged with a criminal offence, nor tried and convicted.

While deportation stopped in 1992, a much more sinister plan was implemented in the years after: that of population transfer, whereby Palestinians are "encouraged" to leave Israel and the occupied Palestinian areas and not return. This has been accomplished by the use of various administrative orders, such as the latest number 1650. Ironically, this infiltration order does not apply to Jewish settlers who are indeed infiltrating Palestinian territories, nor does it apply to Jewish settlers residing in the so called "outposts" that have not been even authorised by the occupying state of Israel.

In Washington during the Nuclear Summit, King Abdullah of Jordan and US President Barack Obama agreed that both Israelis and Palestinians should avoid actions that undermine chances of reviving stalled peace talks, according to the White House.

In the past few months, however, we have seen clear evidence that Israel is undermining peace by building Jewish settlements in occupied territories, in defiance of the roadmap and commitments made to the US administration. Now the Israelis are showing that the original Zionist theory of lusting for the land, without its people, continues to be the main pillar of this right-wing Israeli government.

If Obama and his advisers are genuinely interested in this issue, they do not need to send an envoy all the way to the Middle East. Obama, his secretary of state or his national security adviser need only go across town in Washington, DC to get details. The man who had the power to make laws in the occupied territories and who signed military order 1650, Major General Shamni, has been the military attaché at the Israeli embassy since November.

Daoud Kuttab is a former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, an award winning journalist and TV producer who is currently the General Manager for the Community Media Network in Jordan.