Israeli crackdown only latest measure in long-term policy
Human rights organisations have slammed a temporary law introduced Wednesday to the Israeli parliament as “illegal” and “collective punishment”.
The bill proposes eight steps that would “give the police and security establishment the tools it needs to create ‘real deterrence’” vis-à-vis Israel’s Palestinian citizens or residents.
The legislation would officially allow the government to, among other things, revoke the residency or citizenship of perpetrators of attacks – or alleged perpetrator, no mention
|The government has a hammer in its hand and any problem is just a nail
– Menachem Klein
being made of possible court proceedings – and to deport them or prevent their families from retrieving their bodies it they were killed.
It would also allow for the demolition of the – alleged – attackers’ houses in the 24 hours following the action, and for the revocation of their families’ citizenship and deportation to Gaza were they to express support with them, publicly or on social media.
The bill also targets participants in “illegal” demonstrations, threatening to deprive anyone arrested from their social welfare benefits and driving licenses for a period of ten years.
“These measures are not legal, even in an emergency situation. Revoking citizenship and residency is not legal,” said Nadeem Shehadeh, a lawyer at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.
“And it will only be used against Arab citizens or residents. For Jewish citizens, this was never brought up, even in case of criminal act.”
‘Collective punishment’ and ‘shoot-to-kill’
The Israeli government is touting these measures as solutions to the current rise in tensions in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had vowed to win the “battle for Jerusalem” after four Israeli rabbis and a policeman were killed by two Palestinians in a synagogue in West Jerusalem on 18 November.
Attacks between Jewish Israeli citizens – including settlers illegally living in the occupied Palestinian territories – and Palestinians are currently happening on an almost daily basis in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Most of the Palestinian perpetrators or alleged perpetrators were killed on the spot or shortly afterwards by Israeli security forces. Jewish settlers involved in attacks have faced few or no charges and none have been killed by security forces.
Human rights groups have long accused Israel of a “shoot to kill policy” against Palestinians. Such a policy is publicly admitted to by some Israeli officials, including Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
After the Har Nof synagogue attack Aharonovitch told Israeli media that the, “action of the Border Police officer who chased the terrorist and quickly killed him is the right and professional action, and that is the way I would like these incidents to end... A terrorist who strikes civilians should be killed.”
Parts of the measures introduced in the “8-step” bill are already being implemented in occupied East Jerusalem, however, where house demolitions have long been are common practice, as they are in the West Bank.
And on Wednesday, Israel's Interior Ministry announced that the wife of one of the Palestinians responsible for the attack on the Har Nof synagogue, Nadia Abu Jamal, will be stripped of her residency permit and deported to the West Bank.
She is originally from East Sawahra in the West Bank.
The house of Abdelrahman al-Shaludi, the 21-year-old responsible for running over Jewish Israeli pedestrians, killing a woman and an infant, has also already been destroyed, and the houses of four other Palestinians demmed responsible for attacks – Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal in Jabel Mukaber, Mu’taz Hijazi in Abu Tor and Ibrahim al-Akary from Shuafat refugee camp – are currently under demolition orders.
Such house demolitions have long been denounced by international human rights organisation as collective punishment. As late as this month, Human Rights Watch described them as “blatantly unlawful”.
“Israel should prosecute, convict, and punish criminals, not carry out vengeful destruction that harms entire families,” said Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director.
But Israel imposes collective punishments in many ways, said Shehadeh. Over recent weeks, Palestinian Jerusalemites have been living under curfews and with restrictions on their movements. The only reason some Palestinian neighbourhoods located close to illegal Jewish settlements were not put under lockdown, he said, was in order to allow Israeli settlers to move freely.
Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, is also monitoring social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, though the agency appears dubious about the effectiveness of such measures since recent attacks have been individual actions that do not require planning.
“Shin Bet and the police easily use measures [against those with residency] that are harder to use against citizens. So the legal status of residents allows Shin Bet to enter the privacy of people more easily than in the life of citizens,” said Menachem Klein, a professor at Bar Ilan University and a former member of the Israeli negotiating team at Camp David in 2000.
Many causes of tension
“They don’t see that here we face the protest of a generation,” he Klein. “The government has a hammer in its hand and any problem is just a nail. That’s how they think.”
Looked at in one way, the current escalation can be traced back to the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was burned to death on July 2 by three Israeli settlers in Shufat, East Jerusalem, and the tensions surrounding the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
The riots after Khdeir’s death saw the arrest of some 800 Palestinians, according to the UN. The regular visits of Jewish settlers to the Aqsa compound and pressures by some religious extremists to take control over the area – which to some Jews is seen as the site for a potential Third Temple - have also sparked tensions.
Yehuda Glick, a fervent advocate of building a Jewish temple on the site of al-Aqsa, was gunned down by Mu’taz Hijazi, who was subsequently killed by Israeli security forces on the roof of his home.
And though restrictions on Muslim entry to the mosque have been eased in the last weeks by the Israeli authorities, tensions continue to run high.
But these last weeks of violence cannot be separated from the overall political context and Jerusalem alone provides many sources of tension.
Palestinians in the city live under different rules than Jews. Without Israeli citizenship – and Palestinians in the city’s occupied east do not have citizenship – Palestinians are considered residents and therefore must abide by separate laws.
“There is always the fear of having one’s residency permit revoked. In ‘normal periods’, it’s always the biggest problem,” said Shehadeh.
Residents face heavy taxes, house demolition orders, lack of educational facilities for their children and young, and high unemployment rates.
Having to prove their ‘centre-of-life’ is Jerusalem, they can lose their residency if they work in the West Bank, marry a West Bank resident or send their children to West Bank schools.
For the Civic Coalition For Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organization Councils (PHROC), “the driving force of this escalation is Israel's belligerent occupation and continued violations of international law, which have undermined fundamental human rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the OPT for the past 47 years.”
Both on Wednesday warned against the “dangers of decontextualizing East Jerusalem” and urged “the international community to address Israel’s responsibility as an occupying power”.
“Israel has flagrantly disregarded all calls to rescind the illegal annexation and, instead, declared occupied East Jerusalem to be part of its ‘undivided and united’ capital under a basic law adopted in 1980,” report the rights groups.
In this view, Israel has been implementing a continuous policy of annexation and transfer of population – with public support and funding for the 200,000 settlers currently illegally living in East Jerusalem – since 1967.
Israel annexed the eastern part of the city immediately after occupying it in 1967. No country has recognized that annexation.
The eight-point bill might still be rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court. If it is passed, however, the temporary legislation could be implemented indefinitely.
Pointing to other temporary measures – the ten-year-old family re-unification law that prevents Israeli citizens from bringing spouses from the West Bank or specific Arab countries to join them, or administrative detention rules that allow for indefinite detention without trial – Shehadeh said temporary has proven a relative concept.
“We have been living under emergency regulations for 67 years now... since Israel was created.”