Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Mother, the infiltrator

Dear friends,
many of you may have heard about the new military laws that have been drawn up the Israeli Occupation Forces to target "infiltrators" in the Occupied West Bank.

Below is an essay by Mohammed Alaasfin on the issue, which poignantly and beautifully address not only the absurdity of the military order but its outrageous premise.

The new military order, as awarding Israeli journalist, Amira Hass writes in Haaretz, enables "the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years".

The new military order has the potential to result in the "deportation" of thousands of Palestinians, includling those with Gaza IDS and Palestinians with residency rights in Jerusalem. In addition, it has the potential to result in the "deportation" of foreign nationals married to Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties (such as the USA), as well as international human rights workers/volunteers and Israeli citizens, whether Palestinian or Jewish.

It should be noted that under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva convention - which Israel is a signatory - this order is illegal (as are a great majority of the IOF's military orders) as an occupying power is not allowed to forcibly transfer any sections of the occupied population out of the occupied territory.

I have also included below, Amira Hass's Haaretz article outlining the political and societal impact that the new military order will have.

in solidarity,


My mother, the infiltrator

by Mohammad Alsaafin

My mother is an illegal infiltrator. She has infiltrated her hometown, where her parents were born and where she was raised. Her activities as an infiltrator are as varied as they are nefarious: She takes my sister to school, with the neighbor’s kids. She cooks and cleans her home. We actually purchased that home so that she would have a base to operate from once she had infiltrated. She goes to the gym (I suspect infiltrators probably do need to stay in shape). She visits her sisters; I can’t say for sure if they assist her illegal activities. I’m sure they provide moral support at least. She helps care for her brother’s young children. You see my uncle might have been an infiltrator. They kicked him out of his homeland too, said he didn’t have the right permit to live there. He actually did, but they didn’t want to renew it. He was kept away from his kids for years. Eventually, he was given permission to infiltrate again, but he died a few months later, before this ruling came into effect. So maybe he became an infiltrator posthumously. I don’t know.

White phospherous raining down on Khan Younis during Israel's 2009 Gaza assault

I’m not sure when my mother stopped being a member of the community she grew up in, or a resident of the town where she was raised. Maybe it was when she fell in love with a dangerous inmate. It wasn’t a maximum security prison back in those days-he’d actually been allowed to leave Gaza to study. They met in university: she the future infiltrator, he the future prisoner. They were in love, with each other and with Palestine. And love is what screwed them up.

They decided to get married, and you just can’t do that if you’re a Palestinian. It’s not up to you to decide who you marry and where you live and where your kids will be raised or if you can even live together in your own country. That’s all up to the Zionists to decide. So they went ahead and decided that my dad can’t live in the West Bank, because he escaped from that coastal prison. The same rule applies to me, because I was born in Gaza. I tried telling them I didn’t want to be born there, that I’d wanted to be born in Fallujah like my grandfather, but it didn’t matter to them. We were both born in Gaza, so Zionism had bestowed upon us Gaza IDs to prove it. They are in Hebrew. I don’t read Hebrew.

Graffiti on wall in village of Jayyous, West Bank, Occupied Palestine
photo by Kim

So my mother went back to where she grew up with her eight siblings and countless cousins and neighbors and friends and memories and all that. She went back and tried to live her life again there in the West Bank. But history always catches up with criminals; an unseen clerk in the vast monstrosity that is the Israeli occupation authority had found her guilty of marrying the inmate a couple of decades back. Her (Hebrew) West Bank ID disappeared. She got the Gaza ID instead. And suddenly, one night as she lay asleep in her bed, she became an infiltrator in her own home, her own town, her own country.

Now she is a criminal, but it only seems fitting that a Palestinian would be a criminal for living in their own home. It happened in the lands occupied in 1948, so why shouldn’t it happen in the West Bank? I haven’t seen her for a year, because I’m not allowed in and she can’t get out. And now a mother might get torn away from her kids and sisters and nephews and nieces and sent away, or maybe even thrown in jail for seven years.

Israeli soliders invading Palestinian home
Photo: Palestine Monitor

This is life under the boot of Zionist population control. Going back to live in your hometown is now infiltrating. Marrying a Palestinian with the wrong ID gives the army the right to split up your family. You don’t decide where to live, or with whom. You can’t see your spouse or your children at will. And when someone in the occupation army decides to change the rules overnight, you know another aspect of normal living will have become criminalized.

Mohammad Alsaafin was born in the Khan Younis refugee camp and grew up in the UK and the US, before going back to Palestine for college at Birzeit.

Last update - 14:29 11/04/2010
IDF order will enable mass deportation from West Bank
By Amira Hass

A new military order aimed at preventing infiltration will come into force this week, enabling the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years.

When the order comes into effect, tens of thousands of Palestinians will automatically become criminal offenders liable to be severely punished.

Given the security authorities' actions over the past decade, the first Palestinians likely to be targeted under the new rules will be those whose ID cards bear home addresses in the Gaza Strip - people born in Gaza and their West Bank-born children - or those born in the West Bank or abroad who for various reasons lost their residency status. Also likely to be targeted are foreign-born spouses of Palestinians.

Until now, Israeli civil courts have occasionally prevented the expulsion of these three groups from the West Bank. The new order, however, puts them under the sole jurisdiction of Israeli military courts.

The new order defines anyone who enters the West Bank illegally as an infiltrator, as well as "a person who is present in the area and does not lawfully hold a permit." The order takes the original 1969 definition of infiltrator to the extreme, as the term originally applied only to those illegally staying in Israel after having passed through countries then classified as enemy states - Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

The order's language is both general and ambiguous, stipulating that the term infiltrator will also be applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties (such as the United States) and Israeli citizens, whether Arab or Jewish. All this depends on the judgment of Israel Defense Forces commanders in the field.

The Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual was the first Israeli human rights to issue warnings against the order, signed six months ago by then-commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria Area Gadi Shamni.

Two weeks ago, Hamoked director Dalia Kerstein sent GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi a request to delay the order, given "the dramatic change it causes in relation to the human rights of a tremendous number of people."

According to the provisions, "a person is presumed to be an infiltrator if he is present in the area without a document or permit which attest to his lawful presence in the area without reasonable justification." Such documentation, it says, must be "issued by the commander of IDF forces in the Judea and Samaria area or someone acting on his behalf."

The instructions, however, are unclear over whether the permits referred to are those currently in force, or also refer to new permits that military commanders might issue in the future. The provision are also unclear about the status of bearers of West Bank residency cards, and disregards the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the agreements Israel signed with it and the PLO.

The order stipulates that if a commander discovers that an infiltrator has recently entered a given area, he "may order his deportation before 72 hours elapse from the time he is served the written deportation order, provided the infiltrator is deported to the country or area from whence he infiltrated."

The order also allows for criminal proceedings against suspected infiltrators that could produce sentences of up to seven years. Individuals able to prove that they entered the West Bank legally but without permission to remain there will also be tried, on charges carrying a maximum sentence of three years. (According to current Israeli law, illegal residents typically receive one-year sentences.)

The new provision also allow the IDF commander in the area to require that the infiltrator pay for the cost of his own detention, custody and expulsion, up to a total of NIS 7,500.

The fear that Palestinians with Gaza addresses will be the first to be targeted by this order is based on measures that Israel has taken in recent years to curtail their right to live, work, study or even visit the West Bank. These measures violated the Oslo Accords.

According to a decision by the West Bank commander that was not backed by military legislation, since 2007, Palestinians with Gaza addresses must request a permit to stay in the West Bank. Since 2000, they have been defined as illegal sojourners if they have Gaza addresses, as if they were citizens of a foreign state. Many of them have been deported to Gaza, including those born in the West Bank.

Currently, Palestinians need special permits to enter areas near the separation fence, even if their homes are there, and Palestinians have long been barred from the Jordan Valley without special authorization. Until 2009, East Jerusalemites needed permission to enter Area A, territory under full PA control.

Another group expected to be particularly harmed by the new rules are Palestinians who moved to the West Bank under family reunification provisions, which Israel stopped granting for several years.

In 2007, amid a number of Hamoked petitions and as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, tens of thousands of people received Palestinian residency cards. The PA distributed the cards, but Israel had exclusive control over who could receive them. Thousands of Palestinians, however, remained classified as "illegal sojourners," including many who are not citizens of any other country.

The new order is the latest step by the Israeli government in recent years to require permits that limit the freedom of movement and residency previously conferred by Palestinian ID cards. The new regulations are particularly sweeping, allowing for criminal measures and the mass expulsion of people from their homes.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said in response, "The amendments to the order on preventing infiltration, signed by GOC Central Command, were issued as part of a series of manifests, orders and appointments in Judea and Samaria, in Hebrew and Arabic as required, and will be posted in the offices of the Civil Administration and military courts' defense attorneys in Judea and Samaria. The IDF is ready to implement the order, which is not intended to apply to Israelis, but to illegal sojourners in Judea and Samaria."

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