Slow Ethnic Cleansing


JERUSALEM, December 19, 2002 — Today, in Tel Aviv District Court, a Palestinian worker, Jihad Abu Id, will be demanding his release from an Israeli prison. Abu Id has been detained for the last six months, ever since he was arrested for working in Israel without a permit.

Abu Id comes from a village called Bidu, located near Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The normal process to deal with “illegal” Palestinian workers in Israel is to detain them for no more than a day, and then remove them to their village of origin in the occupied territories.

However, in the case of Abu Id, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior is trying to deport him to Jordan. The excuse: he’s married to a Jordanian woman. According to Sharon Bavli, the state attorney at the Israeli Interior Ministry that is attempting to force the removal of Abu Id, his marriage to a Jordanian forfeits his rights to reside in Palestine itself.

Abu Id has been jailed for the last six months in Israel’s Maasiyahu Prison, a special facility for deportees which, according to Israeli human rights lawyer Shamai Leibowitz, includes a whole section of Palestinians in similar situations to Abu Id.

Abu Id’s is resisting his deportation by petitioning both the Tel Aviv District Court today, as well as at the Israeli Supreme Court in the coming weeks. At the latter tribunal, he will fight to re-establish his status as a Palestinian. Today in Tel Aviv, his lawyer, Leah Tsemel, will simply ask for his release on bail.

The decision in Tel Aviv today is crucial, according to Leibowitz. If Abu Id is released, and returns to Bidu in the West Bank, it will be difficult for the Israeli authorities to go in and grab him, due to the attention that will bring within the village, and perhaps beyond.

In Leibowitz’s words, “This is about diluting the Palestinian population without attacting media attention”. Abu Id’s continued imprisonment is the only way the Israeli government might succeed in expelling him to Jordan.

Abu Id’s family situation also speaks to the nature of the process of dispossession, and the long, quiet struggle for many Palestinians to establish their identity and basic right to reside in their own villages and towns.

Abu Id’s father was illegally deported from Bidu to Jordan in 1970 by an Israeli military commander who issued a deportation order in territories that were illegally occupied after the Six Day War in 1967. That deportation was eventually determined to be illegal, more than a two decades later, and the family returned to Bidu in 1994, where Abu Id has lived for the past eight years.

According to government documents read by Leibowitz, the Israeli state attorney’s office estimates between 50-60,000 Palestinians who they deem to be deportable from the occupied territories, for reasons similar to Abu Id.

To engage in a mass search and expulsion of these thousands of so-called “illegal” Palestinians is not feasible on both a logistical and public relations level (although some in the Israeli right, which is becoming the mainstream, would forcibly “tranfer” all Palestinians tomorrow if they had their way). Instead, deportations happen quiety, one-by-one, in circumstances like Abu Id’s. It’s what Leibowitz has no hesitation calling “a slow process of ethnic cleansing”.

Leibowitz also doesn’t hesitate to underline the complicity of the Israeli courts in the expulsion policy of the Israeli goverment, calling the judicial branch “just a long arm of the political branch … they all collaborate together.”

A decision about Abu Id’s release is expected later today in Tel Aviv.

[For more info about the case of Jihad Abu Id and other Palestinian deportees, please contact Shamai Leibowitz in Tel Aviv at +972 3 670 4170. Jaggi Singh ([email protected]) is a member of the International Soldarity Movement (ISM): www.palsolidarity.org. He is a writer and social justice activist based in Montreal, and a member of the No One Is Illegal campaign, an immigrant and refugee rights movement in Canada ([email protected]).]

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