All Writings
January 15, 1992

Israel’s Expulsions Breed More Trouble

Israel's announced expulsion of 12 Palestinians accused of inciting riots and violence in the occupied territories raises legal, moral, and political questions. What law could conceivably justify the expulsion of a person from his homeland? True, the Shamir government is under severe pressure to placate settlers in the territories who demand stern measures against the Palestinians for the stabbing or shooting of settlers.

As abhorrent as these attacks are, expulsion violates accepted human rights accords – especially the fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of people under occupation. Other than in specific cases of extradition to the country wh ere the crime was committed, the convention rejects the deportation of any individual regardless of the alleged crime. The Shamir government, however, relies cynically on emergency laws that require no due process to justify its acts against the Palestinians under the guise of national security. Expulsion has serious moral implications, as well. Each deportation further sanctions the view held by Israel's detractors that the government is paving the way for the mass expulsion of Palestinians should the country's national interest dictate it.

The voices of hawkish Housing Minister Ariel Sharon and the minister without portfolio, Rechavam Ze'evi, who openly advocate the "transfer" of all Palestinians, provide propaganda tools for those who seek to depict Israel as an autocratic, racist state. Anyo ne who knows the moral fabric of the Israeli society knows that the notion of expelling Palestinians en masse is simply inconceivable. However, as long as the government permits even selective expulsions, Israel's moral standing is being questioned, its intentions become suspect, and its democratic values, which have guided the country from its inception, are undermined.

Viewed politically, the expulsion of Palestinians makes even less sense. It is true that Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is facing a new general election before November and needs the support of the settlers. Many Israelis, however, including Israel's friends in the United States, find expulsion objectionable, ill-conceived, and politically counter-productive, especially at a time when Israel's request for $10 billion in loan guarantees remains a pending issue.

The Bush administration's support of the Unit ed Nations resolution strongly condemning Israel sends a clear warning that the continuation of this policy by the Shamir government not only undermines the entire peace process but could severely damage Israel-US relations. While Israelis accuse the Palestinians, especially the PLO, of wanting to eradicate the Jewish state as a political entity, the Palestinians feel just as strongly that the Israeli government intends a creeping annexation of the territories through the systematic building of new settlements, rendering the Palestinians totally homeless. The irony is that while both sides have made strides toward understanding each other's rights and national requirements, especially in recent meetings in Madrid and Washing ton, both sides have fallen prey to extremists from within their own ranks bent on destroying the peace process.

Since the beginning of the uprising in December 1987, Israel has expelled 66 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. But instead of deterring renewed acts of civil disobedience, expulsion as a policy has encouraged Palestinian youths to commit more violent acts. It has only deepened the hatred and distrust between the two peoples who are destined or doomed to coexist. Expulsion is a harsh penalty. Who more than the Jews can appreciate the trauma of being banished from one's homeland and separated from one's family?

There are other forms of severe punishment that the Israeli authorities could apply once the alleged criminal is found guilty in a court of law, including long jail terms. Israel does not want to continue to feed Palestinian fears or Israeli public opinion in favor of mass expulsion of Palestinians. The Shamir government should immediately renounce expulsion as a policy and as a means to deter future violence.