Israel Accused of Expelling Arab Wives Despite Vow : Mideast: Deportations violate promise not to break up Arab families in the territories, rights groups charge.
Israel’s military government in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip has begun to deport Palestinians’ wives who came from abroad to live with their husbands, breaking a public promise made to let the families stay together, a pair of Israeli human rights groups charged Thursday.
Expulsions were thought to have ended for “humanitarian reasons” more than 18 months ago after complaints from human rights groups and censure by the U.S. State Department. Later, the Israeli attorney general announced that visitor’s permits would be routinely extended and that deportations were at an end.
But the two human rights organizations claimed that, in recent weeks, the authorities have ordered at least 20 women to leave with their children once their temporary visitor’s permits expired; three women actually departed.
“The renewal of deportations contradicts both the state’s announcement and the humanitarian policy that the defense Establishment has repeatedly declared,” said a report prepared by the B’tselem human rights group and the Assn. for Civil Rights in Israel.
A spokesman for the army, which administers Gaza and the West Bank, would not comment on the report, saying time would be needed to study it.
The issue is bound to provide fuel to advocates of Palestinian independence who maintain that, under Israeli rule, Palestinians are deprived of basic rights. The government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir claims that the West Bank and Gaza, home to 1.7 million Palestinians, belong to Israel, and the government is resisting international pressure to withdraw as part of a comprehensive peace settlement.
Until a recent wave of Soviet Jewish immigration, many Israelis felt that the size of the Palestinian population made it impractical to hold the land, where about 100,000 Israelis live. However, Shamir has indicated that the territories will mean additional space for hundreds of thousands of new immigrants and that the demographic balance will eventually tip in Israel’s favor.
The issue of deportations first surfaced during the last seven months of 1989, when about 200 Palestinian spouses and children were banished. Many of the spouses had come from other countries to marry residents of the territories. Following public advice from the U.S. State Department to show “sensitivity and flexibility,” then-Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin suspended expulsions.
Still, Palestinians considered that the temporary visitor’s passes were an insecure means of establishing residence and carrying on a normal life. They asked for permanent status. The Israeli Supreme Court rejected the argument based on a pledge by the attorney general to let the spouses and children stay on.
The 1989 expulsions featured pre-dawn visits in which families were rousted from sleep and the women told to prepare for a trip to Jordan. The only alternative for the spouse left behind was emigration if he hoped to keep his family together.
In a pair of sample testimonies presented with the new report, Palestinians told of sudden orders to leave and a delay in getting permits for re-entry of wives and children. In one case, after the expulsion of his wife, whose visitor’s permit had expired, Abdel Rahim Kitani was told by army officers that he could apply for her return only after six months. When he protested that as a refugee his wife might be deported from Jordan, the period was shortened to a month.
In the second case, the army ordered the expulsion of a woman who held a 90-day visitor’s permit but who had been in the West Bank only two months. Her case is pending.
On a list provided by the human rights groups of 18 women ordered to leave, 16 are mothers with children as young as 6 months and no children older than 6 years.