Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel Turns "Creeping Transfer" into "Hidden Transfer"

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel Turns "Creeping Transfer" into "Hidden Transfer"

Article excerpt

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin says Israel has responded to US protests by temporarily halting its eight-month campaign of family de-unification in the West Bank, also known as "creeping" or "silent" transfer. Don't believe it for a minute.

On Jan. 31, after complaints from human rights activists in Israel, and US State Dept. intervention described by the Washington Post as a "call...for Israel to be more flexible about expulsions," Rabin announced they would be" frozen for the time being." Taken at face value, this would end the military's practice of swooping down on West Bank villages late at night, barging roughly into preselected homes, and prodding into commandeered taxicabs frantic "non-resident" wives, pregnant women, children and even four-day-old babies.

These expellees, who have included the very old, the sick, and the infirm, are given little or no time to dress, pack diapers or grab milk for babies before being rushed to the border, told they will never be allowed to return, and forced across the bridge into Jordan.

One woman in her nineties was rousted from her bed, pushed by soldiers into an auto before she could even put on shoes, and forced penniless and barefoot out of the country of her birth.

A Crucial Census

Like her, many of the so-called non-residents and virtually all of their families had been living in Palestine since long before the creation of the state of Israel. But because Israel has conferred the right to live in their own land only on Palestinians who were present and counted in a crucial census immediately after the Six-Day War, when some 200,000 Palestinians had taken refuge or been driven into Jordan, tens of thousands of Palestinians who came back on visitors' permits are aliens so far as the Israeli occupation is concerned. Israel admits that since 1967 it has only approved 13,509 of 88,429 (15 percent) requests for humanitarian "family reunification," a mechanism supposedly created to allow husbands, their wives and children to live together.

That is a "natural right," says Israel Shahak, the long-time Israeli civil and human rights activist. "There is no other place in the world where this is done. Not even Hong Kong. The Vietnamese who were expelled from Hong Kong were not from Hong Kong. Hidden transfer is like expelling the people of Hong Kong from Hong Kong."

Besides the obvious fact that Rabin described the halt as only temporary, my interviews on both sides of the Jordan River with West Bank families, their expelled relatives in Jordan, and Jordanian officials revealed that what he proffered was not a concession but a smokescreen. He had already found other ways to accomplish the same purpose.

Those interviews disclosed that Israel has successfully diversified its creeping transfer program -- not with exact copies of the original, but with equally virulent mutants extremely difficult to document.

For instance, I talked to several young men who had applied for permission to leave the West Bank to visit their expelled wives for short periods. They say they were told they would be allowed to leave only if they signed an agreement promising not to return for three to five years. Corroboration was given by their wives in Jordan.

Other young men tell of having their ID cards confiscated with the warning that they will not get them back until they send their wives back across the border. …

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