Palestinians try civil disobedience to protest Israeli deportations. But it's unclear if bid can gain enough support to counter Israeli plans
Even as violence continued in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip on Thursday, a group of prominent Palestinians launched a nonviolent ``civil disobedience'' campaign. Leaders of the movement say they want Israel to cancel deportation orders against nine Palestinians accused of inciting unrest. The group is also seeking the release of hundreds of Palestinians arrested in the past month's rioting and the repeal of 1945 emergency regulations used by Israel to govern the territories. (One Palestinian was reported killed in yesterday's clashes, bringing the death toll to at least 25.)
West Bank editor Hanna Siniora says the nonviolent campaign will begin with a boycott of Israeli cigarettes and soft drinks. If that fails to produce concessions, the protest will ``then escalate to a second stage'' in which Palestinians will be urged to stop paying taxes to Israel.
(Mr. Siniora says 40 to 50 percent of the cigarettes and a higher percentage of soft drinks purchased in the territories are made in Israel. Israel's Treasury gets more than $200 million in taxes from the territories each year.) But whether such a campaign would succeed is unclear.
Would civil disobedience work?
Plans for a more extensive campaign were reportedly scaled back because of divisions among the organizers over whether it could draw mass support.
One West Bank Palestinian says a campaign of nonviolence might work, but not under leaders ``who did not get their hands dirty'' in the recent protests.
``It's very important where this idea comes from,'' says this Palestinian, who insisted on anonymity. ``There's a gap between the people who meet the foreign press and the people you see throwing stones or getting killed. The people who could lead this [campaign of civic resistance] are the type of people Israel wants to deport.''
``The local leadership has been lax,'' admits Siniora. The message ``from the younger generation is that the local leadership has to be more active. It's not enough to go to ... speak on TV.''
A press conference scheduled for yesterday to kick off the campaign was cancelled. An Army spokesman would not confirm or deny charges that military orders prohibiting travel to East Jerusalem were served on at least four Palestinians who were to attend.
Meanwhile, a military review board in Gaza yesterday heard testimony by four of the Palestinians ordered deported last Sunday. The other five appeared before the panel Wednesday, but the proceedings were postponed until next week.
Human rights lawyers, who have criticized the absence of procedural guarantees in the appeals process, say no formal charges are presented by the review committee nor is the committee required to examine the reliability of evidence turned over by the military authorities.
Most of the evidence is contained in ``claims'' which are usually based on charges for which defendants have already served jail sentences, says Leat Semel, an attorney for several of the West Bank defendants. Some of the claims are public but most are secret and are withheld from the attorneys, Mr. Semel says.
Semel says attorneys can ask questions at the proceedings but that committee members are not required to respond.
A final appeal can be made to Israel's Supreme Court but neither of the appellate bodies is likely to substitute its judgment for that of the military authorities, says Jonathan Kuttab, a Palestinian human rights lawyer.
``It's a painful decision, whether to participate in what they know is a charade or to boycott the proceedings altogether,'' he says of the nine Palestinians.
Deportations have been used by Israel since the start of the occupation in 1967. According to a study prepared by the American Friends Service Committee, the rate of deportations increased in the late 1960s, reaching a peak of 406 in 1970. In all, there have been about 2,000 deportations since 1967, including Palestinians (not counted in Israeli totals) said by Israel to be in the territories illegally.
Will deportations work this time?
According to a recent report from Law in the Service of Man, a Palestinian human rights group, after the Israeli occupation in 1967, deportees were generally sent to Jordan. Between 1969 and 1974, after Jordan closed its borders to deportations, banished Palestinians were sent into Lebanon. Since 1974, the study says, most deportees have been taken to an isolated desert border crossing south of the Dead Sea and ordered to walk without looking back. Eventually they were picked up by Jordanian Army units.
Israeli officials insist that since West Bank residents hold Jordanian passports, Jordan would be obliged to accept deportees. They have declined to comment on what Israel will do if Jordan sticks to its initial refusal to accept the deportees.
One source, speaking on deep background, concedes that Israel is then ``on the spot.'' Lebanon, Egypt, and Cyprus have also refused to accept deportees.
The Israelis will ``do it at night in places where the Jordanians are not waiting,'' one Palestinian predicts.
Israel has justified the deportations and other emergency provisions including administrative detentions and press censorship, arguing that they are part of Jordanian laws inherited from Britain, which controlled Palestine between World Wars I and II.
But lawyers from Law in the Service of Man say Britain revoked the emergency regulations just before pulling out of Palestine, while Jordan, which governed the West Bank from 1948 until 1967, disallowed deportations in its Constitution.