JERUSALEM (Mar. 26)
Four Palestinian activists from the Gaza Strip are waging a determined defense against orders issued by the Israel Defense Force this week to deport them.
Nine prominent Arab lawyers, including the chairman of the Gaza Bar Association, argued their case before a military appeals board of the IDF’s southern command Tuesday.
The board was still deliberating late Tuesday.
The four are alleged by the IDF to be hardcore terrorists associated with Al Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
None, however, has been linked to the recent wave of knife attacks on Israelis by Palestinians.
But Maj. Gen. Mattan Vilnai, commander of the southern region, justified the expulsion orders he signed Saturday night on the grounds that the four men’s activism created a climate that encouraged Arab violence against Israeli Jews.
The U.S. State Department has urged Israel to rescind the deportation orders.
The military board has rejected a defense motion to hold the appeals hearing in public. It also declined a request to postpone the hearing until next week to allow the defense lawyers more time to study the material.
Military appeals boards have invariably upheld deportation orders issued by the IDF. The deportees have recourse to the High Court of Justice. But it, too, has rarely, if ever, reversed a military deportation order.
In recent cases, deportees chose not to carry their appeals to the high court and were summarily expelled to Lebanon.
The IDF demanded these four expulsions in response to mounting public outrage and fear over revenge attacks by Palestinians on Israeli Jews inside Israel.
‘LIKE A DEATH SENTENCE’
The brutal assaults began after Israeli border police shot to death at least 17 Palestinian rioters on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem last Oct. 8.
Since then, 16 Israelis have been slain and more than a score wounded in random attacks.
The latest murder occurred on March 21, when a 70-year-old furniture dealer was fatally knifed in his shop in Hadera. Three other stabbings followed, none fatal, perpetrated by the same assailant.
The suspect, who admitted to his previous assaults when he was captured Saturday, was a Gaza Strip resident who was living illegally in Israel.
Israel, for its part, has deported 64 Palestinians since the intifada began in December 1987.
Defense Minister Moshe Arens said the policy would continue so long as Arab violence persists, regardless of American objections based on the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The four presently facing deportation are Jamal Yassin Abu-Habal, 33; Hashem Dahalan, 31; Muin Mohammad Mussalam, 31; and Jamal Abu-Jidian, 33.
Their lawyers said they would insist the men be allowed to answer formal charges in a courttrial, not be banished.
“Deportation is like a death sentence,” they said.