J Street joins with Americans for Peace Now in their thoughtful statement today expressing concern about the new Israeli military order coming into effect in the West Bank this week. As APN, our partner in the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement, said, “Whatever the actual intent behind the order, its impact is to facilitate the arrest and deportation of an unknown number of Palestinian residents of the West Bank, as well of virtually all internationals living and working in the West Bank.” Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s Executive Director, welcomes and joins the words of APN President and CEO Debra DeLee:
“This move is bad for peace and bad for Israel. At a time when Israel is worried about an international campaign to de-legitimize it, one is hard pressed to understand why Israel’s leaders would implement a new policy that can only paint Israel as a country that tramples on Palestinian civilians and is determined to stamp out peaceful protest.
“Before this new order, Israeli forces were already authorized to arrest and deport Palestinians and internationals who are engaged in illegal or violent activities, making clear that this order is not about newly-identified Israeli security concerns. With this new order, Israel has now authorized its forces to arrest and deport Palestinians and internationals who are not doing anything illegal or violent. In effect, the order makes their mere presence in the West Bank a crime. Suspicion is rampant that this tool will be used against those engaged in legitimate, non-violent protest.
“Even if the order does not indicate an intention to start deporting Palestinians and internationals, Israel should think carefully about the messages it is sending to both Palestinians and the world. This order risks sending a message to Palestinians that they cannot even aspire to make the West Bank their homeland, a message that risks refocusing their aspirations on Haifa and Jaffa, rather than on Ramallah and Nablus. To the international community it risks sending a message that Israel has become a country that does not respect the democratic ideals of free speech, free assembly and the right to peaceful protest. It sends a message that Israel is prepared to manufacture any legal pretext necessary in order to clamp down on Palestinian protest and isolate the Palestinians from their supporters in the international community.
“This order is not only inconsistent with the rule of law and democracy, and is not only an affront to Palestinians and the international community, but directly contradicts Israel’s own interests. Only a peace agreement with the Palestinians — one that establishes a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza — can preserve Israel’s character as a Jewish, democratic state. This order plays to the worst fears of the Palestinians, who have lived in stateless insecurity for generations, thus undermining the chances of reaching such a goal. It is time for a reality check. It seems that Israeli leaders are oblivious to how their actions are perceived and how some of their actions are impossible for even Israel’s closest supporters to defend.”