Amira Hass: Rights Groups Reject West Bank Travel Ban

By Amira Hass

International organizations in the territories are still reviewing the implications of a ban prohibiting Israelis to give rides to Palestinians within the West Bank. The order was issued by GOC Central Command Yair Naveh.

Officials from a few organizations, most of them United Nations groups, told Haaretz that the issue was under legal review. The order, dated November 19, is scheduled to take effect on January 19, 2007. In a letter sent to the international organizations, the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din – whose volunteers help Palestinians file complaints against settlers – asked the foreign groups to tell Israeli security authorities they would not comply with the directive, by which they must obtain permits to drive Palestinians.

In the meantime, security authorities promised UN-affiliated groups that the order did not apply to them, and they would not be required to obtain permits. The groups asked for the promise to be put in writing.

The order explicitly includes resident foreign nationals in the ban. The order states: "An Israeli will not transport in an Israeli vehicle within the area a person who is not Israeli, except in accordance with a permit given to him or given to the person who is not Israeli." It clearly states that for this purpose, "Israeli" means "a person registered in the Population Registry … including anyone given a visa and license to reside in Israel."

A member of one of the organizations told Haaretz the groups were aware of the threat to the rights promised to their employees and that some recognized the possibility that the authorities could at some point require the groups to apply for permits – despite the verbal promise.

Anders Fange, head of United Nations Relief and Works Agency activities in the West Bank, told Haaretz that irrespective of the military waiver, "my personal opinion is that the UN is obligated to oppose any order that can be seen as a violation of human rights or international humanitarian law. If it turns out that the law does not meet with international norms, we will bring it up before the Israeli authorities."

Michael Sfard, Yesh Din’s attorney, wrote the international organizations that the order was in clear violation of international human rights law.

He drew attention to the fact that even if the foreign nationals working for the organization are immune to prosecution for violating the order, any Palestinians they transport will not enjoy immunity.

Several Israeli organizations, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Machsom Watch and Yesh Din, have already announced their intention to ignore the order and say they will not apply for permits.

-Copy Rights Haaretz (December 19, 2006) 

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