Border Control / Denying and Crying

Under the deal that is taking shape with Hamas, a large part of the Palestinian prisoners who will be freed will not be permitted to return to their homes. They will be deported to other places, on the assumption that that this will make it difficult for them to reunite with their operators. They will have to make do with the right to reunite with their families.

In a similar deal concluded seven years ago after armed men barricaded themselves into the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Sultan al Harimi and his father-in-law, Yassin, were deported to the Gaza Strip. Roida - their wife and daughter - and the children, Majid and Wali, also moved from the West Bank and joined their father and grandfather.

As per the deportation agreement, Roida and her children left in September 2006 to visit family in Bethlehem. Since then the three have not been allowed to return to Gaza.

For two and a half years she has been trying her luck repeatedly, but all her applications are denied on the absolute grounds of "a security impediment," and this because of a change in the circumstances - the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the general closure imposed on the strip, with the exception of humanitarian cases.

In her distress, Roida applied to HaMoked, the Center for the Defense of the Individual, a human rights organization that helps Palestinians in distress seek succor from the Israeli legal system.

Attorneys Abeer Jubran and Ido Blum reminded the High Court of Justice of a ruling handed down by the same court in 1999, saying: "A person has no stronger connection than his connection to his close family members. And a person's connection to his children and his life partner is the strongest of all. Such are the connections between a mother and her children, and such are the connections between a father and his children. This is the law of nature, a law that is stronger and loftier than any other law."

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Justices Miram Naor and Elyakim Rubinstein agreed that before them were a woman and children who had been torn from their dear ones through no fault of their own.

In last month's ruling the justices noted that they are "aware of the difficult situation in which the family that is prevented from meeting the husband and father has found itself."

They even assume that this difficult situation will change "if and when a change occurs in the security situation in this context, or if the policy that is derived from the situation changes." One can almost see the tears in their eyes. And the bottom line - "We have seen no cause to intervene and grant the requested succor."

It appears that the separation of a father from his children, a husband from his wife, a daughter from her father and children from their grandfather is considered a humanitarian problem only when it comes to a captive Israeli soldier.

A new report by MachsomWatch, Women Against the Occupation and for Human Rights, notes that hundreds, and perhaps thousands of Palestinian civilians are spending months and even years in prison through no fault of their own.

The report describes the case of 53-year-old Fawza Foda of Bethlehem, who was arrested in October 2006 for membership and activity in a terrorist organization.

The nature of her activity: running a kindergarten of the al Naqaa non-profit organization.

The military court accepted the claim that Foda did not know that the Shin Bet security service had declared the non-profit association, which had employed her for seven years, a "prohibited association," yet the kindergarten teacher was sentenced to 18 months in prison and a 15-month suspended sentence.

Against a wall

The case of Shawan Jabarin also makes one wonder why outgoing Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, among many others, has complained that the Supreme Court is more attentive to the Palestinians' complaints than to Israel's security needs.

Last week, the court denied the fourth petition submitted by Jabarin, director general of Al Haq, the most veteran Palestinian human rights organization, against the Shin Bet, which for more than two years now has prohibited him from traveling abroad (via Jordan).

The justices' efforts to persuade the representative of the State Prosecutor's Office to come to an arrangement that would enable the petitioner to travel to Holland to accept a prestigious prize in the presence of the queen came up against a wall.

In addition to the general claim that he is a member of a hostile organization, Jabarin does not have a clue as to the suspicions against him.

The new petition, like its predecessors, was considered on the basis of "confidential security material" that was presented to the justices, with the agreement under protest of his lawyer, attorney Michael Sfard, who had no choice.

In the ruling, the justices wrote that "there is no doubt that this deviation from the rules of adversarial deliberation makes it difficult for the petitioner's attorney; it also makes it difficult for the court that wishes to maintain an open and effective dialogue with representatives of both sides and, in the nature of things, it transforms the court into the petitioner's 'representative' during the course of the unilateral deliberations."

And the bottom line: "This is neither the forum nor the way to address the questions that deviate from the framework of the discussion here." The petition was rejected. The Shin Bet is always right.

In its recently-submitted reply to the High Court in response to a petition by former Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On and human rights organizations against the Citizenship Law, the State Prosecutor's Office is trying in effect to exempt the Shin Bet from any judicial review or public criticism.

"The Shin Bet security service is the main professional element that deals with the specific identification of enemy subjects [the same document states that the enemy is 'the Palestinian people'], and it will bear the responsibility should the specific identification fail and terror organizations infiltrate the defense systems by means of individuals who request status in Israel."

And how, nevertheless, is it possible to contradict the Shin Bet's claim?

The state demands that the petitioners present "a professional and considered counter-opinion as to the effectiveness of the individual identification."

How, exactly? Should the children of the petitioners who are kept out establish a Shin Bet of their own? Should the mothers present the justices with "confidential security material?"