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Israel's Supreme Court Approves Deportations

In a landmark decision, Israel's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Israel can expel relatives of Palestinian terror suspects from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, but only if it proves they pose a security threat.

The Israeli military argued that expulsions create an effective deterrent and help prevent suicide bombings and other terror attacks.

Human rights lawyers said the measure constitutes collective punishment and violates international law, specifically the Geneva Conventions, which forbids "individual or mass forcible transfers" from occupied territory.

The ruling written by Chief Justice Aharon Barak said that the military can only expel a relative of a militant if that person poses a real security threat.

"One cannot assign the residence of (expel) an innocent relative who does not present a danger, even if it is proved that assigning his residence may deter others from carrying out terrorist acts," Barak wrote.

This is kind of an odd ruling. I'm not a fan of deporting terror suspects' relatives, because it sounds like collective punishment -- guilt by proximity, punishing a person by hurting their relatives. The recent case of the Pakistani girl who was raped because her brother committed a crime is a particularly gruesome example of collective punishment. The theory behind this ruling, however, doesn't seem to constitute "collective punishment." This is because of the stipulation that the deportees be shown to be security risks themselves. This means that the deportation must be based on the characteristics of the deportees, not just who their relatives are. But this raises an important question, one that makes me wonder about how this ruling will be implemented. By making deportation contingent on the deportees' characteristics, it makes their status as suspects' relatives irrelevant. If they're to be deported on their own merits, why even consider that they're related to a suspect? One possibility is that family ties would be used as a sort of profiling -- suspects' relatives would be given extra scrutiny by the officials in charge of deciding who's too dangerous to remain in the West Bank. Or it come become more insidious. If the court establishes a low threshold of evidence for relatives' deportation, demonstrating that they pose a threat themselves would become just a formality and the collective punishment would go ahead as before. Alternately, "he's also related to a terrorist" could become a trump card to be drawn out when other evidence for deportation is flimsy.

The ruling as issued upholds the deportation of terorrists' relatives by making their relative status irrelevant. But whether that will hold true in practice is a very different question.


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