West backs down on deportations


West backs down on deportations

By Sean Malloy

The United Nations, the European Community and the United States have tacitly supported Israel's deportation of Palestinians to Lebanon by accepting a "compromise" proposal to return 100 of the 413 original deportees. The "compromise" does not require Israel to return all deportees immediately, as called for in UN Resolution 799.

Israel expelled 413 Palestinians to a barren region in southern Lebanon on December 17 as collective punishment for the killing of an Israeli soldier by Hamas militants. Expulsion of inhabitants of occupied areas contravenes Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention.

On the weekend of February 13-14 the UN Security Council postponed indefinitely discussion of a resolution, drafted by the Palestinian observer mission to the UN, calling for sanctions against Israel. While stating that Israel should return all deportees, the Security Council declaration tacitly upheld Israel's position by not imposing any sanctions and by pressuring Arab countries to return to negotiations with Israel.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, UN secretary-general, said the Israeli proposal was "a step in the right direction" and urged Arab delegates to restart the Middle East peace negotiations. Ironically Boutros-Ghali said in late January that non-compliance with Resolution 799 "challenges the authority of the Security Council" and gives the impression that the council "does not attach equal importance to the implementation of all of its decisions".

The Clinton administration quickly accepted Israel's proposal. US secretary of state Warren Christopher said that it made further action by the UN unnecessary.

European Community foreign ministers also accepted the Israeli proposal and added pressure on Arab countries to resume talks. The EC refused to freeze trade links with Israel. European Commission president and French Socialist Party member Jacques Delors said Israel was a "special case" in terms of EC foreign policy.

The deportees themselves have resolved not to accept partial returns. One of the deportees, Dr Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, said, "If 100 return, we would be accepting the legitimacy of the expulsion of all the others".

Although no formal decision has been reached, the PLO has said it will boycott the talks unless all deportees are returned. However, rumours of a separate peace agreement between Israel and Syria sharpen pressure on the PLO to resume negotiations.

Protests in solidarity with the deportees are continuing in the occupied territories and in Israel. An Arab-Jewish committee has been formed to coordinate protests.