The Israeli Knesset passed on Wednesday the first reading of a bill to forcibly transfer families of Palestinians involved in attacks against Israelis, despite heavy opposition from intelligence and army officials.
The bill, presented by the ultra right-wing Jewish Home party, was approved by 69 votes in favor, and 38 votes against.
If passed into law, it would see that within a week of an attack or attempted attack, the Israeli army’s central command would be permitted to expel the relatives of the Palestinian assailants from their hometowns to other areas of the West Bank.
It would also allow for Israeli forces to demarcate an area in which the family is not allowed to enter.
The vote comes just days after Israel’s Security Cabinet and Ministerial Legislation Committee approved the bill.
During the session, three Palestinian MKs, Jamal Zahalka, Ahmad Tibi and Masud Ganaim were removed from the plenum.
According to the Andolu Agency, Israeli MK Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home party described his Arab colleagues as “terrorists”, while Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi shouting at him: “You can kill the Palestinians, but you cannot oppress an entire people.”
The proponents of the bill have argued that the measure would serve as a “deterrent” for those thinking to target Israelis in shooting or stabbing attacks.
“The expulsion of terrorists’ families,” the bill states, “is a proven deterrent that has the power to decrease terrorist attacks and save lives.”
Earlier this week, Haaretz reported that the director of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, opposed the bill saying that it would be nearly impossible to implement, and that it would “bring about a result that is the opposite of deterrence since its implementation would create tensions.”
Haaretz quoted a senior security official as saying that the bill was being pushed as a result of public pressure in the wake of a spate of attacks targeting Israeli settlers, not out of an actual security or operational need.
“How exactly are we supposed to do this? Take families and throw them in the Hebron Hills? And then what? Watch them so that they don’t move? Chase them each time they go back to their village and then throw them out again?,” the unnamed official said.
For years the Israeli government has enacted a series of these so-called “deterrence” measures including demolishing the family homes of accused attackers, shutting down entire villages where a suspected attacker is from, conducting massive arrest operations targeting family and friends of the accused, and revoking the Israeli work permits of close and distant relatives of an attacker.
Rights groups have criticized the government’s policies as collective punishment, and Israeli military officials have previously made recommendations to the government that practices like home demolitions did not deter attacks.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem has condemned the practice of punitive home demolitions as “court-sanctioned revenge” carried out on family members who have not committed crimes, amounting to collective punishment.
The new bill which aims to expel the families of attackers from their homes could amount to forcible transfer — a war crime under international law.
B’Tselem has said this of the practice: “Forcible transfer – by direct physical force or by creating a coercive environment that makes residents leave their homes – is a war crime. All people responsible for it – including the Israeli prime minister and the minister of defense – bear personal liability.”