Israel’s new immigration police has joined security forces in cracking down on foreign activists residing in the Palestinian West Bank, Haaretz has learned.
The Oz Unit participated last week in the attempted arrest of a number of activists in the West Bank town of Bil’in, and also in the raid that nabbed leading Palestinian militants Mohammed Hatib that same night. Two weeks ago, the unit took part in the arrest of a Czech activist in Ramallah…
An Israel Defense Forces officer can be seen ordering the activists to obey the unit’s instructions, explaining that immigration officials have every right to make such requests. The same officer then urges the immigration official to search for some default or problem in the detainee’s documents,
The IDF soldiers can later been seen forcefully detaining a few of the activists. When asked why the arrest was being carried out, the soldier said that the immigration official would explain everything.
So for some background on the ‘Oz’ unit, here are some links:
Established by a 2008 cabinet decision, the task force, which goes by the Hebrew name “Oz” (courage), is the enforcement body of the Population Authority that comes under the aegis of the Interior Ministry, and replaced the immigration police. The unit has 200 inspectors, who have policing powers only with regard to foreigners.
This report from July offers a different number for the unit’s inspectors, but gives an idea about the scale of the work:
The newly created “Oz” task force on Thursday presented data according to which it rounded up 600 foreign citizens and arrested an additional 400 in its first three weeks of operation. The task force, which consists of 100 members, replaced the Immigration Police…
This Ynet report notes that “the Oz Unit’s mission statement is to encourage illegal foreign workers to leave Israel freely.”
‘Oz’ means ‘courage’ in Hebrew.
And finally, here’s an article about the role of the Oz unit in cracking down on international activists:
A complaint to the court ombudsman against Jerusalem District Court Judge Yitzhak Milanov reveals cooperation of questionable legality between the police and Oz, the Interior Ministry unit that deals with illegal foreigners, in the treatment of foreigners who took part in recent demonstrations in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarra neighborhood…
A week later, on December 18, Ryan Olander was arrested again at another demonstration in Sheikh Jarra. This time, according to Cohen, members of the Oz unit managed to take him from the court before a judge had reviewed his arrest, after police requested that Oz “act to remove this tourist from Israel permanently.”
Cohen said that Olander’s visa was canceled only after he was taken to Givon Prison – meaning the Interior Ministry essentially legalized his illegal arrest retroactively.