AN ARMY occupying foreign territory should not be expelling residents without due process, as Israel is doing in the West Bank and Gaza. A relatively small number of people -- nine -- are affected, and all appear to be veterans of the resistance, including the armed resistance, against Israeli occupation. Meanwhile, other Palestinians among the nearly 1,000 detained in the latest cycle are being freed. But it appears that none of the nine facing expulsion had been specifically linked to the December riots. Evidently this was thought to be a good time to get rid of some hard cases and to set an example for others. The nine were arrested uncharged and are to be thrown out of their homes and out of the place where their families have lived perhaps for generations; they may appeal -- under a process in which no previous appeal has succeeded.
Expulsions of Palestinians are a familiar tool of Israeli occupation policy and, not alone and not for the first time, the American government is protesting. It says that expulsions make things worse and cut across Israel's Geneva obligations to protect the rights of civilians in occupied areas. Israeli officials respond stiffly that Israel will itself decide and do what its security requires. This is a popular line in Israel, especially when foreign friends challenge the undemocratic measures it takes in the name of protecting its democracy. But it is a bankrupt line. Expulsions take place under an emergency code that Israelis inherited from the British, and detested when the British used it against them, and that they retain so as to avoid having to soil their own body of law with an emergency code. This fools no one and draws Israel deep into the corruptions of military -- that is, arbitrary -- rule.
Some people, including foreigners, think Israel has no choice: that it is defending itself against a real threat and, at that, defending itself with steps quite mild when measured against the relentlessness of the foe and Arab practice in the region. This is a debater's answer in a context where statesmanship is the need. Israel's foes are relentless. But Israel is relentless. It keeps saying it has no next Arab partner for peace, but it does not do its share to draw out such a partner. The ''peace'' for which its current leadership calls comes across as Arab acceptance of permanent Israeli control of the occupied territories. That way lie more riots and shootings, more detentions and expulsions, more tragedy.