FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Indefinite Siege

by Amira Hass

The far-reaching significance of Israel’s siege policy and the institutionalization of the pass system for travel through the West Bank is in direct contradiction to the minimal–if any–interest shown in Israel about the phenomenon.

The siege policy is perceived as a legitimate means to prevent attacks on Israelis inside Israel, and on soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since September 2000, the sieges on all the Palestinian cities and villages has been increasingly tightened and at the same time, motivation has risen among young Palestinians to kill themselves in suicide attacks on Israelis. The Palestinians understand that urge as a reaction to the concrete suffocation that the siege creates, as well as a metaphor for their utter lack of hope for a chance for free lives. On the Israeli side, the majority is convinced that there is no connection between the two and that if not for the sieges, the number of attacks would greatly increase.

So, there’s no point in wasting words on Israelis on the immorality of effectively locking up 3 million people in enclaves, between barbed wire and frightening army checkpoints. What the Palestinians perceive as ruthless collective punishment, the Israelis perceive as a necessary evil: It may cause “discomfort” to the innocent, but it is the system that puts limits on the use of lethal means in the hands of the army.

For the same reason, explanations by the coordinator of government activity in the territories, that the pass system in the West Bank is meant to ease the situation for the Palestinians, sound logical. And the Israel Defense Forces has been doing what it can in the past few weeks to make it easier for the government coordinator to make his position clear. The closure of every city, town and village is more and more hermetic, and more and more violent. That’s why when people are being sent to the Civil Administration offices to ask for permission to do the most basic things in daily life–go to work, to school, to the doctor, to friends, to family–it appears humane.

Nonetheless, here’s a scenario built into the siege policy. Most people considered the pass system as a “temporary measure.” But, since it now covers all Palestinian movement inside the territories, it’s impossible to distinguish between it and the settlements’ existence. The internal sieges are meant to protect their security and safety and the safety of the soldiers protecting the settlements. As opposed to the illusions of those who support peace, Israel does not regard the settlements as “temporary” or as a “bargaining card.” The statistics about the growth of the settlements in the “peace decade” of Madrid and Oslo are proof of this.

Bureaucratic institutions have a tendency to perpetuate themselves and their methods. The IDF and the Civil Administration will do all they can in the coming years to convince whoever they must that it’s still not time to give up the travel pass system, which means maximum supervision of all Palestinian movement. Their approach will influence the political negotiations in the coming years.

Just as the travel pass between Gaza and the West Bank became a permanent feature, the travel passes for movement inside the West Bank will become permanent. People will wait days and weeks for permission to go from one town to the next, and that permission won’t be granted–whether because of a lack of manpower, or because of efforts to draft recruits as informants. Every commercial and industrial activity will require the good graces of an Israeli official who will apply his own personal translation to the rules handed down by the Shin Bet and the army, and those rules will change daily.

As the World Bank has warned, sieges and closures are in direct contradiction to every principle of development and advancement of the private sector. It will only take a few months for the division of the West Bank into disconnected enclaves to reduce most of the Palestinian population into welfare cases. The higher education system will totally collapse–of course, the security authorities in Israel always have regarded the students as a dangerous population that should not be allowed to travel. It will be impossible to rehabilitate industry because of the need for credit in other cities, the marketing costs (the back-to-back trucking system, which requires multiple transfers of goods from one truck to the next on the outskirts of each town, forbidding direct transport of merchandise from town to town), the difficult in finding labor and the lack of land reserves (most of the open land is outside the areas under siege).

Already the sieges are causing severe sanitation and health problems. There are signs of malnutrition, it is difficult to move refuse to areas outside the boundaries of the siege, and water is in short supply, particularly in those villages that depend on regular delivery of water containers. This is in addition to delays in medical supplies and vaccinations for infants. As unemployment mounts, such problems and many others will only get worse.

The long-term imprisonment in the enclaves is paralyzing the senses, the desire and the ability to initiate, blocking both individual and collective creativity. But it presumably is pushing more desperate young people to dream about their own destructive reaction to the Israeli policy, no matter how difficult it will be to accomplish.

This is only an imaginary scenario for those who aren’t ready to look at what’s going on a kilometer from their homes and those who aren’t ready to think about “security” in terms that are far from long-term.

Amira Hass writes for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail