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.

October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria