"Fabric of Life" and the DCO
"The District Coordinating Office will manage the civil affairs in the area... providing for the welfare and wellbeing of the population, ensuring the function of public services, and considering the need to maintain proper administration and public order."
(from edict no. 947 of the military government)
This definition of the duties of the civil administration (the 'laundered' name for the military government) was to maintain a reasonable 'fabric of life' for the Palestinians. The state of affairs in the Occupied Territories, however, clearly shows the destruction of life fabric. A normal fabric of life is possible only to the extent that freedom of movement is assured, and the Palestinians have no such freedom of movement.
Their entire everyday life-routine depends upon various permits issued by the regional offices of the civil administration (DCOs). Machsomwatch members' monitoring these offices shows an intentional policy of not providing this service or turning it into an ongoing nightmare. What appears to be inefficiency is in actual fact a most effective mechanism of restricting Palestinian movement. It is a brilliantly efficient form of dominance and oppression - no less efficient than the movement restriction in themselves.
There are perhaps explanations for the need to regulate entry into Israel itself, but the necessity for permits for any motion of Palestinians within the various regions of the Occupied Territories proves that issuing the permit is rather a 'privilege' depending upon the applicant's proving a 'justifiable reason' for wanting to move from one place to another. As a result of this approach, the procedure of issuing permits is not transparent or clear, and is conceived by the civil administration as an exception, to the rule that denies all Palestinians any movement.
The magnetic card, issued by the civil administration, is supposedly an identification card with fingerprints and fundus of the eye photo. In actual fact however, this card has become a 'clean bill' without which no other permits may be issued such as those for trade, employment, medical care etc. Not every Palestinian receives such a magnetic card. Two years ago, when these cards began to be issued, the administration claimed they would be re-issued automatically. Lately, however, we have learned that many of the card holders are required to renew them. In addition there are many new applicants. This fact brings an enormous number of people to the DCO offices, arriving there in the wee hours of the morning in order to get ahead in the waiting line and obtain the desired card.
It is very hot today today. The air-conditioning in the waiting room does not function. About fifty people are waiting, some having arrived at dawn. They all need a magnetic card. The Palestinians have prepared a neat waiting list. We complain to the authorities and propose: "Perhaps you should check who is blacklisted by the GSS (General Security Services) and not eligible for the magnetic card so that he may be sent away and spared the waiting time?" The explanation we receive is that "Since June 1st, GSS-prevented Palestinians also receive magnetic cards".
Five minutes pass and a young man comes out telling us he has been denied the card. The document he holds bears the note 'GSS-prevented'. We complained again and after a while were told of a quota of GSS-prevented applicants to receive the cards, and this quota has filled for the day. 'They should come again tomorrow.' Today he is a threat to Israeli security. Tomorrow - if he manages to make it into the quota - he will no longer pose such a threat...
An announcement is posted in the waiting room: from tomorrow until Thursday the DCO will be closed to magnetic-card applicants. The soldiers will be away on a seminar - learning to improve the service provided for the Palestinians. And why was the notice not up days ago? And how will the Palestinians know there is no point in coming tomorrow at dawn to try and get their place in line? 'They know', 'the Palestinian DCO has been notified', 'the people already here know and the taxi drivers will pass the word around'. We tried to find out why the GSS-prevented are not identified in advance in order to let them go early. The Ministry of the Interior, for example, has a clerk whose sole duty is to hand out waiting line numbers to the people according to their various needs, and to make sure they hold the necessary documents. Why not the DCO? Why not check the ID numbers of those waiting in line and inform them whether there is any point in waiting, perhaps hand out numbers so people can go have breakfast or lunch? Why?
(Etzyon DCO, June 22nd)
The bureaucracy does not accommodate changing needs. Even when there are hundreds of people waiting, only one or two windows are manned. The population's needs are not a criterion considered in this matter.
- The numbering machine for the waiting line is placed beyond the entry turnstile - where the Palestinians have no access at all when they enter the DCO - is this unintentional? Or perhaps quite intentional?
- If it is known that on a certain workday only a given number of applications will be processed, and the demand exceeds this number, no work post will be added. 'They' should come here again and again, for 'the natives' time and their economic conditions are of no concern to the administration.
- If the telephone number posted on a sign in the waiting room would ever answer, one would assume that the civil administration is genuinely interested in providing service and considering the public needy of it...
- A booklet in Arabic explaining to the Palestinians how to deal with the permit system would free them of uncertainty - but forty years of Occupation have not been time enough for the production of such a booklet. By mere chance? Perhaps uncertainty itself serves Israel's domination of its Palestinian non-citizens**?
- The fingerprints of physical laborers are often very blurred. One could place state-of-the-art technology 'for the welfare of the population' at the checkpoints to check fingerprints. But the Palestinians are sent by the dozens to wait for hours at the DCO offices just for this. Why? Because there is no intention of providing them with service!
ATTENTION, HUMANITARIAN HOTLINE:
On our last visit there, the 'humanitarian' gate was opened twenty minutes before our arrival, and we waited another twenty minutes until it was opened again. In other words, the gate was closed for forty minutes in peak hours. People recognized even by the Occupation authorities as needy of 'humanitarian' treatment had to wait nearly an hour just to pass on to an internal waiting line to access the checking sleeve. The 'humanitarian' line - whoever gave this gate such a surreal name? Why does it not move? Why do the elderly, the ailing, women children and babies have to wait, standing, all this time? This trouble, as always, is purely man-made.
Explanation - at peak hours one or two officers/policemen are needed to direct the people waiting to be checked in the inspection sleeves in an orderly fashion. Precisely in these hours, they sometimes disappear, all of them. No one there.
The approach to the regular turnstiles - those intended for the young and healthy male populace - is remote-controlled by a male or female soldier seated in a glass-enclosed post. Apart from the 'humanitarian' line the gate to which is opened manually. The people entering the 'normal' turnstiles are already in much of a hurry, looking for an available checking lane, and discover that there are few people in sleeve no. 5, the one intended for 'humanitarian' cases. So they, the 'normal' applicants join the inner waiting line for women. Whoever is supposed to keep an eye on things and make sure the 'humanitarian' sleeve would serve the ones for whom it is designed, the person supposed to open this gate - vanishes precisely when pressure is at its peak.
Every morning the 'humanitarian' gate is opened for only two hours to allow women, children, the ailing, the elderly, and medical staff through. And then, just then, no officer or policeman is present and the waiting desperately and helplessly watch as the younger crowd pass first. After our repeated appeals to the army's humanitarian hotline, the police, officers and soldiers arrive and everyone is finally here. All this on a quiet morning in which mothers holding babies have waited for a whole hour while our 'boys' sat around comfortably in their inner rooms. We assumed that at the 'humanitarian' line people would wait less. In fact, the weaker wait more?
(Qalandiya, June 22nd)
The denial of freedom of movement perpetrated by the Occupation is inhuman and a violation of the law. At the checkpoints and the DCO offices bureaucracy is practiced for the sole purpose of further impeding the Palestinians' movement in their land.
And to the actual point at hand - no improved conditions will solve the problem.
The only solution is TO PUT AN END TO THE OCCUPATION.