Qalandiya - Reflections on the permit regime

: Dawn – Hanna Barag; Afternoon – Tami Cohen, Nina Seba, Leah Shakdiel; Guests – Yif’at Erlich from Yediot Aharonot, Hanna Barag (reporting) Translator: Charles K.

04:30-08:15   Four inspection stations are open and the lines aren’t long.  Crossing goes relatively quickly.  Construction is underway at Qalandiya and access to Palestinians arriving in vehicles is more difficult than ever.  When I left almost no one remained on line.  It took me ten minutes to cross.

I stood at Qalandiya today and thought, for no particular reason, about the changes that have occurred during the many years we’ve been observing this accursed place, and their significance.  About the bureaucratic permits regime, perhaps the primary instrument of Israeli control over the occupied territories.  A Kafkaesque system.  About the confusion and uncertainty of the rotten bureaucratic arrangements which, as a result of observing their actual operation, makes you realize that the putative “administrative flexibility” that presumably exists, in fact results in inefficiency that fulfills the system’s goals, creating a structure that delays and slows down the movement of Palestinians.  Slowing down Palestinian movement is crucial to the occupation, makes the Palestinians dependent on the regime.  Each permit granted demonstrates this again.

I thought about the Shabak’s access to information which subordinates to its review and use all aspects of Palestinian life.  Its secretiveness about the information it possesses and the reasons it denies permits relieves the Shabak of the need to justify its use of the information.

The permits regime allows Israel to avoid responsibility for the Palestinians.  It allows it to deprive Palestinians of freedom of movement and of the opportunity to make a living on the basis of “offenses” which don’t require any evidentiary basis, and on the basis of fear of danger in the future.  The method turned the Palestinians into potential lawbreakers and made collective punishment possible.  There’s no proportionality between the nature of the offense and its punishment.  Arbitrary enforcement, the primacy of various “security considerations,” most of them secret, which make it almost impossible to effectively oppose them.  All that adds up to widespread violations of human and property rights.  Imprisoning Palestinians wherever they are found.  Abandoning them.  What can we say…

10:30-12:30  We met Yif’at Erlich in Hizma and drove to Qalandiya where Tami, Nina and Leah awaited us.  We were photographed and interviewed and argued, and it was time to leave.  We joined the line and waited…about 45 minutes, in the afternoon, after the morning’s congestion had already eased long ago.  The line included women carrying babies, old men and women, and ordinary people hurrying to their daily tasks.  The soldiers proved their indifference to the Palestinians’ time – and time lost is, of course, lost forever.  It was lunchtime for the army, and apparently it’s impossible to function on an empty stomach.  The soldiers are new here – that’s the impression we got – and don’t know their right hand from their left.  We tried everything.  We telephoned, and telephoned again, Nina whistled as loud as she could, we shouted – nothing helped.  Any average tortoise would have been astounded by the speed…  When it was our turn, an additional “campaign” began.  The soldier had no idea who we were in particular, and why we were there in general – and the line doesn’t move and we’re in despair.  Suddenly an officer appeared.  We thought salvation was imminent – but…  And when it was the turn of Yif’at, the journalist’s – a new performance began.  “What did you photograph,” “Whom did you interview,” the storm roars about us and nothing helps.  Qalandiya at its best.

To rise in the dark of night in order to realize once again that the iniquity continues day after day, month after month, year after year?  We are truly unique, one of a kind.  Others – our “colleagues” from Blue and White, didn’t last even a year.