Love apartheid under Israel’s regime of control

After backlash, Israel retreated on new rules on declaring romantic relationships. But Israel’s system of control, concealed under the banality of its brutal occupation, continues to encroach into the lives of Palestinians, writes Emad Moussa.

A Palestinian couple and their relatives are dressed in traditional outfits on their wedding day in the town of Birzeit near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on 3 August 2022. [Getty]

In response to outcries from human rights organisations, the Israeli government retreated on its decision to ‘regulate’, among other things, the entrance of foreign passport holders to the occupied West Bank.

The original version of the controversial clauses stipulated that foreign passport holders, including Palestinian dual citizens, in a romantic relationship with a Palestinian resident of the West Bank must “inform” the Israeli authorities “in writing within 30 days of the relationship’s start.”

The revised protocols now do away with a strict academic quota to allow only 100 foreign teachers/professors and 150 international students into the occupied territories. Another controversial clause revised was that “applicants” had to declare if they owned or were expecting to inherit land in the West Bank.

“By sheer ignorance, apathy, or deliberate distraction, the debate overshadows the large and continuously growing elephant in the room: Israel’s system of control”

The Biden administration and European governments reportedly worked behind the scene to dissuade Israel from implementing the measures. The US intervention was declaredly due to  concerns over restrictions on US citizens, and US-Palestinian citizens, visiting the West Bank. During discussions with the Israeli government, US officials pointed out that the new measures would negatively affect Israel’s attempts to join the US visa waiver programme.

“For Israel to enter into visa waiver, there needs to be reciprocal privileges in terms of Americans being able to travel visa-free,” said the US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides.

The debate from this angle appears procedural: Israel was set to implement discriminatory laws and, due to international pressure and fear of a backlash, it retracted. It is also presented as a mere legal battle: a stream of stipulations, appeals, and counter-appeals.

Since their introduction in February, the protocols have been challenged by a series of legal interventions by human rights organisations on the grounds of discriminatory measures against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

By sheer ignorance, apathy, or deliberate distraction, the debate overshadows the large and continuously growing elephant in the room: Israel’s system of control.

Jessica Montell, director of Hamoked, an Israeli human rights organisation that petitioned to Israel’s high court against the government’s step, said that even though the language of the protocols has been “toned down,” the Israeli military interference with Palestinian public and private life in the occupied territories remains the norm. Indeed, according to the office of  The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the protocols are a procedure to codify norms that have been in place for years.

Israel’s perceived security requirements have been tied to the state’s ability to fully control the outcome of its occupation. Owing to Palestinian noncompliance, the system has proven impossible to fully implement, deepening the security dilemma that Israel had set out to resolve in the first place. The dilemma, nonetheless, seemed to affirm the Israeli worldview that Israel’s security (and sheer survival) is existentially reliant on the perpetuation of its military occupation.

Concepts like “managing the occupation” and “economic peace” have become the only perceivable solution to counteract Palestinian noncompliance and end the political deadlock. They practically mean preserving Israel’s security needs without relinquishing its control over the Palestinian population and their land.

“One way or another, each ‘political solution’ suggested by the Israeli state is a security arrangement that ultimately serves to cement Israel’s control over Palestinians”

The alternative is a fully sovereign Palestinian state or a one-state for both Jews and Palestinians. Neither one of these prospects, to Israeli eyes, represents a satisfactory solution to Israel’s goals and security concerns. The first, as former Israeli PM Naftali Bennett said, will be “a terror state” and a future threat to Israel, while the second will mean the end of Israel’s “Jewish character.”

Ironically, at a time when Arab states have become less antagonistic toward Israel, the Israeli leadership, and increasingly the Jewish mainstream, have grown more unyielding, viewing Israel’s security and aspirations in terms of a set of six “no’s”: no negotiations, no two-state solution, no one-state solution, no freezing or dismantlement of settlements, no Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem, and no return of any Palestinian refugees.

One way or another, each ‘political solution’ suggested by the Israeli state is a security arrangement that ultimately serves to cement Israel’s control over Palestinians. It is speculatively the only feasible route to ensure the continuity of the Zionist project. After all, goes the theory, since the age of brute military conquests is no longer a viable option, absolute and comprehensive control has become the replacement.

The danger of Israel’s system of control is not only its comprehensively oppressive nature, but also its banality and routinisation. Critical to achieving this is making the occupation virtually invisible to the external observer, including the average Jewish Israeli citizen.

Nowadays, one may travel from Tel Aviv through Jerusalem then deep into the West Bank to the Dead Sea without seeing any true manifestations of military occupation. Hidden in plain sight – via alternative Jews-only roads and carefully planned demographic sectors – are millions of Palestinians, surrounded by settlements, the segregation wall, and military checkpoints.

Bearing the appearance of a legal, bureaucratic body, the occupation authorities manage the Palestinian affairs in the occupied territories under the Kafkaesque guise of “Civil Administration,” even though it is exclusively run by the military and under the direct orders of Israel’s Ministry of Defence.

The administration’s tasks are euphemised as ‘upholding the law,’ ‘keeping the order,’ and ‘maintaining security’ for mainly the settlers and the IDF troops. The visibly aggressive military campaigns throughout the occupied West Bank’s towns and villages are thus presented as merely policing against ‘troublemakers’ or ‘terrorists’.

Palestinians are left with just enough room to manage their internal affairs within Israel-agreed parameters, relieving the Israeli state of its responsibility as the occupying force but without relinquishing its ability to have the final say. To that end, the occupation is intended to appear as simply a form of governance, manageable and defensible, and can therefore be permanent.

“The danger of Israel’s system of control is not only its comprehensively oppressive nature, but also its banality and routinisation”

The system, albeit comprehensive, is not watertight; ergo, innovative methods to intensify control over the Palestinian population are progressively introduced, often reactively and adaptively to Palestinians’ developing modes of dissidence.

In addition to the visible control of Palestinian economic, civil, and political affairs, Israel’s interference in Palestinian life has been extended – without granting rights – to even the most intimate of Palestinian affairs, such as marriage and family reunions.

Only few domains of Palestinian private life are still unaffected, but no one can be certain they will remain so indefinitely.

Dr Emad Moussa is a researcher and writer who specialises in the politics and political psychology of Palestine/Israel.

Follow him on Twitter: @emadmoussa

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@alaraby.co.uk

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.



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