Israel restricts foreigners in the West Bank.

palestinians fence

Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency

If your goal is to control another people, encourage them to abandon their homes, and prevent anybody else from having anything to say about it, you have to use many tools. Military might is important, but you’ll also need access to that people’s finances, an effective bureaucracy, and isolation. That last one is immeasurably important. You have to make sure that the people whose lives you hope to control have as little contact with the outside world as possible, and all of your other tools can help you achieve that.

Military might will allow you to build and maintain walls and road blocks, isolating that people from folks on the other side of those walls, while also serving to keep them from each other. Keeping a hand on the economic spigot helps keep government and citizens financially strapped, making it difficult to do much in the way of travel or outreach. And bureaucracy? Well, the sky’s the limit with bureaucracy, but your single, most effective contrivance is to condition any travel on obtaining the right permit, and then make those permits increasingly narrow and difficult to achieve.

Consider the latest example of this last truth:

Israel recently renewed restrictions on the freedom of movement of foreign nationals who live and work in the West Bank that prohibit them from entering East Jerusalem or Israel.

…Some of these individuals are Palestinians who were born in the West Bank and whose residency status was rescinded by Israel prior to 1994 due to their prolonged residence abroad. Others are married to Palestinians, while still others work in the West Bank, often as university teachers.

…Beyond the restriction itself and the discrimination it represents, the prohibition against leaving the West Bank creates other problems for foreign nationals. It limits academics’ access to archives and research institutions in Israel. Foreigners cannot drive cars with PA license plates, and the “Judea and Samaria only” restriction bars them from maintaining vehicles with Israeli license plates. Foreign citizens are also unable to reach their consulates in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Israel also retains the power not to grant such individuals work visas, but rather only tourist visa, although the authorities know full well that many of these individuals have come to the PA to work, either as business people, academics or in various civil organizations. The people with whom Haaretz spoke complained about ambiguity, lack of transparency and difficulty in obtaining information from the authorities.

Such regulations cut many ways. The most obvious, of course, is that they create an entire new class of human beings who may not travel freely into Israel: Not just Palestinians, but anyone who dares to have anything to do with Palestinians. Fall in love with a Palestinian, pursue your degree at a Palestinian university, take a position with a Palestinian NGO—you can forget about the bright lights of Tel Aviv, and to hell with your passport.

Regulations that sharply circumscribe a person’s opportunity and literal range of motion also act to discourage folks from considering such steps in the first place. This, in turn, effectively limits the access Palestinians have individually or collectively to the wealth of humanity, and further serves to encourage Palestinians to pull up stakes. Academic institutions can’t be world-class without world-class researchers; NGOs can’t be effective if their activists literally can’t get where they need to go; and why try to build a family on the West Bank if your partner has an American passport?

And if folks don’t leave? Well, you’ve tied them up for hours and days as they scramble to get the necessary paperwork to travel ten miles, or five, or one, or across the street, leaving them no time or energy to do anything about it and nothing dramatic to show the international community.

Just a bunch of Palestinians subject to Israel’s every whim, in an ever-narrowing vise.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

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