President Jimmy Carter angered Israel and its friends by describing “the abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict segregation between Palestine’s citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank.”
Now, The Electronic Intifada has obtained an Israeli Ministry of Defense Powerpoint presentation which provides a frightening glimpse into the mindset of the bureaucracy of apartheid.
The first page of the document bears the name “Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories” as well as the acronym “COGAT” at the bottom of each page. These appear to refer to the unit of the Israeli army that enforces the occupation against the Palestinian civilian population.
The top of the first slide also bears the names and insignia of the “State of Israel” and the “Ministry of Defense.” Dated January 12, the presentation is titled “Key Measures for easing the daily lives of the Palestinian Population.”
Far from that, the document provides detail of the regime of severe movement restrictions, bureaucratic ethnic cleansing and political manipulation and fostering of collaborators that Israel operates in the the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The document, in English, appears to be genuine. While its exact purpose or audience is not known, it may have been designed to impress foreign diplomats with Israel’s generosity to the Palestinians.
Among the policies the document outlines are:
Millions of Palestinians around the world are forbidden from visiting or living in their country due to Israeli restrictions and laws that discriminate against non-Jews. A privileged few Palestinians have been able to do so, however, by virtue of their citizenship in the United States or European countries, whose citizens are generally allowed to enter Israel without visas as tourists. Even this precarious existence has recently been threatened by the new Israeli practice of denying them re-entry if they leave the country for any reason. While the document claims these restrictions will be eased, it also confirms the policy of prohibiting ordinary family life for Palestinians. Palestinians (always referred to as “foreign nationals”) with foreign passports, even those with spouses and families Israel does recognize as residents, will be limited to a total cumulative stay not exceeding 27 months in their country. No other country calling itself a democracy systematically treats indigenous people as foreigners and deports them in this manner breaking apart families in the process.
Finally, the document lists a number of catergories of “humanitarian” workers who will be given some leeway from the strict pass laws. These include 1,450 religious personnel, 1,300 hospital employees, 300 hotel workers, and lawyers, teachers and residents of an enclave in occupied East Jerusalem that has been besieged by settlers and the apartheid wall.
Amidst a system of ruthless and obsessive control such as the one Israel operates against Palestinians, not even this token ‘easing’ designed purely for public relations can be taken for granted; Israel routinely lies about what it does. For example, during a summit meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in December, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert promised to remove dozens of checkpoints and obstacles impeding the movement of Palestinians inside the occupied West Bank. The Israeli occupation forces later claimed to have removed 44 of the hundreds of obstacles in fulfillment of Olmert’s pledge. In fact, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported on January 22, the Israeli army “admitted on Sunday that the 44 dirt obstacles it said had been removed from around West Bank villages did not actually exist.”
What does exist, and is plain for all the world to see, is a horrifying regime of totalitarian control of millions of Palestinians who remain prisoners of Israel’s racist system and the army and settler militias that enforce it.
Ali Abunimah is the co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse