Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"Curfew," as Practiced by Israel, Means the Enslavement of a People

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"Curfew," as Practiced by Israel, Means the Enslavement of a People

Article excerpt

"In Batir, your village, the curfew is lifted?" I inquired, as I met him for the first time in what seemed an age. Our Palestinian gatekeeper at the university had not reported for work for five weeks because of the prolonged, intensive and blanket curfew on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the Gulf war.

Surprised, I expected the gate keeper's usual patient engaging smile as a response. Instead his face creased with anxiety when I mentioned the word curfew.

"It's my 10-year-old son. They have taken him. He was arrested. He has been at the military headquarters in prison for 12 days now."

"Why, why?" I asked, bewildered.

"They lifted the curfew on our village. We were told the curfew was raised at 8 am and would start again at 4 pm. He went to see friends outside the village. The Israelis suddenly imposed the curfew again at midday. My son did not know this and was walking home. Soldiers arrested him." He looked despairingly at me. "My wife travels every day to try to get him. She is told the judge will see him in court. The fine is a minimum of 500 shekels ($250), the minimum!"

Curfews at the Drop of a Hat

Western newspapers are told that both the blanket curfews and the accompanying military closed areas orders imposed on 1.7 million Palestinians are now raised. And they are told that life is now normal. How untrue! Curfews and closed military areas can be imposed on the population at the drop of a hat. The curfew, like the sword of Damocles, hangs over the population. One boy throwing a stone, a small incident, means the whole population of that town or village is punished.

The introduction of a new set of permits allowing Palestinians to travel to work in Israel is an added element preventing their freedom. Only a few thousand of the 110,000 who normally work there have managed to acquire this card. Many wait in line for a whole day to be dismissed curtly without a permit. Even those who manage to return to their jobs discover many Israeli employers will now hire them only on a daily basis. This way, the employers do not have to pay social security and other benefits.

One fortunate Palestinian man who works for tourism proudly showed me, in addition to his identity card, a wallet full of different colored permits, each with a passport photograph, giving him freedom to move. He was given permission to travel from Bethlehem to other areas of the West Bank, to go to East Jerusalem, to enter Israel and so on.

Examples illustrating the atomization of a people abound. Just last night an anxious student -- she started her studies six years ago and her fiance is still waiting for her to complete them -- telephoned to inquire whether she could come to Bethlehem to see me about her senior English seminar. She lives in Tulkarem in the north. It is virtually impossible for her to travel without obtaining the batch of permits similar to those issued to the man who works for tourism. Bethlehem University, one of the few that are officially open, is in reality unable to operate because students are not able to travel except for those in the immediate area. …

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