Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Amira Hass Speaks on Israel's Closure Policy at CPAP

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Amira Hass Speaks on Israel's Closure Policy at CPAP

Article excerpt


Amira Hass, a renowned reporter for Tel Aviv's Ha'aretz, spoke at the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine on May 8. Her speech dealt with Israel's closure policy, in effect since 1991.

Hass began her speech by observing that her parents had come to Israel as refugees. Therefore she cannot accept Israel as a colonialist endeavor. Instead, she would prefer to have the six million back and no state -- to keep the diaspora.

From 1970 to 1991, Palestinians in the occupied territories had the full right of movement. The General Exit Permit, Moshe Dayan's idea, was meant to integrate the territories' economy with that of Israel. Dayan hoped that by doing so, Palestinian aspirations would die away. The Palestinians would be "occupied, but occupied in all of Palestine." Even during the intifada, Hass noted, the movement's leaders traveled from Gaza to Jerusalem to have their leaflets printed, then traveled back to Gaza at 2 a.m. to distribute them.

On Jan. 15, 1991, Israel closed all of the occupied territories for three days only. The move was seen at the time as temporary, but it was not. Since Oslo (in 1995), closure has been seen as a "natural law" in Israel. Of the 2.8 million Palestinians in the territories, Hass claimed, only about 150,000 have travel permits. These permits are mostly given on the grounds of the holders' functionality to the Israeli economy or the political situation. Thus drivers, workers, merchants and Palestinian Authority members are most likely to obtain the visas.

Closure has led to a double division. The first is territorial: the northern West Bank is cut off from the southern, and Gaza is further isolated from the West Bank. The second is social: movement is no longer a right but a privilege. One cannot fight for the right of all, else one's own permit is lost. The policy has made people stand alone in dealing with Palestinian officials who, in turn, must serve as intermediaries with Israeli officials who decide who gets a permit. …

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