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Commentary :: Human Rights
Israel's Repressive Permit System
25 Dec 2011
Israel's Repressive Permit System - by Stephen Lendman

Under South African apartheid, pass laws segregated blacks from whites, restricted their movements, required pass books be carried at all times, and be produced on demand or face arrest and prosecution.

Evolving from the 18th and 19th century until their 1986 repeal, they restricted entry to cities, forcibly relocated blacks, denied them most public amenities, many forms of employment, and became apartheid's most hated symbol.

Repressive Israeli occupation is worse. It's a sophisticated form of social, economic, political and racial discrimination, strangulation, and genocide.

It incorporates the worst elements of colonialism and apartheid as well as repressive dispossession, displacement and state terrorism. It separates Palestinians from their land and heritage, denies them their lawful rights, and displaces them from areas Israel wants exclusively for Jews.

Apartheid is the worst form of racism. Israel's militarized occupation is the worst form of apartheid. It incorporates violence, military incursions, land theft, home demolitions, targeted assassinations, murder, mass arrests, torture, destruction of agricultural land, and isolation. It's slow-motion genocide, including suffocating Gazans under siege.

The ID/permit system is one of many elements designed to make greater Israel an ethnically pure Jewish state.

Israel requires all permanent residents and citizens over 16 to have a color-coded ID cards. Called te'udat zehut, they're for West Bank and Gazan Palestinians, East Jerusalem ones, Israeli Arabs and Jews.

For Palestinians, they dictate where they may live, work, move, or be allowed through West Bank checkpoints, to Israel or Gaza. Doing so requires hard to get permits. They're easily cancelled without notice.

Jews have blue IDs, Palestinians either Israeli-issued orange ones (in Hebrew) or nearly identical Palestinian Authority-issued green ones with a PA seal on top. The following information is included:

• name and ID number;

• father and mother's names;

• date and place of birth;

• religion;

• marital status;

• gender; and

• photo.

Prior to 2005, ethnicity was also included. It's still available on request from state registrations.

A separate document includes:

• current and previous addresses;

• previous names;

• citizenship, including for permanent resident citizens of other countries;

• name, birth date and ID numbers for spouse and children; and

• electoral polling stamp.

Israel's Bureaucratic Nightmare

On December 23, Haaretz writer Chaim Levinson headlined, "Israel has 101 different types of permits governing Palestinian movement," saying:

Most common ones let Palestinians "work in Israel, or in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Over the decades, however, the permit regimen has grown into a vast, triple-digit bureaucracy."

Separate permits are required for Al-Aqsa Mosque worshippers and clerics. Medical permits distinguish between physicians and ambulance drivers. They also differ for "medical emergency staff" and "medical staff" in the seam zone (between the Green Line and Israel's Separation Wall).

Escorting a patient in an ambulance requires permit permission as does simply accompanying a patient.

Others are for traveling to a West Bank wedding or Israel, as well as visiting Israel for a funeral, work meeting, or court hearing.

New permits followed Israel's Separation Wall construction, including for farmers cut off from their land. For example, permit permission is required for "farmer(s) in the seam zone." A separate one is for "permanent farmer(s) in the seam zone." In other words, working one's own land requires Israeli permission.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Occupied Palestine-based international agencies waste 20% of their time applying for, renewing, and dealing with permit related problems.

Machsom Watch, a checkpoint monitoring organization, claims Shin Bet uses Israel's permit system to recruit informers. Palestinians rejected for security reasons are targeted. In return for spying, they offer "assistance" getting permits.

Besides other daily abuses, Israel's permit system creates a dystopian nightmare for Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Major media scoundrels almost never discuss its existence, let alone its draconian harshness.

A Final Comment

In 2001, Israel enacted an Electronic Signature Law. Plans were to issue smart ID cards. The project stalled for a decade. Storing biometric data electronically raises privacy and other civil liberty concerns.

Unlike magnetic cards, however, biometric characteristics are hard to counterfeit, copy, share, lose, or guess.

After much debate, Israel's Knesset enacted the Biometric Database Law in December 2009. A year later, Netanyahu's government approved it. As a result, the Interior Ministry will begin issuing Israeli citizens smart ID cards and electronic passports with embedded chips over a two year trial period.

New regulations call for:

• issuing a biometric ID;

• requiring fingerprints and facial images;

• encrypting and securing the data; and

• transferring it among authorized agencies.

At the end of the year end 2013 trial period, all Israeli citizens will be required to provide biometric data for IDs, passports, and storage in Israel's national database.

Palestinians already must have their hands electronically scanned when applying for Israeli-Issued Magnetic ID cards. At issue is facilitating freer movement under repressive imposed restrictions.

For example, West Bank Palestinians wishing to reach Jerusalem, Gaza or Israel must apply and pay for a magnetic card. Having one proves they have security clearance permission. If gotten, it's for short periods. Most often it's for medical or other emergencies.

Foreign travel requires an Interior Ministry-issued "laisser passer." If granted, it's good for one year and renewable only in Israel. To reach Jordan, a valid passport is needed. Many West Bank and East Jerusalemites have it as the Hashemite Kingdom once administered the Territory.

Under siege, Gazans are entirely isolated with few exceptions, other than those able to reach Egypt through Rafah. Those granted travel permission to Jordan or abroad via Ben Gurion Airport must have authorized IDs, magnetic cards and permits.

For decades under occupation, Palestinians have been governed by hundreds of draconian military orders. They cover virtually everything from bank account withdrawals, water rights, land transactions, opening a business, growing onions, public gatherings, what can and can't be published, planting and growing fruit trees, and much more.

Under military occupation, their lives are repressively micromanaged. Orwell understood it well. He once called "the price of liberty....not so much eternal vigilance as eternal dirt." Getting it, of course, is worth it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen (at)

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.                                 
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This work is in the public domain
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