‘Israel’s permit regime isn’t about security, it’s about segregation’

The permit system for Palestinians allows Israel to recruit informants, suppress political activity, and create an opaque system of segregation and control. Just don’t say it’s about security, says Yael Berda.

Israeli soldiers check a Palestinian man’s ID and entry permit at a checkpoint separating the West Bank city of Bethlehem and Jerusalem

Edo Konrad writes in +972:

The image should be familiar to every person with even the slightest bit of knowledge about Palestine. Hundreds of middle-aged men huddled together at ungodly hours, waiting in interminable lines in corridors enclosed by concrete walls, turnstiles, guard towers, and armed soldiers. Young boys mill about selling Arabic coffee in miniature disposable cups as the men lurch forward, one by one. The men hand their entry permits to the soldiers, and are let through.

The checkpoint is perhaps the image most closely associated with Israel’s military rule in the occupied territories, where tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers pass through to work in Israel on a daily basis. For most Israelis, the checkpoints are a tool Israel uses to protect its citizens from terrorism. For Palestinians, particularly Palestinian laborers, it is part of a system of control, one so many are forced to accede to in order to provide for their families.

For Yael Berda, assistant professor of sociology at Hebrew University, the checkpoint is what she calls the “black box of the occupation,” concealing as much as it reveals about the true nature of Israel’s labyrinthine permit regime. For the past decade, Berda, one of the foremost experts on the permit regime, has tried to unpack that box.

Her 2017 book, Living Emergency: Israel’s Permit Regime in the Occupied West Bank, based on interviews with Palestinian laborers, Israeli officials, contractors, and archival research, is an in-depth look at the various ways in which that regime — run by the Shin Bet, the army, the government, and the Civil Administration — holds hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the palm of its hand.

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