Rarely does a week pass by where we don’t see Israel tightening its grip on Palestine through its apartheid system of domination and control, or new revelations about the detrimental effect this is having on Palestinians.
This week it was the news that the occupation state has introduced a set of procedures that will make Israel the arbiter of who can and cannot teach in Palestinian universities and the revelation that an “extremely arbitrary” travel ban imposed on Palestinians has prevented thousands from going abroad.
In the new procedure, which is one of many that will come into effect in May, Palestinian institutions of higher education will only be permitted to employ lecturers from overseas only if they teach in fields that Israel has designated essential. Only authorised persons at the Defence Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) will be allowed to approve the entry of a tutor “after they have proven to our satisfaction that the lecturer will make a significant contribution to academic education, to the regional economy or to the promotion of regional cooperation and peace.”
In essence what this means is that the Israeli army officers will get to decide for Palestinian universities which fields of academic studies are “required” and who will be allowed to teach them. The policy is one of many Israel deploys to hinder Palestinian academic freedom. Others include raids on university campuses, arrests of student leaders, blocking access to external resources and faculties.
Speaking to Haaretz about the procedures, Israeli attorney Ben Hillel said that that they show “just how far Israel refuses to let go of the desire to control every component of the lives of Palestinians and their families.” Hillel had filed a petition against tightened policies and restrictions.
As for this week’s revelation on the detrimental impact of procedures designed to limit Palestinian freedom, is the news that nearly 10,600 Palestinians were issued travel bans by Israel in 2021. The figures were released by the Israeli Civil Administration following a freedom of information petition by human rights group HaMoked. Details of the released figures show that Israel barred 10,594 Palestinians from traveling abroad due to “security reasons.” The latest figures do not include individuals who turned up at a border unaware of their ban. Only those imposed with a travel ban by Israel are on the list, which means that the figures are likely to be much higher.
Reasons for the travel bans are said to be “extremely arbitrary.” There are instances where a single sentence stating, “You are a Hamas activist,” is mentioned. Others have been banned for simply being an employee of human rights group Amnesty International. A lecturer from the Nablus area was denied travel overseas to participate in a masterclass for short-story writers in Germany. There is also the appalling case of a Palestinian who wanted to visit his cancer suffering brother but was denied pass at the King Hussein Bridge (Allenby Crossing).
“At any given moment, there are more than 10,000 people on the Shin Bet’s blacklist, which prevents them from leaving the West Bank to travel abroad,” Jessica Montel, executive deputy director of HaMoked, is reported saying. “This is without any prior notice, explanation, or hearing. For the most part, the reason is only revealed when someone turns up at the Allenby Bridge, with a suitcase and a flight ticket they have purchased on their way to visit family, to study, work, or for medical treatment.”
These are just two of the latest examples of how every aspect of Palestinian life is subjected to Israel’s system of domination and control. No Palestinian is free. Whether it’s the two million besieged in Gaza; three million living in occupied West Bank and Jerusalem; two million residing as second-class citizens in Israel “proper”; or the five million refugees denied their right of return; every Palestinian is subjected to Israel’s system of domination and control in some shape or form, to maintain what has been labelled by B’Tselem as a system of Jewish supremacy.
They are examples of the “suppression of Palestinians’ human development” described in detail by Amnesty International in its report on Israeli apartheid. Decades of deliberately unequal treatment of Palestinians in all areas under the control of Israel has left Palestinians marginalised and subject to widespread and systematic disadvantages in all areas of life including education. Discriminatory treatment, says Amnesty, and allocation of resources by Israeli authorities for the benefit of Jewish Israeli citizens in Israel and Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories compound the inequalities on the ground.
In controlling who can and cannot teach at Palestinian universities Israel has further tightened its grip on Palestinians whose living standards have been stagnating or
deteriorating with access to healthcare, employment, education and housing being particularly affected.
Proponents of Israel regularly deflect the apartheid label saying, amongst other things, that Palestinians are free to run their own affairs. In theory, under what is by no stretch of the imagination a defunct Oslo Process, the Palestinian Authority oversees the police force in their jurisdiction as well as coordinating state services such as education, health and transportation. In reality that is not the case.
Israel is the only power in complete control of historic Palestine, all the territory west of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Of the 12 million people living in the territory, the lives of six million non-Jews are controlled within a system with multiple jurisdictions. While Israel’s six million Jewish citizens move freely and enjoy all the freedoms as though they were living within a single territory, Palestinians can only dream of such a reality. Their lives are fragmented in every sense, from where they can travel to which freedoms they can enjoy.
This system, which all major rights group say is a form of apartheid, has been built and maintained over decades by successive Israeli governments across all territories they have controlled, regardless of the political party in power at the time. In that time Israel has subjected different groups of Palestinians to different sets of discriminatory and exclusionary laws, policies and practices at different times, responding to the territorial gains it made first in 1948 and then in 1967, when it annexed East Jerusalem and occupied the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Over decades, Israeli demographic and geopolitical considerations have shaped policies towards Palestinians in each of these territorial domains.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.