Expulsion, little by little
Hiding behind security rationales and the seemingly neutral bureaucratic language of military orders is the gateway for expulsion. Not massive expulsion, heaven forbid, not on trucks, and not far. Drop by drop, unseen, not so many that it would be noticed internationally and shock public opinion.
The fears and suspicions, as usual, came true - and very quickly. Hiding behind security rationales and the seemingly neutral bureaucratic language of military orders is the gateway for expulsion. Not massive expulsion, heaven forbid, not on trucks, and not far. Drop by drop, unseen, not so many that it would be noticed internationally and shock public opinion; with the proper measure so the Israelis can continue saying it's justified for security reasons, with the appropriate modesty in the media so the information doesn't reach the consciousness of even those who are dealing with the details of a permanent agreement, with their love of peace, while a wave of anti-Semitism sweeps the world.
A little more than a week has gone by since the Palestinians whose villages are trapped between the separation fence and the State of Israel received new instructions from the army and the Civil Administration for "arranging" their presence on their own land. Civil Administration officers hurried to tell the residents that the permits were ready: permits for "permanent residents," according to a new category of Palestinians, invented by the legal minds in the army for the areas the army declared a closed military zone (though only for Palestinians. It's open to Israelis and Jews). The permits will enable the "permanent residents" to move "out of the area" and back to it. The Israel Defense Forces says it wants those residents who live "next to the fence" to maintain "as normal a fabric of life as possible."
The village of Jabara, south of Tul Karm, is trapped between the Green Line and the fence, which has been adjusted eastward to include the expanding settlement of Salit. Out of the 200 adults in the village, six found out they don't have permits. One served a sentence in an Israeli jail; another has a different address on his ID card. The village of Ras a Tira is trapped in a "salient" created when the fence was drawn to include the frequently expanding settlement of Alfei Menashe. Some 60 out of the few hundreds residents of the village have found out they don't have permits. Those who want "to maintain the fabric of normal life," therefore, must decide between giving up their work in a neighboring city, visiting their family in the village on the other side of the fence, etc., or leaving home and land.
That's the information so far available about two of 15 villages trapped inside the fence area. The more fence that is built, the greater the number of residents whose fates will be determined by anonymous clerks in the Civil Administration: "permanent" or not, allowed to have "a normal life" on their land or not. All those who did not get a permit have a family: they'll have to decide whether to adjust to the new lifestyle, in which the father is in exile on the other side of the fence, and the family is only allowed to see him with permission from the army, or to leave the land.
And another suspicion came true very quickly. Every village will have to decide on its own, separately, about its position regarding the policy of permits and the new status invented for them by the Israeli occupation authorities. Various Palestinian officials condemned the new instructions, as expected. It's a recipe for "depopulation," said Saeb Erekat, recommending that people don't accept the permits.
In Jabara, they decided to reject the permits. Agreeing to accept them would be legitimizing Israel's de facto annexation of the Palestinian land, recognition of the Israeli authority to decide whether or not a Palestinian is allowed to live on their land. If the residents agree to the permits today, they say in Jabara, tomorrow an anonymous Civil Administration officer or a Shin Bet man might prevent the marriage of a person to someone from another village outside the "seam area," or allow or prevent a joint agriculture project with a farmer from another village. Needing a permit from the occupation authorities for the most basic activities that make up a "normal fabric of life" creates an intolerable dependence that is a natural extension of the effort to enlist collaborators. And, in general, they say in Jabara, this is the Palestinian Authority's position.
But, at the beginning of the week, the residents of Ras a Tira said they received the green light from PA representatives to accept the permits, at least for an interim period. After all, without the permits, they can't even think of normal life.
In other words, there is no coordination between the villages, because there's nobody in the PA who is trying to translate "opposition in principle" and "condemnations" to the media into an active effort to establish, along with the main victims of the Israeli policy, a national Palestinian policy and an overall plan to deal with the decrees, while examining the special needs of each village on its merits. Is that a characteristic failure of the Palestinian leadership or just the feeling of helplessness when faced with Israeli determination to implement slogans like "as much territory as possible with as few Arabs as possible?"