Otherwise Occupied / On Obedience

Future researchers will ask: Was the person who did not permit toilet paper to be brought into the Gaza Strip in a life-threatening situation?

Fifty years from now, assuming that global warming and/or the pressing of a certain button do not decide earth's fate, or that of our region, researchers will study the stored documents that Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories was forced to disclose in the past year, following two petitions based on the Freedom of Information Act.

These documents detail the implementation of the closure policy that disconnected Gaza from the rest of Palestinian society. Assuming and hoping that the Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement website will be accessible then too, researchers will find there scanned versions of the documents that were released. They alone do not reveal the sense or non-sense of the policy. But they provide a fascinating lesson on obedience.

Amos Gilad
Tomer Appelbaum

Researchers of Palestinian society are not the ones who will need these documents. Presumably, or hopefully, 50 years from now, we will understand what is today so difficult to explain - that the documents of the controlling power do not teach about the people who are being controlled, but rather about the master; and that an Israeli prohibition does not tell us something about "the unfortunate Palestinian."

The bans on building a school, toilet or a cistern to collect rainwater, and on seeing family or leaving to study, tell us something about the people who formulated them and their implementers - not about anyone else. Those at the top make the decisions, and entire generations of Israelis deploy and faithfully carry them out: Polished legal experts formulate, officers draw up papers with instructions, geographers prepare sketches, senior lawyers and officers defend, young supervisors in the service of the Israel Defense Forces sign demolition orders and then join the demolition teams. It is impossible to say this is indifferent obedience. Everyone enthusiastically explains his actions.

Here is another example from a different area, the South Hebron hills, the village of Umm al-Kheir, last Thursday: At 7:00 A.M., Civil Administration officials showed up and razed two tin shacks, a tent and a toilet. And that's not all, because there are still demolition orders pending for 12 more structures. Unlike the tents on Rothschild Boulevard, here our media is silent, obedient even without instructions from above.

Military qualities seeping into civilian life, the researchers may perhaps conclude. Or the opposite: Civil society provided inspiration to those in uniform.

Yosef Mishalev
Alon Ron

In another 50 years, researchers studying these documents will not ask what those whose toilet structures were razed did, and how they managed in Gaza from September 2007 to November 2009 without toilet paper, sanitary napkins and coffee. That can be seen in films from the period. The researchers will ask whether the major general responsible for interpreting the government's decision was in danger of being executed for disobedience.

They will find that this was not the case at all - not even close to it. And what about dismissal, they will ask. And apparently they themselves will answer that for shampoo or toilet paper, it was not worth it for the officers to ask questions and place their careers in jeopardy. It's a universal rule that cuts across all societies and all ages: Obedience is linked to the pay slip.

From the documents on the "status of permissions during closure," the COGAT's weekly guidelines regarding who and what enters and exits Gaza, one may conclude that in October 2009, Gaza did not have chocolate, computers, fabric, coffee, tea and extension cords. Because all of these do not appear in the weekly lists of items that are allowed in that were prepared by senior officers at the office of the COGAT. But the news reports in the virtual archives will indicate that these products began arriving in the markets there in 2008, via the tunnels. The stricter the Israeli prohibitions became, the more creativity there was. The tunnel digging methods became more sophisticated and commerce via them expanded.

In place of the merchants and manufacturers who supported the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and whose sources of income were cut off, a new strata of businessmen surfaced and turned into Hamas supporters for pragmatic reasons. And here is the title for seminar papers in the political science department: "The consolidation of Hamas' rule thanks to the Israeli siege policy."

On the other hand, in the Jewish history department, in the anthropology course on "bureaucratic mechanisms," and in the psychology department, the focus will be on the Israeli side. There, they will ask who were these people, these same Israeli officers, who in February 2009 banned the entry of hummus into Gaza and by the following May had already permitted it.

It is known that they acted in accordance with a government decision to respond to Hamas' takeover of the security mechanisms in the Gaza Strip in June 2007. It seems that they enjoyed the obedient one's license, and they, and not the minister of defense himself, are the ones who made the specific decision that hummus and flour should not be allowed in and then later decided that hummus should be permitted, but not pine nuts.

A certain degree of creativity is required for this - and even a bit of humor. The Marx Brothers attend a meeting of the COGAT. The obedient one's license when it comes to pasta, which was permitted in spring 2009, has already acquired notoriety. An American senator was shocked, the U.S. secretary of state berated, and the gluten-rich Italian creation appeared at the Kerem Shalom crossing point. The obedient one has two masters.

When the new coordinator of government activities appeared in late 2009, he began quietly expanding the "list of foods and humanitarian products permitted into the Strip." The ridiculousness of it all eroded the brotherhood of the fighters. Only in June 2010, after the political tsunami sparked by the fatal intercept of the Turkish flotilla, did the government decide to cancel the previous directive. Since then, it has not been a case of another limited list of products that are permitted, but just a list of goods prohibited due to security reasons. But the ban on taking goods out of the Gaza Strip, i.e., the ban on Gazans producing and working still stands. The obedient ones do not diminish; they are simply replaced.