What do we understand from the statement, “The land is in the area of Judea and Samaria”? Before we answer together, a preface: Discussions with and among soldiers provide Freudian treasures to scholars of Israeli colonialism. Innocent of any obedience to propaganda, the soldiers uninhibitedly disclose the maps the commanders draw in secret. After all, the top brass know how to conceal, mute, cover and blur their and their dispatchers’ political intentions.
I will never forget the words of the junior officer from the unit of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, who in 1995 explained to me that women and children in Gaza don’t receive annual permits to visit the West Bank because “they have no reason to leave.” In one naïve answer she disclosed the plans of Israel’s leaders, now being carried out nearly in full: to sever Gazans from the rest of Palestinian society.
She also expressed the prison guard mentality of the Israeli. (Arab children, as opposed to Jewish children, who are inquisitive and eager for adventure and cultural enrichment, shouldn’t travel just for fun).
We also have fond memories of the soldier who barred activists from Ta’ayush from repairing an access road to Jinba, a village in the South Hebron Hills. “This is the State of Israel here,” he said, pointing at the extensive Area C (an area in the occupied West Bank, which the 1995 Oslo accords defined as temporarily having full Israeli civil and security control) where we were standing, explaining why it’s not permitted to fill the potholes with dirt and rubble. (The activists knew that if they brought tools to smooth the path, the soldiers would confiscate them.)
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At a distance of a few dozen meters, the asphalt for the Mitzpeh Yair settlement outpost gleamed. In his naivete, the soldier described to us the situation as it was: In the State of Israel, what is done for Jews (the installation of infrastructure) is denied to Palestinians.
Now let’s get back to that “land is in the area of Judea and Samaria.” First, it’s clear from the wording that the speaker is a supporter of the occupation. Otherwise it would be the “West Bank,” a matter-of-fact definition that has become subversive. Second, it’s clear that the sentence is referring to those same 5,860 square kilometers (2,262 square miles) that were part of Jordan until June 1967, and since then have been in our hands.
On February 5, 1968, MK Eliezer Shostak, a member of the Free Center Party, submitted a parliamentary question-protest in the Knesset, with the following text: “The government ministers, its spokespersons and in their wake the press, use the term ‘West Bank’ to denote the areas that were liberated in the war from the Jordanian occupation.” Somewhat defiantly, Shostak asked then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to explain the term.
That’s what we learn from the blog of the Israel State Archives, in a post from January 2016. And it continues to tell us that on July 28, 1968, the Maariv daily reported, in a news brief, that “The Government Naming Committee in the Prime Minister’s Office announces once again ... that it has decided on the name Judea and Samaria for what was once mistakenly called the ‘West Bank.’”
Now it turns out that this liberated area of Judea and Samaria has been reduced by some 140,000 dunams (35,000 acres), by the keyboard of officers of the Civil Administration, of all things. In a response to a question from Hamoked, Center for the Defense of the Individual, providing through the Freedom of Information law, a representative of the Civil Administration disclosed how many requests for an entry permit to Palestinian land on the other side of the separation barrier were approved and how many refused from 2014 to 2018.
I am purposely referring once again to this amazing document, which also details the categories of refusal. For example: missing papers or signature, the plot of land is tiny and serves no agricultural need. Among others, the following strange excuse is mentioned: “The land is in the area of Judea and Samaria” (meaning: east of the barrier).
In other words, they so much enjoy wasting time and money on Israeli documentation that for no reason Palestinian farmers requested a permit from Israel for a place that doesn’t require a permit. After intervention by Hamoked in many individual cases, the mistake of the Civil Administration's bureacracts was clarified.
But what’s important to us at the moment is the internal terminology. From it we can understand that Judea and Samaria is now the area that was in Jordanian hands until June 1967, minus the area between the separation barrier and the Green Line. If it’s not Judea and Samaria, it’s the State of Israel, like the Latrun enclave with its three villages that we destroyed, and that has long since been annexed de facto.
The lobby favoring “ufaratza yama vakedma” — you shall spread out westward and eastward — certainly won’t protest against the cutback in the holy furrows in western Judea and Samaria, in order to naturalize them in Israel. The main thing is that the Palestinian farmer won’t be able to cultivate his land for months and years, until perhaps he’ll forget about it.
Let’s repeat: The excuse in its Freudian terminology confirms what we knew and what was denied. From the first, those who built the separation barrier deep inside the West Bank were trying to turn the area west of the barrier into Israeli land. Judging by the exhausting permit regime created by the Civil Administration, these are outstanding apartheid-like procedures.
The area west of the blocking barrier is public and private Palestinian land, but the Palestinians cannot enter without a special permit, which is given only to a few. (We repeat: 72 percent of landowners who applied for a permit in 2018 were refused!)
Those who do have an entry permit to Israel, and people 55 and older, for example, who don’t need a permit, are not allowed to walk around there — in the woods and in the orchards that their parents and grandparents planted and cultivated for decades. If caught there, they will be punished.
So who is permitted to enjoy this greenery, without waiting and without having to obtain humiliating stamps of approval? Only Israelis, and tourists. And look how quietly we are accomplishing that.