Following the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip of November 2012, a ceasefire was held between Israeli colonial forces and the Palestinian resistance. Mediated by Egypt, one of the terms of the ceasefire was “Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements […]”. This was blatantly an achievement on the resistance’s part; “opening the crossings” obviously meant freedom of travel. Now, instead of travelling from the West Bank across the Jordanian border, flying into Cairo, followed by a six hour drive across the Sinai desert to the Palestinian-Egyptian border all to be back on Palestinian soil and into Gaza, Gaza was now no more than an hour’s drive away. In February, my mother took the opportunity and tested how far this ceasefire condition was to be implemented, if at all. I quickly learned that my initial reaction to the condition was proven to be correct: the roads between the West Bank and Gaza are still very much under Israeli control, the only difference being that it is now less complicated to enter Gaza from the West Bank, the provisions for this being an Israeli permit through Erez checkpoint. The condition basically set out to mean that the Israeli side is more lax in their treatment of families living under apartheid, however impulsive this treatment is to be [“facilitating the movements...”].
Due to the mistrust that had risen from trying out various means (that had proved themselves to be futile) for my family to meet under one roof despite Israeli occupation preventing us from doing so, I was shocked when the one-week Israeli permit for entering Gaza via Erez checkpoint was actually issued. The permit was issued, and the controversy and conflicting thoughts on it surfaced as well.
According to the different lengths of Israeli colonialism that coincide with the different geographical areas of Palestine, some areas may have higher travel ability over others, a phenomenon that is safe to call a sort of privilege in terms of travel. For example, Palestinians who are holders of Israeli ID and/or citizenship are able to travel to the West Bank and ’48 lands. Holders of West Bank ID are restricted to the West Bank but have a slightly higher chance of acquiring Israeli permits into ’48 lands and Jerusalem (mainly by use of intermediaries) than holders of Gaza ID. And despite a condition of the ceasefire agreement to state “facilitating the movements of people”, it is still extremely difficult and rarely heard of that Palestinians with Gaza ID are able to travel to the West Bank and ’48 lands and Jerusalem. With these points in mind, Palestinian society has been layered into those more “privileged” than others, for once in a different context than that relating to economic income or profession.
Israeli permits used by West Bank ID holders are not easy to get hold of, and mainly expire within 12 hours. The reasons for acquiring such permits vary; some are used out of necessity, be it for work, or in a matter of life or death: for efficient medical care only found in AlMaqased “Hadassah” Hospital in Jerusalem. Some permits are used for trips into ’48 Palestine. My permit to enter Gaza was under the pretext of seeing first-degree family. Regardless of the reason, it is Israel that supplies or denies these permits, all within regulations such as “valid for 12 hours/3 days/one week” “valid except to enter Eilat”. The fact that it is Israel that has the upper hand to “facilet[ate] the movements” and impose the conditions in which we are to travel is yet another systematic aspect of its colonialism. It is worth nothing that Israeli permits are very unpredictable; there is no guarantee that they will ever be issued, even with the use of intermediaries.
Furthermore, the system of Israeli permits is at times used in a political and economic sense, as was shown following Eid al Fitr last year. 100,000 Israeli permits were issued during the 3-day holiday, double the amount of the preceding year. These permits being issued more liberally was purely a chance to “Muslimwash” Israel’s image in front of the media, following the vast media attention it received from denying worshippers the opportunity to travel. The move of issuing a vast amount of permits was also beneficiary to the Israeli economy, with the sad notion of “Israeli goods being of a better quality and price” put in full action by Palestinians who took the opportunity of these permits to flood Israeli malls.
There has also been a more lax treatment in the permit policy for the reason of making life under colonialism more “bearable”; this reasoning is currently in use to cancel the chances of a third Intifada.
For these reasons, these permits ought to be rightly opposed. However, the harsh reality of occupation calls for desperate measures at times, making the efficient boycott of these permits easier said than done: without Israeli permits, Palestinian families as mine may not be reunited together, even for a short time. Efficient medical care may not be reached and visits to ‘48, however dire the chances are, may never be a possibility. This epitomizes the meaning of being colonized: by being subject in every sense to the colonizer’s disposition. In the meantime, the Israeli system of permits remains impulsive in nature, prolonged without a sustainable liberation movement being the guarantee of the elimination of these permits along with Israel’s systematic policies once and for all. So unless you and I are the ones carrying Kalashnikovs until decolonization, nobody has the right to declare the other “less patriotic” or “more colonized” than the other for using these permits, for the feelings of repulsion at carrying a piece of paper that determines our movements with تصريح in Arabic misspelled to تصريخ is enough to know where our anger should firstly be directed at.