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English Translation of Report from Israel's Blacklisting TeamsSalem-News.com
Police, Israel Security Agency (Formally GSS) and Administrative Blacklistings
(TEL AVIV) - Each entry of Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories into Israel, settlements or seam zone between the separation fence and the Green Line, requires a permit. This includes entry to work in Israel or in the settlements for commerce, cultivation of the land that was imprisoned by the Separation Barrier, to exit to Jordan, for medical treatment (including Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem), visiting families, visiting prisoners and more.
The policy of blacklisting that is imposed on tens of thousands of Palestinians in the occupied territories is one of the severe aspects of the occupation regime. Permits are withheld under the guise of security precautions, as punishment for entering Israel without a permit or with forged documents - to bring bread home (police blacklistings), for incurring debts (administrative blacklistings), or countless other reasons . The system creates a terrible trap, by withholding information about the cause of the blacklisting, if and when expires (especially in the case of Israel Security Agency – formally GSS- blacklistings), and who to contact to try to rectify the sentence. The system creates fear, a Kafkaesque sense of helplessness among the occupied population, and also severely impairs social cohesion.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are blacklist ed. The list of ISA blacklisted has spun out of control over the years. Recently, we have seen that an effort was made, in some areas, to ‘clean out” black lists. Yet, many thousands of Palestinians are still blacklisted, the lists are still inflated, and more and more people are forced to run around back and forth trying to get off it.
For ten years, several teams of MachsomWatch volunteers have monitored and documented problems and filed complaints to the Civil Administration on issues pertaining to blacklistings. The teams produced a number of publications that were published on the website and include the information collected. These include Invisible Prisoners - Don't Know Why and There is Nowhere to Turn, and Obstacle Course - Conduct of the Israel Police in the Occupied West Bank found at: http://www.machsomwatch.org/
One of the most important aspects of the work of our blacklisting teams is providing blacklisted Palestinians reliable information about their status and the procedure for challenging the blacklisting status. Hundreds turn to us every month to clarify their status, to learn what documents they need to provide to appeal their blacklisting, including personal documents and documents from the employer). The appeal procedure varies according to changing instructions of DCOs, their area of residence or the arbitrary whims of the authorities. Palestinians often turn to lawyers for this information, at considerable cost, only to receive incomplete and inaccurate information. We take great care to be accurate in providing information on the bureaucratic quagmire, that often invents regulations just to make life difficult for Palestinians. We do our best to prevent, as much as possible, blacklisted Palestinian’s frustration or the need to come again and again to the DCO without knowing what was wrong with their previous request. Two teams of MachsomWatch volunteers deal with workers and traders, who are subject to a sweeping policy of denial of permits by the Israel Security Agency (formally GSS) and police. The inability to attain permits prevents them from legally working and earning a living and condemns a large population into sustained poverty. We assist in preparing applications for workers and traders who managed to get the necessary documents. In some areas, workers and traders with appropriate documents are referred to local offices for help in preparing requests. Applicants submit these requests to the regional DCO and receive confirmation of this submission with the expected date for an answer, usually after two months. In the DCOs that make it very difficult to appeal blacklistings, such as Jenin and Qalqilya, we are assisted by Attorney Tamir Blank in the submission of appeals. We follow up with the public relations officer of the Civil Administration to ensure that the requests people have submitted are handled and ascertain the answer to their request. We notify applicants if blacklisting status has been removed or if their request was denied, even if the DCO itself informs people, in order to ensure that the information indeed reached them.
In the past year, in the case of ISA blacklistings, the blacklisting status is removed from 60 % of the applicants that we know of. The police blacklisting removal rate is negligible. Since the beginning of 2007, we also offer workers and traders whose blacklisting appeal was denied to appeal that decision in our Court project. Since the beginning of 2008, Attorney Tamir Blank represents the people in these court petitions. The rate of removal of the blacklisting status in court is about 70 %. Most of the people whose blacklisting is maintained are brothers of released prisoners - a collective punishment to the family of released prisoners. The vast majority of court petitioners are ISA blacklisted, and not police backlisted.
The Police Blacklistings Team also tracks the service provided by the police at DCOs, who are supposed to serve the public. The police attitude is one of superiority, often offensive, and the information provided is often incomplete or incorrect. Misinformation received sends Palestinians running back and forth to various offices and sometimes defeats the entire task. Daily, we ascertain the presence of DCO police officers in Bethlehem and Hebron, since most of our applicants are from these areas. We accompany Palestinians by telephone and in person in attempts to attain information, to obtain documents needed to appeal police blacklistings, or police records that they are not able to attain on their own, from the policeman stationed at the DCO’s.
Another team of MachsomWatch volunteers help the blacklisted to obtain permits to reach the Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem or Israeli hospitals. Sometimes, these are cases of life and death. Yet another team helps people who are subject to administrative blacklisting due to debts, try to find their way through bureaucracy: figure out what the debt is, and try to reduce and to divide these often huge sums into installments. Traffic fines are just one of many injustices - a huge money squeezer from weak people.
This interaction has important human element which is rare for Palestinians and us. For them, we are the Israeli civilian voice, which they virtually never encounter. Most have encountered Israelis only as soldiers, as policemen or as settlers, all armed, and typical discourse is characterized by commanding and threatening. In contrast, our tone in conversations with Palestinians is, of course, always courteous, respectful and patient. Despite the language barrier, we manage to reach a mutual understanding with them and instill confidence and hope. Maybe for the first time in their lives, they feel respected by Israelis, allowing them to understand the tasks needed to appeal their blacklisting, and also to share heartbreaking personal stories or ridiculous descriptions of entrapment and frustration , the lot of the occupied and oppressed people for almost fifty years.
Two other human rights organizations do important work in the issue of withholding permits. Center for the Defence of the Individual deals with Palestinian permits to travel to Jordan, the seam zone, family visits, including family reunification of Jerusalemites, and prison visits. Gisha (Access) deals with Palestinian passage out of Gaza and between Gaza and the West Bank.
The meaning of all this activity is not only humanitarian. It enables people to get permits, an inseparable part of the struggle for human rights. Our activity is a tangible expression of our political stance that rejects the occupation and requires us to take a fundamental political and active stand that integrates the core activity of MachsomWatch - to report and document. It enables us to record an important aspect of the repression orchestrated by the Shin Bet, police , civil administration and army commander in the West Bank , with the backing of the executive and the legislative branch.