Israel’s “Permit Regime”: A Kafka-esque Nightmare?

Thomas Hobbes described life in the State of Nature—the hypothetical condition of humanity before the formation of the state—as “nasty, brutish, and short.” Without political authority and “subjection to Lawes,” humanity would be in a “dissolute condition” with nothing to “tye their hands from rapine, and revenge.”

While Hobbes viewed even the most coercive political authority as preferable to civil unrest, perhaps he couldn’t have imagined a political society in which certain groups are subject to laws so arbitrary, and conditions of fulfillment so difficult to follow, that life reverts yet again to a kind of State of Nature—a State in which life is “labyrinthine, complex, and burdensome.”

And yet this is precisely how Israel’s High Court of Justice has described the Israeli Military’s recent “permit regime” policy in the West Bank; A set of laws more reminiscent of a Kafka-esque nightmare than sound public policy.

Here is Nasrat Dakwar of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel describing the “permit regime”:

“These areas have been declared closed military zones to Palestinians only. The movement, entry and exit of Palestinians within this area and outside it, is subject to a new legal regime: the permit regime. This area is cut off, de jure and de facto, from the rest of the West Bank. Only Palestinians who are able to prove that they are permanent residents of the closed area are allowed to stay there. Other Palestinians must prove a practical need in order to gain a permit to enter this territory (through long and exhausting bureaucratic procedures, and even so they are not always granted). Palestinians are not permitted to move to live in these areas. On the other hand, Israeli and even tourists are entitled and able to enter those areas in an unrestricted fashion, and are even allowed move their places of residence there. Following the completion of the barrier, the permit regime will apply to an area encompassing 325,000 dunams of land (5.9% of the West Bank), and 238,000 Palestinians will be trapped in enclaves created by the barrier.”


“The permit regime has turned the lives of Palestinians living near the separation barrier, particularly those who make a living from farming, into a bureaucratic nightmare, and severely infringes their rights to live in their own homes, to enjoy basic services such as education, health and sanitation services; it also violates the right to pursue a livelihood of those Palestinians who live on the other side of the separation barrier.”

While I recognize Israel’s right to exist, and it’s corollary—its right to engage in self-defense both militarily and in terms of policy, the laws of the “permit regime” cross the lines of prudence and acceptability.

Governments do not create laws so absurd based on sheer stupidity and oversight. Rather, I believe that the laws associated with the “permit regime” are designed to make life so difficult for Palestinians living in the “seam zone”, that they will simply leave. Such a situation will conveniently spare the Israeli government of having to deal with a refugee population in geographical limbo—a convenience much to the benefit of the Settler movement, no doubt.


Also check out the cartoon I made for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel’s latest “Campaign a Day” initiative, calling attention to Israel’s “permit regime” (click image to enlarge).


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