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From the field

Crossing the Line: Violation of the Rights of Palestinians in Israel without a Permit

March 2007, Summary

Severe economic hardship now prevails in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Poverty is extremely high and many Palestinians have trouble finding work to support themselves and their families. The State of Israel bears a substantial part of the blame for this dismal situation, and, given that it maintains effective control of these areas, it is responsible for rectifying the problems. Not only does Israel do nothing to ease the hardship, it aggravates the situation. It has done this, for example, by imposing a tight closure, which prevents Palestinians to leave the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and enter Israel unless they have permits, which Israel grants sparingly. Many Palestinians who have been unable to obtain the entry permit violate the closure and stay in Israel without a permit, hoping to find work and deliver themselves and their families from the anguish of poverty.

Over the years, B'Tselem has issued numerous reports on the abusive conduct of police officers and soldiers against Palestinians who violate the closure to seek work. While the Israeli authorities condemn the acts of abuse that are reported in the media, claiming they are lamentable exceptions, the report shows that these cases are not exceptions at all. In fact, they are the tip of the iceberg, under which is concealed a harsh routine of violence and abuse, including the use of illegal force, illegal damage to property, use of illegal force to extract information and recruit collaborators, and unlawful use of firearms. The report also documents how these forbidden acts occur upon the express instructions of commanding officers, and that the authorities, which officially condemn the actions, transmit a contradictory message to the soldiers and police officers by turning a blind eye and giving tacit consent.

The faulty patterns of conduct described in the report all flagrantly breach Israeli law and international law. However, because of the failures and omissions that prevent the submission of complaints and thwart proper investigation of complaints that are filed, the authorities rarely punish police officers and soldiers who commit crimes of the kinds described in the report.

To correct this perverse situation, B'Tselem urges the authorities to ensure that the procedures for treating Palestinians staying in Israel without a permit conform to Israeli law and international law, that police officers and soldiers do not deviate from these criteria, and that those who do are punished. In addition, and most importantly, B'Tselem calls on the government to solve the underlying problems that cause so many Palestinians to stay in Israel even though they do not have a permit: Israel must take effective measures to promote an independent Palestinian economy. As long as the economic situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remains grim, it must ease its closure policy and enable many more Palestinians to enter Israel , in a controlled manner and subject to suitable security checks. Such controlled entry would not threaten the security of Israelis and would likely do much to reduce the hardship endured by Palestinians.