After a ceasefire came into effect on Sunday evening, Palestinians in Gaza returned to a familiar reality of destruction, trauma and economic hardship, now made worse by the latest Israeli assault on the Strip. For Gaza residents, this means going back to the ongoing violence of Israel’s stringent permit regime, which dictates when and in what circumstances people can realize their fundamental right to freedom of movement and denies people the access they need to meet basic needs.

The bureaucracy developed by Israel to control and oppress the Palestinian population living under occupation puts millions of people at the mercy of decisions made by Israeli military authorities and security agencies. It is an invisible, insidious system which permeates every aspect of Palestinians’ day-to-day life, yet it rarely, if ever, makes headlines or captures public attention.

Gisha recently published the testimonies of four Palestinians about the bureaucratic violence inherent in Israel’s closure policy, and its impact on their lives. The testimonies were published to coincide with Breaking the Silence’s release of a collection of testimonies from Israeli soldiers who served who served in units under the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), describing their experiences as enforcers of the permit regime.

S., A., M., and K., are four Palestinians who needed to travel to or from Gaza to fulfill basic, pressing needs. Their testimonies offer a glimpse into the permit regime from the perspective of those who are directly harmed by the conduct of the Israeli authorities and the bureaucratic violence they routinely inflict.

“I demanded to see the ISA [Israel Security Agency] man. He came after four and a half hours,” M. told us in his testimony. “I asked him what the reason was that I kept being given permits, and then they were taken away. He told me, ‘You’re a good man with a good heart. There’s nothing on you. The problem is the people around you.’ I asked what he meant, my kids? He said they had nothing to do with it. I asked if I had been somewhere I shouldn’t have, maybe I’d spoken to someone by accident. He said no. He asked why my youngest hadn’t gotten married yet. I told him the truth, that I don’t have the money to help him, I don’t. He said he hoped the coming days would be better, that he didn’t have anything specific on me, that he might check with the commander in charge of my area. You see, it’s like having a neighbor who’s accused of auto theft, and because he’s your neighbor, you’re accused too!”

To read the full testimonies by M. and others about the system used by Israel to deny Palestinians their right to freedom of movement, and with it, their ability to make choices and control their own lives, click here.


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