Forced Population Transfer: The Case of Palestine - Working Paper No. 18 - Installment of a Permit Regime


Permit Types and Characteristics

With more than 100 different types of permits in 2015, the Israeli permit regime infiltrates all aspects of Palestinians’ lives.5 Permits can be divided into four rights categories and include, but are not limited to:

• Civil and political rights including permits for movement, residency, for “closed areas” such as Seam Zones, and travel.

• Economic rights including permits for work, farming, trade and money transfer.

• Cultural rights including permits for education, worshippers and visiting holy sites.

• Social rights including permits for construction, renovation and health.

As one can see, permits regulate and interfere with various facets of life, such as the freedom of movement within and out of Palestine; work, development and transporting goods and assets. The permit regime exceeds a mere restriction on - or regulation of - the freedom of movement. Instead, the regime commonly results in the complete denial of access to land, work, worship, health facilities and so on. Permits are used by Israel as a tool or mechanism to maintain many of its discriminatory policies,including denial of family unification or the construction of homes (planning and zoning), or access to land, etc.

The idea of establishing a “permit regime” started with the first groups of Zionist colonists entering Palestine in the beginning of the 20th Century.

Kibbutzim – or collective communities - were, effectively, "little fortresses" which allowed colonists to establish a physical foothold in this unknown and hostile environment as seen by the colonists. Each kibbutz was built by European Jews so as to acquire territory, and thus separate the land from its indigenous Palestinian inhabitants. Over time, this strategy of acquisition and expansion would serve to establish a territory for the Jewish people. Notably, Palestinians by large were not permitted to live, enter or work in a kibbutz. In this regard, kibbutzim even “rejected” the exploitation of cheap Arab labor and used instead Yemenite Jewish agricultural workers.6 This politics of separation and conquest is still visible today in various aspects of Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian land including, as this paper will demonstrate, through the implementation of the contemporary permit regime.

The underlying concept behind this regime is the categorization and classification of the Palestinian population. Palestinians have been divided by Israel into five main categories and several subcategories.

• Palestinian citizens of Israel: Palestinians permanently residing within Israel with Israeli citizenship. Although they are citizens of the State, in practice, individuals in this subcategory enjoy fewer rights than Israeli Jewish nationals.

• Palestinian permanent residents of Jerusalem: Palestinians who are registered as being permanent residents of East Jerusalem after the 1967 occupation and illegal annexation by Israel.

• Palestinians with a West Bank identity card: Palestinians who are registered as being permanent residents of the West Bank after the 1967 occupation by Israel.

• Palestinians with Gaza Strip identity card: Palestinians who are registered in the Gaza Strip after the 1967 occupation by Israel.

• Palestinians living in forced exile without any legal affiliation to Mandate Palestine: Palestinians (along with their descendants) who have been forcibly displaced from their homeland since the establishment of Israel.

On one hand, the permit regime could be seen as a mechanism of enforcing other displacement policies, such as discriminatory zoning and planning policies, denial of residency, land confiscation and access of land and to natural resources. However, it also could be seen as a standalone method of displacing Palestinians, as it works to deliberately generate a wide range of unbearable and daily constraints targeting Palestinian individuals, communities and people. Therefore, while it interrelates and facilitates the enforcement of other displacement policies, it infringes political, socio-economic and cultural rights that are not directly targeted by other displacement policies.