Israel seems to be changing tactics when it comes to the occupation.
AP ran a story about the trend yesterday:
In the most high-profile case yet, Jerusalem police detained the leader of a leading Israeli human rights group during a vigil against the eviction of Palestinian families whose homes were taken by Jewish settlers.
Since the summer, dozens of Palestinian and Israeli activists have been picked up, including those organizing weekly protests against Israel’s West Bank separation barrier as well as others advocating international boycotts of Israeli goods.
Some of the Palestinians were released without charge only after weeks and months of questioning.
This morning, Haaretz had another news item with similar implications:
The Interior Ministry has stopped granting work permits to foreign nationals working in most international nongovernmental organizations operating in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, Haaretz has learned.
In an apparent overhaul of regulations that have been in place since 1967, the ministry is now granting the NGO employees tourist visas only, which bar them from working.
Organizations affected by the apparent policy change include Oxfam, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Terre des Hommes, Handicap International and the Religious Society of Friends (a Quaker organization).
So you’ve got Israel arresting non-violent activists and impeding development workers, and furthermore forcing Jared Malsin, an American editor at the Palestinian t Ma’an News Agency, out of the country. Altogether, this is starting to look like a trend.
What gives? Why is Israel suddenly going after non-violent action against the occupation so heavily? I have a theory: Israel is worried about losing its legitimacy and non-violent activists, nosy journalists, and European do-gooders are not going to help its case.
I think the Israel-as-South-Africa-narrative is picking up steam. To prevent that, Israel is trying to stop people from knowing what’s going on there. Unlike a lot of other human rights absusers, Israel is fairly transparent. (I also believe this is part of what keeps it in the news so much. Hardly anyone thinks about, for example, North Korea, which is one of the worst human rights abusers in the world.)
Then again, if you want to be the Only Democracy in the Middle East, you can’t go around arresting journalists and aid workers.