Haaretz, Dec. 20, 2016
Oct 20, 2015: “Palestinians in the West Bank have freedom of speech, the right to free enterprise, the right to worship freely, the right to elect their leaders.”
Palestinians in the West Bank live inside the state of Israel. The Israeli army—and the army of no other country—can enter any square inch of the West Bank any time it chooses and arrest anyone it wants, including officials of the Palestinian Authority. Thus, the real “leaders” of West Bank Palestinians are the leaders of Israel. But West Bank Palestinians cannot elect them because they cannot vote in Israeli elections. As non-citizens, West Bank Palestinians live under military law. This dramatically restricts their freedom of speech, worship and their right to pursue free enterprise. Under Military Order 101, for instance, West Bank Palestinians need Israeli military permission to hold a political gathering of more than ten people, even if it is occurring in a private home. West Bank Palestinians also require Israeli military permission to visit Jerusalem, the West Bank’s religious and commercial hub. How easy is it to obtain that permission? According to Daniel Seidemann, a lawyer specializing in Jerusalem residency issues, “Due to Israeli restrictions, today it is easier for a Palestinian Christian living just south of Jerusalem in Bethlehem to worship in Washington’s National Cathedral than to pray in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Today a Muslim living in Turkey has a better chance of getting to Jerusalem to pray at the Old City’s al-Aqsa mosque than a Muslim living a few miles away in Ramallah.” (Although Seidemann wrote these words in 2010, he confirmed to me that they remain true today).