Most people who apply for a permit to enter Israel or the Israeli settlements in the West Bank want to work for a living, access hospitalization, or fulfill various personal needs. Sometimes the bad news is that they are blacklisted by the Shabak (General Security Service) or the Israeli police and therefore barred from entering Israel and/or the settlements. And the bad news lands on them suddenly, without explanation, when they arrive at a checkpoint—as they have done every day, sometimes for years. The newly blacklisted person is given no reason for denial of entry and is terrified. How will he feed his family? What is he being accused of? With whom could he possibly talk? Has he been incriminated because of some personal feud?
Nowadays the type of prevention-of-entry may be shown in the Civil Administration app. But in order to know the reason for it, the freshly blacklisted person must report to the Shabak (GSS) official at a DCO, wait for him for hours on end, and usually not be told the reason anyway. Perhaps he will be notified when to return. There’s a good chance he will be summoned again if the Shabak wishes to recruit him as a collaborator.
Ahmad and the Refrigerator
Ahmad, his wife, and their seven children live in a large tent in Hebron. At times in winter, their sheep join them inside. They get electricity from a generator and purchase water they store in containers. Their situation is bleak, expenses are steep, and there is no work to be had.
Ahmad is blacklisted by the Shabak and has not been able to enter Israel for years. Like most blacklisted men, he has no idea why.
One day he heard from the Jewish women at the checkpoints that it's possible to request that his prevention of entry be lifted by a court. “I was told that you pay the lawyer 2,300 shekels and he represents you at court," he says. "If he fails to lift the prevention, he might at least get an explanation for it.” Ahmad deliberated.
He sells his refrigerator, takes a loan from his brother, meets the lawyer, fills out the forms, and waits. A month goes by, then another. Finally, one of the Jewish women called up and said: “Ahmad, are you sitting down? Congratulations! You are no longer blacklisted!” She explained that the Shabak looked into it and found no reason for it. The lawyer didn’t even have to go to court. "They just wrote ‘Ahmad is not blacklisted’ and that was it.”. Ahmad was born again! Now spring is here, a refrigerator is a necessity, and he found a barely used one. “Thank goodness, I’m working," he reports, "and our situation is much better. Tell everyone about me…”
(From presentation at MW Human Rights Evening, 23/12/18)
Two men, about 65 years old ...
Two men, about 65 years old at present, were arrested when they were aged 15 and accused of throwing stones. One of them was incarcerated for six months, the other for 18 months. The police blacklisted them until 2099! *
* Note: Prevention of entry into Israel until 2099 usually originates in an automatic computer error, especially if the accused were minors. It constitutes a serious blow to a person requesting a permit, who sees it as a death sentence. Nowadays, in many cases for which a technical appeal is lodged by our associate Advocate Tamir Blank, the prevention is lifted or its duration is shortened.)
Work permit - excessive force in the hands of the employer
Two Shabak-blacklisted men—one young, the other about 40 years old, and a father of seven—both worked in a hotel for seven months. They received the job through a Bedouin contractor who deducted a large sum from their salary, and they complained that their payslips showed smaller sums than they had actually earned. What's more, there was no mention on the slip of the father’s seven children. They turned to the hotel’s administration, and apparently, its solution was to turn them into the Shabak as blacklisted persons. There's no lack of Palestinians seeking work.
(From MW Report , 3/2/2020)
(mamnu’a in Arabic) is a person prevented from entering all this areas: Jerusalem (the capital of Palestinian life), Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli claimed zones (like Area C and others) and of course, Israel itself for work, medical treatment, studies, prayer, family visits, and more. More than 500,000 people Palestinians in the West Bank are blacklisted in the computers of the Shabak, the police and the Civil Administration. Most of them do not know why.
Shabak (GSS) blacklisted
is a Palestinian who constitutes a security threat. Hundreds of thousands of people are prevented from entering Israel and the Israeli settlements in the West Bank allegedly for this reason. But usually blacklisting is applied arbitrarily and has nothing to do with actual security threats. It is always decreed without explanation or clarification. Even officers and commanders of the Civil Administration do not always know the Shabak’s directives and how to implement them.
Sample data we hold show that over 80% of such preventions are unfounded! It's hard to describe the dire effect of a Shabak blacklisting. The services thus reinforce their control over the population and even recruit collaborators in exchange for “worthwhile gifts,” such as a work or merchant permit, permission to undergo medical treatment in Israel, to leave for abroad, etc. Pressure by the Shabak is heavy and ongoing. Pressure by the family is no less menacing. The individual stands helpless facing a suspicious society.
is a person caught inside Israel without a permit, or for using a forged permit (sold to him at an exorbitant price), or for using a permit for a purpose not shown on it. Most of the people blacklisted are tried, found guilty, and incarcerated for several months. These are not terrorists or criminals; most are only desperate to support their families.
However, the police apply another kind of punishment without any legal authority or conviction: a blacklisting period of one year or more. At times the police double and triple this period without any explanation. There are also cases of double blacklisting—both by the Shabak and the police—even until 2099, often by mistake.
Police Intelligence blacklisted
is a Palestinian of whom the authorities suspect criminal acts (entry into Israel without a permit, theft, selling drugs). At times there are waves of such preventions. Some of them not even investigated and turn out to be errors.
Blacklisted by the Civil Administration’s Operations Branch
is a Palestinian who has failed to pay debts such as fines for traffic violations committed in the West Bank and could not pay them because he was prevented from reaching a payment site (an Israeli post office or bank). Some are blacklisted for having committed a simple administrative violation, such as working in farming while holding a merchant’s permit. In many cases, the reason for the blacklisting is not clear. It is decreed without a hearing, and punishment is harsh: the cancellation of an entry and work permit.
At times Palestinians are subject to a deterrent Operations blacklisting without being aware of it. Since 2015 heavy restrictions on movement and work have been imposed on all Palestinians in an extended family if a single member of it had participated in a security incident, and even if they already hold work permits. Thus hundreds, sometimes thousands, of families living in the same village, or even on the opposite side of the West Bank with no close or direct contact, are collectively punished. These restrictions do not withstand legal scrutiny. But when entire families are impoverished and have their lives confined in every respect, the population is more easily controlled.
The many denials of all kinds of permits leaves large parts of Palestinian society without hope - without the ability to work and earn a living, to study, to be healed, to visit a family, to move freely. Entire families are doomed to rebellious and persistent poverty and a blocked life from every aspect. Such a population is easier to control.
For years, a team of MachsomWatch volunteers has been helping blacklisted Palestinians navigate through the bureaucratic complexity of the prevention regime. Knowledge of this team’s existence has passed by word of mouth throughout the West Bank.
The team of 15 volunteers helps hundreds of applicants uncover the category of prevention decreed against them and to apply for it to be lifted, according to the process set by the Civil Administration. It’s important to emphasize that no contact or connection exists between the MW team and the Shabak or the Police.
The team answers phone requests at set times during the week. It asks for relevant documents to be sent by fax, email or WhatsApp; fills out forms during a phone interview; and submits the requests of people blacklisted by the Shabak or the Civil Administration Operations Branch together with a power of attorney. The team follows up the cases and, when answered after about a month or two, returns to the applicant.
Some Palestinians submit requests to lift security prevention through the Civil Administration app. But if they are refused, they do not receive any reply at all and cannot know whether an answer exists, nor can they figure out whether a year has gone by in order to appeal again. So they apply to our team to find out whether a decision has been taken in their case. We work in collaboration with other human rights organizations, as well as two local law offices in Hebron. If an application is turned down and the applicant requests legal aid, Attorney Tamir Blank petitions the Court for Administrative Matters on their behalf, for minimal fees. The rate of lifting preventions of entry through court petitions is about 70% (see table below)!
The interaction of the MachsomWatch volunteers with the Palestinian applicants has an important and rare human facet for both sides. To them we represent a positive, civil-Israeli voice, sometimes the only one they have encountered. Until then most have met only hostile, armed Israelis—soldiers, police, or settlers—and the typical discourse is of orders and threats.Despite mutual language difficulties, we manage to reach understanding, win trust, and even arouse hope. Perhaps for the first time in their lives, these Palestinians sense they are addressed by Israelis to the point and with respect. Yet they are also able to share heart-rending personal experiences or descriptions of the frustrating absurdities they live with and have labored under for nearly five decades.