Israel’s war on love

Apartheid Israel cannot but wage war on all things Palestinian – even romance.

Newly-wed Palestinians Yazen Abu Ramooz (R) and Iman Ghaith, both wearing protective masks during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, walk in the neighbourhood of Beit Hanina in Israeli annexed East Jerusalem, on April 17, 2020. (Photo by
The Israeli government has imposed various rules which affect Palestinians' private life, including marriage [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

Israel loves war, even a war on love. It also loves peace but only at the expense of basic Palestinian rights.

Before we get to Israel’s latest bizarre assault on Palestinian romance, let us briefly address its tragic relationship with war, for no other country has fought as many wars in so few years. None. Well, except perhaps the United States.

Since its inception in 1948, Israel has fought a dozen plus wars of all sorts – conventional, asymmetrical, counter-insurgency, and wars of attrition. It has bombed and besieged Arab cities and even threatened the use of nuclear weapons to wipe out those trying to wipe it out.

And these for the most part have been wars of choice, which Israel started as part of its perpetual in conflict with its neighbours. According to its strategic doctrine, Israel will have to fight more than a few wars to attain peace on its terms; and only war, not peace, may ensure its long-term security.

Espousing this war-loving logic, the country’s revered first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, said – in a moment of candour – that it would be worthwhile for Israel to pay an Arab leader a million pounds to start a war with the newly founded colonial state. His top general, Moshe Dayan, was also terribly enthusiastic for war to complete Israel’s conquests, even without US support. From there on, as Israel became stronger, war became even more attractive.

Israel’s love for war is rational and strategic. As a colonial entity, Israel could not have become independent without war. War has been used to weaken its enemies and preserve its military superiority over all its neighbours. Moreover, Israel’s wars helped it expand its frontiers and colonise new territories.

War also gives Israel meaning and purpose. It is why Israelis adore their military, which has functioned as a unifying force, shaping the new nation. For decades, the military Israelised Jewish immigrants arriving from various countries and cultures, instilling in them a new fighting spirit and nationalistic sentiment. The military has made every Israeli youth a participant in the colonial project.

War has proven great for business too, since Israel has proven masterful on the battlefield. Battle-tested weapons against regional foes have become Israel’s most prized exports. Indeed, the security sectors, both in terms of advanced hardware and sophisticated software, have attracted the lion’s share of foreign investments in recent decades.

But Israel’s war on the Palestinians has not been limited to the military front. It has also waged war on Palestinian culture, landscape, environment, demography, civil society and religion, as part of its violent occupation.

Recently, I’ve written about Israel’s bizarre war on ice-cream. Today, I find myself once again shaking my head in wonder at Israel’s sadistic assault on yet another aspect of Palestinian life: love.

Israel’s latest directive on foreigners’ entry into the occupied Palestinian territories was published on September 4 and has been given the dubious title: “Procedures for entry and residence for foreigners in the Judea and Samaria area”. Judea and Samaria?! Not even “administered Palestinian territories”, or “autonomous Palestinian area”, let alone “occupied Palestine”.

At any rate, I held my nose and skimmed through the 90 pages of the document governing the entry of foreigners into the Palestinian bantustans which, needless to say, differ from entry into Israel and its illegal settlements in “Judea and Samaria” and which, of course, is seen as normal and acceptable within the Israeli apartheid state system.

Most of the provisions of the directive are humiliating, some – truly offensive. Take the part about the Israeli government reserving the right to demand from entry permit applicants a bank guaranty or a “guaranty in cash” of more than $20,000 to approve a permit of entry into the Palestinian territories.

But the most offensive part is the one relating to any love affair between a foreigner and a Palestinian, which first got my attention in a news item, stating that: “Foreigners must tell the Israeli defence ministry if they fall in love with a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank, according to new rules.”

According to the directive, foreigners must inform the ministry of defence if they become involved emotionally with a Palestinian. An earlier draft of the directive contained a requirement of notifying the Israeli authorities within 30 days from the onset of the romance, but that was dropped, perhaps after international media scrutiny.

Still, I wonder who exactly lovers would have to notify and how – by email or in a pink letter, with kisses and flowers, with an invitation to the engagement party?

And that’s not all. If foreigners have any such emotional intentions before visiting, they must say so on their visa application. Tourism? No. Business, No. Study? No. Romance? Yes!

To be sure, falling in love with a Palestinian is no walk in the park – it is constant drama, if you get my drift. But Israel is making sure falling in love with a Palestinian in Palestine is hell. Indeed, the sole purpose of this directive is to isolate, complicate, and control Palestinian lives. It is hateful and it is destructive.

Foreigners may ask for a resident permit, if they marry a Palestinian, but those permits are given on an annual basis at best. Such requests will go through the Palestinian Authority (PA) first, which has its own requirements, and then to the Israeli occupation authorities, where they may be turned down and sent back to the PA, all of which is only meant to disrupt Palestinian lives and humiliate them and their loved ones through a bureaucratic nightmare.

A permit may also be denied even if the applicant meets the required conditions, and could be revoked any time after its issue. The directive warns that the Israeli occupation force will be conducting “periodic checking” to ensure permit conditions are met, which could only mean Israeli soldiers knocking at the door after midnight.

Sarcasm aside, this war on love is no joke. Thousands of people are living in limbo because of Israel’s bans on foreigners in love, many of whom are Western citizens. If a permit or its extension is refused for whatever reason by some random Israeli officer, a spouse won’t be allowed to resubmit a request for a permit for another five years. This means they won’t be able to see their loved ones, their sons and daughters for five long years.

Speaking of tortured Palestinian love and apartheid, the Israeli parliament passed a new law in March denying naturalisation to Palestinians from the occupied West Bank or Gaza married to Israeli Palestinian citizens, forcing thousands of Palestinian families to either emigrate or live apart. But then again, “an unjust law is no law at all”.

Reading through the new directive, I noticed one clear difference with the draft procedures first published in February, which is the absence of quotas for foreign students, and lecturers (150 and 100 respectively), a limitation that elicited an objection from the European Commission for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

Under the EU’s Erasmus programme, Israel received almost five times more students and lecturers from Europe than Palestine did in 2020. It has also received almost $2bn in grants from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme for innovation and the European Investment Bank.

In other words, Europe, like the US, has leverage with Israel. If they don’t use it for peace and justice, they should at least do it for love.