Dania Abul Haj
Middle East Eye / August 1, 2023
Cynical, vague and oppressive COGAT 2022 Procedure was carefully designed to maintain the occupier’s control over Palestinians.
Over the years, the architects of Israel’s occupation have relentlessly created policies that seek to further entrench the fragmentation of the Palestinian people, not only physically but psychologically.
It can be easy for people to read policy and divorce it from the lived experiences of those it affects. But Israel’s divide-and-conquer tactics have led to the creation of varying realities for the Palestinian people.
Jerusalemites, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian residents of Gaza, Palestinian citizens of Israel, refugees and diaspora Palestinians have grown further apart in understanding each other’s lived realities, under an occupation that is brutal, dominating and dehumanizing.
A textbook case in point is the latest Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) procedure, known as the 2022 Procedure, which came into force late last year. An Israeli military body, COGAT uses a euphemistic name for the draconian power it exerts over the occupied Palestinian territories.
The 2022 Procedure is designed to further Israel’s military control and make it difficult for diaspora Palestinians to teach, study, volunteer, work or live in the occupied West Bank.
I recently co-authored a report entitled Fenced Off: Israel’s 2022 rules on entry of foreign nationals into the West Bank. The report demonstrates how the regulations show Israel’s total disregard for its duties and obligations in terms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
These include the rights to privacy and family life, freedom of movement, economic development, education and the enjoyment of cultural rights.
The 2022 Procedure is all about Israel further entrenching occupation, annexation and apartheid. By preventing Palestinian families, where at least one member is a foreign national, from being able to live together, Israel is creating a coercive environment designed to cause a “silent transfer” of entire families from the occupied West Bank.
The rules also strengthen the Big Brother environment of surveillance and control maintained by the Israeli military regime, designed to make day-to-day life in the occupied West Bank unbearable.
We don’t yet know the full impact of the regulations, because they’re still so new – but we’re now in the first summer since their implementation. It’s a time when diaspora Palestinians from around the world visit their families and homes in the occupied West Bank.
The new COGAT procedure could result in arbitrary entry denials to the occupied West Bank via the Allenby Bridge. Such cases must be monitored and documented, and governments should take action on behalf of their citizens who are denied entry.
There is also an invisible impact of the COGAT procedure that we won’t see nor be able to measure: many people will be so confused and intimidated by these regulations that they won’t even feel confident enough to travel in the first place.
This is yet another barrier that will prevent people from seeing the day-to-day realities of Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians.
When the draft regulations were first published, my team and I sat down, and we were utterly consumed for weeks by a sprawling, 97-page document.
I realized that even reading these rules as a legal professional with nearly eight years of experience in the field was challenging. They were vague and intentionally confusing.
After a set of challenges through public opinion and a number of human rights organizations, some provisions were eventually amended or repealed, but these changes were just a drop in the ocean compared with the procedure’s swathes of cruel provisions. A policy that segregates an entire population from the outside world through every possible means, including control over who is allowed in the territory, raises alarming concerns.
If the 2022 Procedure is applied as anticipated in the coming months, it will deepen the reality of fragmentation for the Palestinian people, divorced from all the promises and values that form the pillars of the international community’s postwar consensus.
The deafening silence of the international community and third states no longer simply conveys disdain towards Palestinians and their rights, but also an appalling indifference towards a state that continues to commit the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.
This is a reminder that a prison does not always mean a cell with walls and a guard; sometimes, it means an entire country placed under the mercy and arrogance of a military occupation.
Dania Abul Haj is a qualified Palestinian lawyer from Jerusalem, she currently works as a legal officer at the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians in London