daniel levy channels naomi klein

A half-dozen newly privatized and civilianized checkpoints and crossings in the West Bank are operated by private companies, from Al-Jalama near Jenin, to Sha’ar Ephraim near Tul Karm, from Reihan to Tarqumiya. According to a recent Channel 10 news report, the IDF is planning to privatize all the checkpoints in the seam area. No more wasting soldiers’ time. The IDF is selling the idea in win-win terms : better security for Israelis, better service for the Palestinians. That we should still be exploring modalities for reinventing and improving the occupation, rather than ending it, after more than 40 years, is troubling enough in itself. But the decision by the state to outsource so basic a national security function, with barely an eyebrow raised or question asked, will likely prove, in time, another example of how what we sow in the territories we later reap back home. This phenomenon of a more private occupation complements a broader Israeli trend of outsourcing functions, including those of a sensitive nature, that were previously the state’s purview. The obvious dilemmas begin with the question of how private contracting can co-exist with the principle of the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force.

In addition to crossings and checkpoints, private companies in the West Bank are patrolling the separation barrier, and other security-sensitive spots, such as the tunnel on Route 60. They are deployed at Gaza’s Erez crossing, and apparently at the fuel depot in Nahal Oz. Their workers are outside the military chain of command and justice system, removed from governmental and legislative oversight, functioning in a legal twilight zone. By definition, a private company does not operate on the basis of the public good ; unlike its client, the state, it has different incentives, mainly profit. This can influence decisions on recruitment criteria, quality of equipment procured, investment in training, rotation of personnel, and more. PMF’s (Private Military Firms) also add another layer of bureaucracy and possible confusion to an already convoluted mix of Israeli state actors. The use of contractors has a distorting effect on the real costs of a particular security posture and policy. And, finally, civilians, unlike soldiers, can always walk off the job. Machsom Watch has reported an increase in tensions, reduced channels of communication, and a more explosive situation at the privately run terminals. Lose-lose : less security, worse service. The privatization of the occupation needs to be reconsidered.

Daniel Levy, Haaretz

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