JERUSALEM (Sep. 14)
Demographic expert Meron Benvenisti warned in a newly-published report that Israel may be turning the administered territories into a “police state” by the seemingly innocent device of establishing a computer data bank on their inhabitants.
Benvenisti, a former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, heads the West Bank Data Base project which monitors demographic changes there and in the Gaza Strip resulting from Jewish settlement.
He reiterated in his latest annual report his contention that Jewish settlement of the territory already amounts to an irreversible annexation. He added that the greater involvement of Jordan in West Bank affairs during the past year has contributed to formalizing the political status quo and legitimizing it.
“This means the Jordanians have given Israel a free hand in the de facto annexation of the Israeli enclaves in the West Bank and unlimited construction in them,” Benvenisti said at a press conference over the weekend. “This is being done through a joint Israeli-Jordanian rule over the Palestinian population. This partnership is guided by a common interest — the struggle against the PLO.”
According to Benvenisti, King Hussein of Jordan is not interested in regaining the West Bank but to protect the east bank from dangers posed by the Palestinians living in his own kingdom. “Therefore, he prefers an Israeli Defense Minister in the territories over a Jordanian Defense Minister,” Benvenisti said.
DANGER OF COMPUTERIZATION
But he expressed serious concern that computerization of the territory by the Israeli civil administration could be “a real danger to civil rights in the territory.”
“The civil administration can turn the computers into a system of carrots and sticks which would turn the territories into a total police state,” Benvenisti warned. He explained that personal data on each inhabitant, locked into the computer, could divide “friendlies” from “hostiles” and “every little official” would be able to deprive people of their civil rights on the basis of computer printouts.
He said data could be used to deny applicants driver’s licenses or to deprive them of water. It is easy to do so in a system which is not subjected to the checks and balances of every democratic system, Benvenisti said.
Jewish settlers in the territory are protected by Israeli law. Palestinian residents are governed by the civil administration and the military since the Defense Minister has overall responsibility for the territories.
Civil administration sources rejected Benvenisti’s warning. They said computerization was intended to provide the entire population with better services.
Benvenisti’s report quoted Shmuel Goren, former coordinator of government affairs in the territories, who told a Knesset Committee that Israel no longer subsidizes the territories. According to Benvenisti, this means that $80 million paid annually by local residents in direct and indirect taxes has not been returned to them but kept by the Israeli Treasury.
His report also predicted that by the year 2000, Jews will constitute 55-57 percent of the population of Israel and by 2010, the Jewish and Arab populations will be equal.