Israel’s open prison for refugees, and other gems of doublespeak

Much will be said in the coming weeks, maybe even years, about the House Committee on UnIsraeli activities, approved yesterday by the Knesset. Roi Maor and Yossi Gurvitz both have excellent posts – Roi on the more optimistic side, Yossi closer to the end of days. While my own estimate lies somewhere between these two poles, I was stricken not so much by the proposal, but by how blatant and naked in its purpose it was. In some ways, this week has elicited some of the most unintentionally honest statements from our politicians in a while.

Take MK Faina Kirschenboim’s statement of intent regarding the committee’s purpose.

“The activity of the Israeli organisations constitutes [sic] serious damage to Israel’s legitimacy in the world. Through their cooperation with international organisations, they are harming the IDF, it’s soldiers and commanders – and this must be investigated and stopped.”

No chance of that committee being biased in anyway, eh? Or the following statement from “associates” of young Likud MK Ophir Akunis, on Deputy Speaker Ahmed Tibi’s motion to have the Knesset discuss the death of Jawahar Abu Rahma:

Tibi supports terrorism, and he behaves like a terrorist in the Presidium of the Knesset. The Presidium was wrong to put the motion on the agenda while the IDF is still investigating an operation in which our soldiers act in self-defense.”

Same goes for the IDF investigation, it would seem. And my absolute favourite – a document revealed but not chased up by Haaretz’s welfare correspondent, Dana Weiller-Pollak. A month or so ago, the government decided that asylum seekers escaping war and genocide will be put in an “open accommodation facility”, conveniently located in the middle of the bleeding desert and operated by the Prison Service, because open accommodation is just Prison Service kinda thing. The planners Shlomit Dotan-Gissen and Tomer Gothelf, asked to prepare an outline for the internment camp, were intelligent enough to recognise the project’s real substance, and in a way, honest enough to put in writing. Their meticulous phrasing reveals, for once, not just doublespeak but the structure of that great mechanism of deniability and lubricant of atrocities, anticipatory compliance. While noting with due reverence the government’s decision to set up an open facility, the planners are quick to explain why it can’t really be taken seriously:

…the very fact that it is charging the Prison Service, which specializes in operating prisons, with running the facility indicates that the government intends to operate the facility as a closed compound, once the legislative amendments are complete.”

But here comes the fun part: In the longer, un-paraphrased Hebrew original of the report, the planners actually propose the completely Orwellian term “Closed accommodation centre,” and tell the government how to spin the contradiction between the “open accommodation facility” and the very ordinary internment camp / prison the government actually intends to build:

The difference between the two terms is not as great as it may seem. By “closed accommodation centre” we mean an accommodation centre which prevents the residents from leaving without the permission of those in charge of the facility, but with a possibility of different degrees of openness within different sections of the prison, and between the living quarters and the public areas. The degree of openness within the facility will be determined through accumulated  experience of its operation.”

Weiler-Polak also notes the planners

say that a closed facility would still allow for the residents to leave in a controlled and organised manner, for predetermined purposes and subject to control, and then returned there.

Aren’t we a shining beacon to humanity, the worthy product of a nation of refugees? Happy new year and all that jazz, I’m off to celebrate Orwell Week.

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