Israeli military authorities, reacting to growing Arab opposition to the West Bank autonomy negotiations opening this week, noticeably are tightening their grip on schools and refugee camps, the traditional pockets of Palestinian resistance.
Punitive curfews, which have been used as an occasional short-term measure to quell disturbances and cool tempers in the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River, are being applied with increasing frequency to Arab villages and refugee camps. Round-the-clock curfews are being imposed for more days at a time, and the curfews are being applied collectively for offenses that six months ago would have incurred milder punishments.
These punitive curfews and the heavy fines and jail terms are "a new trend, a new policy," said Georges Galipeau, the director for West Bank Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Israeli military courts in the area are now imposing the stiffer penalties for offenses such as taking part in demonstrations or raising a Palestinian flag.
"It is used to be that the [Israeli] government would crush a demonstration in a rather violent manner, and that would be the end of it," said Galipeau, whose organization usually maintains a low profile and seldom takes public positions against the occupation forces since it relies heavily on cooperation from the Israeli government.
"Now, the policy seems to be to impose long-term collective punishment on a community for the actions of a few," he said.
"It's another style. I'm not expresing a preference for either of the ways of handling the matter, but in the long run, I do not think this will attract more cooperation from the Palestinians."
The new penalties are felt throughout the West Bank. Shopkeepers in traditional trouble areas are forced to close for refusing to testify against demonstrators.The number of protestors that are deported is increasing and all residents of one Arab village were refused permission to visit relatives in Jordan.
The measures do not approach the harshness of the massive police and Army West Bank crackdown in 1976 that followed a wave of anti-Israel disturbances. Arab political leaders and human rights advocates say, however, that they are breeding as much resentment among Palestinian youths as the club-swining, anti-riot technique did then.
Galipeau said he fears the new Israeli policy could bring added trouble from the Palestinians.
"Our mandate is not to act as a protective power [for Palestinians] but to provide services . . ." he said. "But the whole situation in the West Bank is preoccupying, and we are worried. We just don't know where we are going."
Two U.N. refugee camps in the West Bank have been shut by 24-hour curfews in the past two weeks. The Jalazun camp near Ramallah, with 4,000 residents, was reopened Thursday after 12 days during which refugees were ordered to remain inside their houses except for two hours daily. The 2,000 residents of the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem have been under house detention for 10 days.
In both cases, the curfew was imposed after youths stoned passing cars and Army vehicles and attempted to set up roadblocks in protest against the Egyptain-Israeli peace treaty and the upcoming autonomy talks.
In lifting the Jalazun curfew, the West Bank military administration said stone-throwing incidents continued after a limited curfew was imposed and that an Israeli motorist had been injured. It announced "firm and drastic measures will be taken" to punish further disburbances.
Although the Jalazun residents complained of dangerous sanitary conditions and shortages of fresh food and milk during the curfew - prompting the International Red Cross to express its concern - Galipeau said the camp closures do not disturb him as much as other recent Israeli punitive actions.
Chief among them, he said, is the closure of his agency's 700-pupil, Ramallah Women's Training Center, a vocational school that has been shut since a series of demonstrations started after the signing of the peace treaty March 26.
"This seems harsh," Galipeau said. "We will not be able to produce any graduates this year. All those students cannot be isolated from the rest of the population. When there are demonstrations, of course, some of them will join in. But what is served by punishing the whole student body?"
Israeli security officials respond by saying it is impossible to contain violent demonstrations by making a few arrests, and that it is the military government's responsibility to assure the safety of all the public Arab residents as well as Jewish settlers and Army troops.
When asked what he would consider fair treatment of stone-throwing protestors, Galipeau replied, "They (the Israelis) can't do nothing. They are responsible for law and order. I am not a policeman, but there must be another way than collective punishment."
The widest ranging protest on Israeli policies came from the West Bank Council for Higher Education, which said the arrest of students and the closing of schools "have resulted in a serious disruption of the education process at all levels in the West Bank."
The Council noted these other actions by the Army:
The May 2 closure of Bir Zeit University, after an Arab student was shot in the chest by a civilian Israeli settler during a rock-throwing demonstration, University officials say the do not expect to be allowed to reopen this year, if ever.
The closing of the Bethlehem Boys School and the continued closing of the women's Teacher Training Institute in Ramallah. Its faculty was ordered transferred to other schools.
The closing of schools in Halhul, near Hebron, which was placed under a 15-day total curfew following a March 16 protest in which two youths were shot to death by armed Israeli civilian settlers.
The deportation of two American students at Bir Zeit for participating in rock-throwing demonstrations.
While the military government is feverishly trying to quiet Palestinian dissent throughout the West Bank, the conflict has been exacerbated by increasing clashes between Jewish Gush Emunim ultra-nationalists from nearby settlements and the Arab youths. On numerous occasions, armed Israeli settlers have forced Arab students at gunpoint to clean up stones from roadways, increasing Arab resentment. In the village of Bir Zeit recently, Israeli settlers from nearby Zeve Tzuf confiscated Arab shopowners' identity cards because they refused to implicate villagers involved in protests.
Israeli security officials hope that the end of the school year will bring a decrease in protests, because trouble invariably begins on campuses and spreads into the streets.
But to Bir Zeit Mayor Amin Abdallah Shaheda, the source of the problem lies with the vagueness of the autonomy plan and the uncertainty of the West Bank's future, not with the school calendar.
"As long as we were living with the expectation of a comprehensive peace, the situation was more or less clear," he said. "We knew we had a military government and it had authority over us. But what is happening now is that both we and the military government are in a wait-and-see position, while Gush Emunim is exploiting the situation for its own ends." CAPTION: Picture, Israelis patrol in Latin Church Square in Bir Zeit; Copyright (c) Gideon Gitai