Life and death in Palestine

Planet Hebron is far, far away. The fact that you can drive there, or take a bus, only makes things more confusing. If Hebron were hidden away on a mountaintop or deep in a canyon at the bottom of the sea, if getting there meant descending through dim, crumbling shafts to the centre of the earth, it wouldn’t feel so odd. But it’s right there on the crust of this same globe, just like Tel Aviv or Amman or any other metropolis. Maybe it’s more useful to think interdimensionally and to understand Hebron as a weird crease in the weave of things that through its distortions and deformations and awful echoing feedback somehow manages to tell us exactly who we are.

Overall I spent about a month there. Not very long, really. Long enough. Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank and the only one in which Israeli settlers have established a permanent presence – hence the checkpoints and the hundreds of soldiers, and the division of the city into two zones, H1 and H2, the former ostensibly controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the latter without question by the Israeli army. Hence the near-kaleidoscopic fragmentation, the cities inside the city and the cities inside them, and, above and beneath and between them all, in the cracks that separate each side from its other, the imagined cities of Hebron’s inhabitants. Hebron is nothing but other sides, like a single page you can keep flipping and flipping without ever finding the same text. If all of Palestine is marked by furrows and folds, realities that overlap but almost never intermingle, Hebron is a cartographic collapse, a mapmaker’s breakdown.

I studied up on the political developments that had shaped the city: its religious history, the 1929 massacre of the city’s Jews, the rise of the messianic Zionist hard right, the 1994 massacre of worshippers at the Ibrahimi mosque, the subsequent closing of Shuhada Street, the division of the city in 1997 into Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled zones, the multiplication of checkpoints and the endless closures of the second intifada. It all made sense, kind of, but none of it added up. Nor did contemporary terrestrial analogies hold. Hebron wasn’t Belfast or Soweto, Sarajevo or Beirut. It bore occasional and glancing resemblances to all of those places, and to the often violently segregated cities in which I had lived in the United States.

I don’t want to exoticise the place. Hebron is different from other earthly cities, but the painful truth is that Planet Hebron is not far off at all. I don’t just mean from Beersheba or Nablus, but also from London or New York. It’s our planet. We made it what it is. And by we I mean all of us – those of us who acted, and those who do not act. Hebron’s realities are the same as those in the rest of Palestine, only boiled down under tremendous pressure until they have been reduced to a thick and noxious paste. And Palestine’s realities are not different from our own. They are just starker, denser, more defined. The people I encountered in Hebron – the Palestinians, the settlers, the soldiers – were no different from people anywhere, except to the degree that the place and the maddening intimacy of its violence had coarsened and sometimes broken them.

On the morning of 8 November 2013, a Friday, Zidan Sharabati, my host in Hebron, knocked on the door with coffee. “Did you hear?” he said, sitting down to light a cigarette. “There was a martyr from Hebron.” Late the night before, a young man named Anas Fouad al-Atrash had been killed at the Container checkpoint, north-east of Bethlehem. He was 23, and had lived in Abu Sneineh, just outside the sector of the city that fell under the authority of the Israeli military. The official story was that he had stepped out of his car and attacked a soldier with a knife, and the soldier had fired once in self-defence.

The Friday clashes didn’t usually begin until after the midday prayer, but that day they started early. From Zidan’s, we heard the first shots just before 11am. A few minutes later, as we left the house, the soldier stationed outside the settlers’ flats across the street made a phonecall. I had begun to notice such things. We passed through the checkpoint to Bab al-Zawiya, the neighbourhood adjoining the old market that, technically at least, was controlled by the Palestinian Authority. A few kids ran out from behind a building, hurled stones toward the soldiers, and hurried off to hide again. We flagged a taxi to the mosque near the Palestine Polytechnic University, where the funeral of Anas al-Atrash would be held.

The street outside the blue-domed mosque was already packed with mourners. Dozens of Palestinian Authority policemen stood by, some in olive green, others in blue camouflage, all with AK-47s and body armour. Who, I wondered, were they there to protect? I ran into Imad, a young activist I knew. His family name, I hadn’t realised, was al-Atrash. Anas had been his cousin. Imad’s uncle, he told me, had a business manufacturing and selling shoes, and two of his sons, Anas and Ismail, ran the family’s shop in Jericho. They slept there during the week, driving back to Hebron after they closed up each Thursday night. They had been on their way home when Anas was shot. Imad was a tough kid, a welder with hands like oven mitts who liked to boast of his defiance of Israeli laws, but that day he was near tears. The Israeli story didn’t make any sense, he said. Anas hadn’t been politically active and wanted nothing more than to get married and live his life. “He had a dream like all the youth in the world,” Imad said, fighting to find words. “But nothing now.

Just before noon, the muezzin’s call rang from the loudspeaker atop the minaret. Everyone went silent. “God is great,” sang the muezzin, and the mourners pressed their foreheads to the asphalt. Across the street, a USAid billboard rose above a field strewn with trash and construction debris. “Industrial Area Road, Hebron,” the sign read in English. “This project is a gift from the American people to the Palestinian people.” So, it occurred to me, was the gun that killed Anas, and probably the bullet. The prayer ended. Several hundred men knelt around me in silence, their eyes closed and their hands on their knees.

Later they carried out his body. It was wrapped in a flag, pink carnations beside a pale, unshaven cheek. His feet, in black socks, peeked out at the bottom of the bier. The mourners followed the pallbearers and the corpse they carried through the dusty streets toward the cemetery, past white stone buildings in varying states of construction and collapse. Women stood in windows on the second and third floors, staring out from behind ornate metal grilles. The flag that wrapped the body began to sag, revealing Anas al-Atrash’s hands folded on his chest. Two men in balaclavas stood in an olive grove, firing shot after earsplitting shot into the air, their M16s angled a bit too low for comfort. It was the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of the Fatah movement, paying tribute, announcing their survival with each shot, offering a promise of revenge that no one expected them to keep. Between bursts, I could hear the women ululating from the gravesite, greeting the corpse, shouting again that God is great. Anas’s brothers stood at the cemetery gate, weeping in each other’s arms.

There were clashes every day for the next two weeks, the young men gathering in Bab al-Zawiya each afternoon and into the night, the younger kids at the checkpoints every day after school let out, swarms of children in brightly coloured backpacks. They jeered each time the soldiers sallied forth and fired off a round or threw a stun grenade, mocking them and chanting with unflagging glee.

“Container!” They shouted the name of the checkpoint again and again. “Container! Container! Container!”

Ismail al-Atrash sat squeezed beside his parents in the sitting room of their three-story house in Abu Sneineh. Ismail’s hair was neatly gelled, but his cheeks were unshaven and his eyelids heavy. An uncle sat sprawled across an adjacent sofa, fingering a length of wooden prayer beads as Ismail recounted the events of the evening of Thursday 7 November. That night, he and his brother Anas had closed up the family’s shoe shop in Jericho and packed the car for the drive back to Hebron. Before they left, the brothers called their mother. “She asked me to buy tomatoes and lemons and oranges and cucumbers and potatoes,” Ismail recalled. “We got in the car and headed for Hebron.” It was normally about an hour’s drive. They did it every Thursday. After a weekend’s rest with the family, they would head north again to Jericho to open the shop for another week of work. That night Ismail drove. Anas was exhausted. “He put his head back, stretched his legs and went to sleep,” said Ismail.

At 11:05pm, the brothers’ blue Volkswagen lurched over the first speed bump outside the Container checkpoint. When it is not clogged with weekend traffic, Container – the English word is used in Arabic – is a desolate spot: a lonely stretch of asphalt, four dingy tollbooth-like structures painted white and green, a few bored Israeli soldiers with automatic rifles. It’s not a nice place to die. That night, Ismail said, the soldiers seemed agitated. They had stopped the car in front and were subjecting its passengers to an extensive search. One stood with his hands up, waiting to be frisked. A red dot of light bounced around the al-Atrashes’ front seats as a soldier pointed the barrel of his weapon, and its laser-guided sight, at the two brothers. Anas slept through it all, his face resting in his palm. “He must have woken up confused,” Ismail said, “and not known what was going on.”

Ismail’s father, unshaven like his son, stared blankly at a point perhaps a foot above the coffee table. He closed his eyes.

Without a word, said Ismail, Anas opened the door and stepped out of the car. Ismail called his brother’s name. Anas didn’t have a chance to walk away from the vehicle, he said: “By the second time I called him, the soldier had already shot him.”

I asked Ismail if the soldier said anything first. “No,” he said.

I asked if Anas had anything in his hands. “No,” he said. “Nothing.” Ismail’s mother, her face swollen with grief, reached for a tissue.

“I stepped out of the car,” Ismail went on. Three soldiers, he said, ran up to him. “One put the barrel of his gun here, one here, one here.” He indicated his head, his back, his hip. “They pushed me down on the ground,” he said, and cuffed his hands behind him. He turned to look for his brother on the other side of the car. “I kept calling his name, ‘Anas, Anas,’ and I saw them dragging him away.” He yelled out, asking his brother if he was all right. No one answered.

An ambulance arrived. “They put him in the ambulance. I thought maybe he was injured in his leg. I kept calling for him. A soldier came and pressed down on my shoulder with his boot and told me I wasn’t allowed to say anything.”

The father sighed. The room went silent except for the clicking of the uncle’s prayer beads. A 12-year-old boy opened the door – Anas and Ismail’s youngest brother, Muhammad. He sat beside his uncle and tucked one foot beneath his thigh. Ismail continued: a man in plain clothes who he believed was an agent from Israel’s internal security service, the Shabak, also known as the Shin Bet, appeared beside him. “And the injured?” asked the agent. “Your brother?” Ismail said yes. The agent left. Ismail tried to drag himself along the ground to get a better view, but the ambulance’s rear door was closed. The Shabak agent returned. He asked a strange question: “Why is Anas so upset?”

“He’s not upset,” Ismail recalled answering. “He’s in a good mood.” They had been joking around all evening until Anas fell asleep. The Shabak agent asked if Ismail was certain, if Anas hadn’t maybe had a fight with someone, perhaps a friend or a girlfriend, if maybe he was in love with someone who didn’t love him back. Ismail told him no, nothing like that had happened.

Another strange question: “He said, ‘Is he the kind who would carry a knife?’ I said, ‘No, he’s not. We don’t have any problems with anyone.’”

A third: the agent asked if Anas belonged to any of the Palestinian political factions, to Hamas or Fatah. Again Ismail answered no. The family steered clear of politics, he said. Anas had never been arrested, had never even been called in for questioning – a rarity for a youth from Abu Sneineh. He was studying accounting, and hoping to get married in the spring. “We’re just busy with our work,” Ismail told him.

The Shabak agent left him. Two policemen arrived with two men Ismail believed were high-ranking Shabak commanders. They convened behind the ambulance with the others. Eventually one of them came over. He sat on the ground beside Ismail. “What happened?” he asked. “Did he have a knife?”

Ismail told him no: Anas just got out of the car and a soldier suddenly shot him. The commander, he said, gave him water and a cigarette. “Then he went like this,” Ismail said, smacking his forehead with the heel of his palm. He asked the commander how Anas was doing. The commander stood and walked away.

When he came back, he uncuffed Ismail’s hands and recuffed them in front of his body. He sat down across from him. “Please,” Ismail said, “can you just tell me how he is?” “He’s OK, thank God,” the commander said.

“Thank God,” said Ismail.

“If I told you Anas had a knife,” the commander asked, “what would you say?”

“I would say you’re a liar,” Ismail answered. There’s no knife in the car, he told him. “You can search it – you’ll find tomatoes, lemons, oranges, cucumbers and potatoes, some clothes, nothing else.”

“He said, ‘You’re sure he didn’t have a knife?’

“I said, ‘I’m sure.’”

The commander led him to a spot on the pavement a few metres away. A knife lay on the asphalt. “It wasn’t even the spot where Anas was shot,” Ismail told us. “He said, ‘This knife, have you ever seen it?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘I’m sure. I’ve never seen it.’”

Beside him, Ismail’s mother wept into her hands.

Again, Ismail said, he asked the commander, “Please, tell me what’s happening.”

“God willing, he’ll be OK,” the commander responded, and left Ismail again. He craned his neck to get a look at the ambulance. “All of a sudden I see them taking his body out. They put him down on the ground and put a sheet over him. I started going crazy and screaming and hitting my head on the ground. I don’t remember what happened afterward.”

By morning, Israeli newspapers had published the official version of Anas al-Atrash’s death: A 23-year-old Palestinian had run from his car and rushed at a checkpoint soldier with a knife. The soldier, fearing for his life, fired once, killing him. It wasn’t much of a story, just another anonymous incident, one of a series of apparently uncoordinated assaults on Israeli security personnel.

I called Micky Rosenfeld, the Israeli police spokesman, and asked to see any security camera footage that might shed light on the incident. The footage, he told me, would under no circumstances be made public. A little while later, he emailed me to state: “There is no investigation under way.”

Most of my encounters with soldiers in Hebron were less than cordial. They confined themselves to grunts and commands, neither of which bring out the best in me, but on a couple of occasions we managed to break through our mutual distrust, if only for a moment. Once, crossing back through the Qeitun checkpoint, I asked a soldier how he was and to my surprise got an honest answer. “Terrible,” he said. His comrades were at that moment shooting teargas at nine-year-olds a few meters away. “This place is terrible,” he said. “This is the worst place.” He shook his head and walked away. That was as far as we got.

Another day, tired of the after-school clashes, I hiked back down Shuhada Street and up the stone stairs toward the Tomb of the Patriarchs. A tall young Border Police officer stopped me, his rifle cradled in his arms. He asked where I was from.

“America,” I told him.

“Are you Christian?” he asked.

I said I wasn’t, and asked why it mattered.

He didn’t answer. Instead he asked me my religion.

“I don’t have one,” I said.

“You must have one – Christian, Jewish, something?”

I knew what he wanted, but I didn’t feel like playing along. “I’m not religious,” I said. “Are you?”

He shrugged and thought about it. “I’m not either,” he admitted, “but my mother is a Jew.” He tried again: “What about your parents? They must have a religion.”

“They aren’t religious,” I told him. “My grandparents weren’t either.” I wasn’t lying. I come from a long line of people skilled at the art of refusal. But at this point we were both enjoying the absurdity of our exchange. Finally he gave in.

“Muslims aren’t allowed here,” he said. “I have to ask,” he added, apologetically.

I told him I wasn’t Muslim either. He nodded me past with a slightly guilty smile.

Nine months later I sat down in Jerusalem with an Israeli activist and former soldier named Eran Efrati. He had spent most of 2006 and 2007 stationed in Hebron. At his first briefing, he recalled an officer asking the troops what they would do if they saw a Palestinian running at a settler with a knife.

“Of course the answer was you shoot him in the centre of his body,” Efrati said. The officer posed the question in reverse: what if it was the settler with a knife? “And the answer was you cannot do anything. The best you can do is call the police, but you’re not allowed to touch them. From day one the command was, ‘You cannot touch the settlers.’” This made sense to him, Efrati said. Palestinians were the enemy. The settlers seemed a little crazy, but they were Jews.

A few days later, thousands of settlers arrived from all over the West Bank to celebrate a religious holiday. The army imposed a curfew to keep Palestinians off the streets. Efrati’s first task as a soldier in Hebron was to throw stun grenades into an elementary school to announce the beginning of the curfew. “I just did it, like everyone else,” he said, “and within seconds, hundreds of kids ran outside. I was standing at the entrance and a lot of them looked at me in the eyes – that was the first time that it hit me. All of a sudden I understood what I was doing. I understood what I looked like.”

Efrati was put in charge of a checkpoint. He described it as gruelling work, standing in the cold for as long as 16 hours, usually hungry and always sleep-deprived. Inflicting humiliation was part of the assignment. Schoolteachers would cross dressed in suits and ties. The soldiers would make them strip in front of their students. “Sometimes we would make them wait for hours in their underwear,” Efrati said.

The pretext was to check them for weapons. “Nobody thought that anything would happen to them,” he said, but the troops were told again and again by their officers that all Palestinians were potential threats, that anyone might stab them if they dropped their guard for a moment. That notion, Efrati said, “made us very, very aggressive. So you would push them against the wall, undress them, take your weapon and hit them a few times. If he’s saying something, hit him. If he turns around, hit him. Just make sure you’re completely in control.”

His conscience began to nag at him. He started bringing bags of Bamba – a popular peanut-flavoured snack food – to the checkpoint and offering them to children. After a few days, “The first brave kid came up, grabbed a bag of Bamba, and ran away.” Efrati was thrilled. Not long after, a Palestinian boy about eight years old asked him for a treat. This boy didn’t run. He opened the bag, and offered some to Efrati. They sat and ate the chips together. When the boy walked off, Efrati felt ecstatic. He could finally be the man he wanted to be, a soldier who was loved for his kindness and who at the same time, as he put it, “was protecting my country from a second Holocaust.”

When he got back to the base that night, he was ordered to eat quickly and prepare for another shift, not at the checkpoint but on a “mapping” expedition into H1. He was still so high from his success with the Bamba that he didn’t mind the extra work. The routine was simple: “You go into houses in the middle of the night, get everybody outside, take a photo of the family, and start going around the house, destroying things.” The idea was to search for weapons, “but we also needed to send a message,” Efrati said, to make sure the residents never lost “the feeling of being chased”. (It’s awkward in English, but it’s a single word in Hebrew. His officers used it a lot, Efrati said.) His job was to draft maps of each house, charting the rooms, the doors and the windows. “If at some point there was a terror attack from that specific house,” the army would be ready.

That night, they searched, trashed and mapped two houses in Abu Sneineh. It was snowy and cold. When they were done, the sun had not yet risen, so their officer chose one more house, apparently at random. They forced the family outside and into the snow and went in and started searching. Efrati opened the door to a child’s room – he remembered seeing a painting of Winnie-the-Pooh on one wall – and had begun sketching when he realised that there was someone in the bed. A young boy leaped out from under the covers. He was naked. Startled, Efrati raised his gun, aiming at the child. It was the kid from the checkpoint that afternoon. “He started peeing himself,” Efrati said, “and we were just shaking, both of us, we were just standing there shaking and we didn’t say a word.” The boy’s father, coming down the stairs with an officer, saw Efrati pointing a rifle at his son and raced into the room. “But instead of pushing me back,” Efrati said, “he starts slapping his kid on the floor. He’s slapping him in front of me and he’s looking at me saying, ‘Please, please don’t take my child. Whatever he did, we’ll punish him.’”

In the end, the officer decided that the man’s behaviour was suspicious. He ordered Efrati to arrest him. “So we took the father, blindfolded him, cuffed his hands behind his back and put him in a military Jeep.” They dumped him like that at the entrance to the base. “He stayed there for three days in a very torn-up shirt and boxer shorts. He just sat there in the snow.” Eventually, Efrati summoned the courage to ask his officer what would happen to the boy’s father. “He didn’t even know what I was talking about,” Efrati said. “He was like, ‘Which father?’” Efrati reminded him. “You can release him,” the officer said. “He learned his lesson.”

After cutting the plastic ties that bound the man’s wrists, untying the blindfold and watching him run off barefoot in his underwear through the streets, Efrati realised that he had never given his commander the maps he had drawn. “I really fucked up,” he told him, apologising for his negligence.

The officer wasn’t angry. “It’s OK,” he said. “You can throw them away.” Efrati was confused. He protested: wasn’t mapping a vital task that might save other soldiers’ lives? The officer got annoyed. “He says, ‘Come on, Efrati. Stop bitching. Go away.’” But Efrati kept arguing. He didn’t understand.

When it became apparent that he wasn’t going anywhere, the officer told him: “We’ve been doing mappings every night, three or four houses a night, for 40 years.” He personally had searched and mapped the house in question twice before. “If we go into their houses all the time, if you arrest people all the time, if they feel terrified all the time, they will never attack us. They will only feel chased after.”

That, Efrati said, “was the first time I understood everything I was told was complete bullshit.” From then on, he said, “I didn’t stop doing the things I did; I just stopped thinking.”

The first witness agreed to meet me at one of the main roundabouts in Hebron. It was night. Irene Nasser, a journalist who lived in Jerusalem, had found him. We got in the witness’s car and he drove for a few blocks until he found a spot that was sufficiently deserted. He pulled over, smoking out the open window.

There were three men in the car with him that night when he pulled up at the Container checkpoint, but all of them had families, he said, and none of them would talk. He asked me not to reveal his name or any detail that might identify him. He had been released from prison not long before and didn’t want to go back. But Hebron felt small sometimes – he was certain that we had already been seen and an informant would get word to the Shabak that he had spoken to me and they would call him in for questioning. The risk, he said, was worth it. “This is a savage country. They have no shame.”

The man’s story closely matched Ismail al-Atrash’s account. He was coming from the other direction, he said, and was stopped about 10 metres from the al-Atrashes’ car. “From here to that pole,” he said, and pointed. He saw the soldiers searching the white car in front of the al-Atrashes’. The soldiers were very aggressive, he said, but that was normal. “We’re used to that.” Then Anas al-Atrash opened his door. “Maybe he was sleeping or something but he got out and stretched his arms and they just shot him. He didn’t move quickly or anything.” There was nothing in his hands, no knife. “We’ve heard that song many times,” he said. The soldier was at most “two metres” away from Anas. He didn’t think he would recognise the soldier if he saw him again, “but it all happened in front of my eyes,” he said. “They shot him in front of my eyes.”

The second witness also asked not to be identified. His concerns were identical. “The truth has to come out,” he said, but “I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning and have to go talk with Israeli intelligence.” We met him on the side of the road near Bethlehem. He pulled up beside us and got into the back seat of Irene’s car. He showed us a video he had shot with his mobile phone a little while after the killing, but there wasn’t much to see or hear, just shouting and flashing lights in the dark. His story also closely matched Ismail’s account. (It differed in two details. He said “four or five” soldiers rushed to pin Ismail down, while Ismail remembered only three, and he wasn’t sure of the colour of the al-Atrashes’ Volkswagen. He thought maybe it was brown, but then dark blue paint could easily appear brown at night under yellow sodium lights.)

He had been heading for Ramallah and waiting to cross the checkpoint. He saw soldiers searching the white car in front of the brothers’. It was a Ford, he said. He saw a soldier aim his weapon’s laser sight at the al-Atrashes’ Volkswagen “like he was preparing to shoot”. And he saw a man open the passenger-side door of the Volkswagen and stand while lifting his hands in the air. The man was still “half in and half out of the car,” he said, when “he was shot and he fell to the ground”. There was nothing, he confirmed, in either of Anas al-Atrash’s hands.

After the shooting, he said, he saw the car’s driver – Ismail – step out. Soldiers ran over and threw him to the ground. They tied his hands behind his back. Soon soldiers were everywhere. Blue-uniformed police arrived. The witness tried to get out of his car, but a police commander pushed his door closed. “Stay,” he said. He asked the commander when he could leave. “Not until we can take you to Jerusalem and take your testimony about what you saw here,” the commander answered.

“I didn’t see anything,” he said. The officer corrected him: “You saw a guy attack a soldier with a knife.”

In the end, they never went to Jerusalem. The soldiers held everyone at the checkpoint until the al-Atrashes’ friends and relatives arrived from Hebron to claim Anas’s body. There were a lot of them, and they were angry. Soon the soldiers were firing teargas, the witness said, “and I drove away”.

Ten days after his son’s death, Fouad al-Atrash left Hebron for Tel Aviv. He had an appointment with a lawyer whom he wished to consult about a lawsuit. He didn’t hope for anything resembling justice, only that the government might be forced to reveal the circumstances of his son’s killing, that the truth might be told. He had a permit to cross into Israel, which he had routinely been allowed to do for more than 20 years. Between 80% and 90% of his family’s income, he estimated, derived from business conducted there, distributing the shoes he manufactured through Israeli markets and shops.

When he reached the checkpoint that morning, he placed his hand in the biometric reader. The soldier looked at her computer and asked to see his permit. “You can’t pass,” she told him.

He asked her why. “You have no permit,” she said.

Eventually he was told that the Shabak wanted to see him, so he went to Gush Etzion, between Hebron and Jerusalem, and waited in a corridor for four hours until someone called his name. The officer in charge of his interrogation asked him the same questions they had asked Ismail on the night that Anas was shot. “Why was Anas upset?” he said.

He wasn’t upset, Fouad insisted. He wanted to live.

It went on for a while. His interrogator informed him that there was no doubt that his son had a knife. That wasn’t at issue, but “we’re a democratic state”, his interrogator assured him, “and we really want to find out what happened”. In the end, the officer told him that nothing could be done about his permit. “It’s a routine thing,” he said. They did it with everyone. Everyone, that is, unfortunate enough to have a close relative killed by Israeli troops.

I asked the Civil Administration, the Israeli body in charge of issuing work permits, why al-Atrash’s had been revoked. It took two days, but eventually I got an answer from Guy Inbar, the Civil Administration spokesman. It was short: “The permit was revoked,” he wrote in an email, “for security reasons.”