The unrest that has swept Israeli-occupied lands in the past 10 days is, ultimately, a Palestinian attempt to shake free from the web of all-embracing restrictions that govern day-to-day life. The 1.4 million Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are subject to a host of checks - from lack of political rights to limits on freedom of movement - imposed by the Israeli military administration.
Israeli and Palestinian observers see the latest violence, which has killed more than 15, as an attempt to break the rhythm of life, a rhythm Palestinian activists say perpetuates an oppressive status quo.
Palestinians say the reason this week's protests against 20 years of Israeli control turned violent is because of the ban on organized political activity in the occupied territories. Israeli defense officials say many of the restrictions are necessary to protect the country's security. They note that even under Israeli rule, the Palestinians have more freedom than citizens in many neighboring Arab states.
Following is a survey of the Israeli rules under which Palestinians live and work:
Lack of political say
A Palestinian wishing to express his political opinion cannot legally organize a public political meeting, form a party, or participate in elections.
The last elections to West Bank municipalities were held in 1976. The victory of radical supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization, who were eventually ousted or deported by Israel, has apparently been the chief reason behind the authorities' refusal to permit new elections. Israeli defense officials maintain that under the current circumstances an election campaign would turn into an arena for violent intimidation and terrorism.
Palestinians respond that the gagging of nonviolent political activities leaves no alternative to terrorism and violence. And academic conferences, cultural events, and meetings of professional and labor groups often become de facto platforms for political speeches.
Gagging the press
A Palestinian could try to express himself in the Palestinian press, but there, too, he would find himself up against the limitations of military censorship. Censorship of Palestinian newspapers is officially limited to matters affecting security, but editors of the papers maintain this is often expanded to include political writing.
Hard-hitting editorials considered inflammatory by the Israeli authorities are censored. Newspapers have been banned from distribution for up to two weeks for publishing uncensored material deemed inciting.
The line between legitimate political expression and what the censor considers ``fighting words'' is a gray one, and the source of constant argument. In at least one instance, translations from the Israeli press with graphic descriptions and photos of the recent riots were banned from being reprinted in a Palestinian paper this week. In some cases, newspapers considered to be organs of radical Palestinian organizations have been closed down over the years.
Military vs. civil justice
A Palestinian could try to redress his grievances through recourse to the courts in the territories, but there, too, he is subject to military law. Local Arab courts deal with civil and criminal cases, but in matters relating to politics and security, Palestinians are tried in military courts.
The courts lack some of the safeguards that pertain to the court system in Israel: They are not restricted by the rules of evidence that apply in Israeli courts, and their verdict cannot be appealed to a higher tribunal. It is up to the regional military commander to cancel a verdict or issue a pardon.
Convictions of Palestinian security suspects are often based on confessions obtained by the Shin Beth (Israel's internal intelligence service). The recent revelations of systematic lying by Shin Beth agents to cover up violence used to obtain the confessions have bolstered demands by Palestinian and Israeli lawyers for hearings on the admissibility of such evidence.
A Palestinian who ends up in court after he is arrested is subject to conditions of detention different from those that pertain to Israeli citizens. Any policeman or soldier can make an arrest in the territories without a warrant, and a suspect can be held for 18 days before being brought before a military judge. In Israel, a suspect must be brought before a judge within 48 hours. Prison commanders may deny detainees the right to see a lawyer during interrogation if they deem such contact to be damaging to the investigation.
Palestinians do have recourse to the Israeli Supreme Court, to which they have appealed with little success to overturn such punitive measures as deportation, demolition of houses, and detention without trial.
A Palestinian can lose his house even if he is only suspected of involvement in a serious anti-Israel attack. People suspected of terrorist murders have had their families' houses bulldozed before they have been charged with a crime.
A Palestinian is liable to lose his land, as well, through such methods as expropriation for ``public use,'' or requisitioning for military purposes where land has later been turned over to Jewish settlements. (There are roughly 60,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories.) Large tracts of unregistered and uncultivated land in the territories have been declared state land, serving as a possible reservoir for expansion of Jewish settlement. Palestinians can appeal these moves.
Equal pay for equal work?
If agriculture proves uneconomical for a Palestinian, he can look for employment in Israel, where some 260,000 Palestinians now work in a variety of manual jobs ranging from construction and factory work to dishwashing.
The declared policy of the government's Employment Service is equal pay for equal work, and this is the case for Palestinians working in some Israeli factories and hotels, where they also receive social benefits. Most Palestinian laborers, however, are hired on a daily basis, where pay is lower and there are no social benefits. The daily workers must commute for hours to and from home, because they are forbidden for security reasons to remain in Israel at night. Workers from the territories are not entitled to Israeli national insurance payments for old age, general disability, unemployment, or social benefits.
A Palestinian may want to better his income by obtain academic or higher training, but this is limited in the occupied territories. There are five universities in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip, but only one grants graduate degrees, and none have professional schools.
In addition, academic life is periodically disrupted by political protests, sometimes punctuated by clashes with Israeli troops. These are often followed by temporary closures of the universities by the military government. In addition, university graduates face an employment crisis in the territories where the restricted economic growth has made job opportunities scarce for persons with academic training.
Many Palestinians travel abroad in search of higher education in the Arab world or in the West, but their movement in and out of the territories is subject to several restrictions.
Palestinians going abroad from Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport must return to the territories within a year, or renew their Israeli travel documents abroad by that time. Otherwise, they will lose their resident status in the territories. If they leave via Jordan, they must return within three years, or renew their documents. Palestinians who have lost their residence, and foreign spouses of Palestinians in the territories, must obtain family unification permits to live permanently in the areas. Only a small number of such requests are granted.