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PLO CONDEMNS ISRAELI RESTRICTIONS ON FOREIGN NATIONALS WHO VISIT PALESTINE

The Israeli measure affects the right of foreign investors, scholars, and even individuals who hold foreign passports

The Negotiations Affairs Department in the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO, issued a media brief on Tuesday 24 May criticizing the Israeli infringement on the right of foreign nationals who come and visit Palestine for various reasons. Those measures affect university professors who come to teach in Palestinian universities, businessmen who wish to invest and even individuals who arrive to simply visit the area. Below is the full text:

SUMMARY

Israel, the occupying Power, seeks to collect invasive personal information from Palestinians in exile, diaspora, and other visiting foreign nationals and their connections in the occupied State of Palestine (hereafter, occupied Palestine). The requested information includes names and ID numbers, cellphone numbers, and email addresses, in addition to stating any ownership or inheritance of property in Palestine. A foreign passport holder is even required to inform the Israeli occupation whether he or she begins a relationship with a Palestinian ID holder “within 30 days of the relationship start.” The regulations affect investors, professors, researchers, students, workers, and regular family members. As part of Israel’s ongoing annexation process and apartheid regime, these regulations only apply to people visiting Palestinians in occupied Palestine and not to those visiting illegal Israeli colonial settlements and settlers.
INTRODUCTION
In a document titled “Procedures for entry and residence of foreigners in the Judea and Samaria area,” The Israeli occupation authorities published in February 2022, set to come into effect on 22 May 2022, more restrictive procedures governing foreigners’ entry to occupied Palestine. Such procedures align with Israel’s colonial settlement project, ongoing annexation process, and apartheid regulations that impose a reality of one state and two different systems, clearly reflecting Israel’s refusal to support the two-state solution or any solution that grants the Palestinian people their long overdue inalienable rights.
KEY PRINCIPLES TO CONSIDER
  • Recognizing Israel’s “right” to allow or prevent people from entering occupied Palestine equates to recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the same territory.
  • Since Israel does not have sovereignty in occupied Palestine, including illegally annexed East Jerusalem, such regulations are null and void. The new regulations add to a long list of Israeli laws and military orders that aim to control the Palestinian demography, forcibly displace Palestinians, and facilitate the further annexation and expansion of illegal colonial settlements.
  • In line with the Amnesty International Report on Israel’s practice of apartheid, the new regulations reinforce discrimination against Palestinians, even those holding foreign passports, effectively discriminating against a foreigner of Palestinian descent from a foreigner intending to travel to Israel. Governments that do not act will de facto accept the imposition of apartheid regulations against their own citizens.
Israeli apartheid policies are clear in that the regulations don’t apply to anyone who wishes to visit, invest, work, or study in Israel’s illegal colonial settlements in occupied Palestine.
WHO ARE THE TARGETS OF THESE NEW REGULATIONS?
  • Foreign passport holders not included in the Palestinian Population Registry who intend to visit, invest, work, volunteer, study, or form a family in the occupied West Bank are directly affected. As Israel controls the Palestinian population registry, the restrictions will have a substantial negative impact on Palestinians with foreign passports.
  • Educational institutions (faculty, staff, and students) will not be able to benefit from faculty and student exchanges with universities abroad, negatively affecting teaching, learning, and research.
  • In addition to being separated from their families, the Palestinian population at large will be denied the freedom of interaction.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT?
Israel, the occupying Power, aims to further consolidate its control over the land and the people of Palestine by limiting the prospects of educational and research institutions, health services, private and public sectors, as well as sports-related disciplines in occupied  Palestine to network, hire, and welcome experts, colleagues, and students from outside. Even arbitrary quotas are imposed by the occupying Power, preventing the free development of Palestinian educational institutions.
One of the main targets of such restrictions is to hamper the ability of Palestinians to form a family if one of the spouses is a foreign citizen – this is in addition to the recently approved Israeli law banning Palestinian family reunifications in case of a spouse holding a Palestinian ID and the other spouse an Israeli ID. The restrictions will undoubtedly have a significant effect on relations between Palestinians in exile/ diaspora and Palestinians in occupied Palestine.
According to the Right to Enter Campaign, which has been following such restrictions for decades, “The published procedures formalise and aggravate many of the existing restrictions in place on the entry and residency of foreign nationals. The policy will continue to restrict entry and residency in the oPt for foreign nationals that are spouses, parents, relatives or children of Palestinian West Bank ID holders and will force may families to move or stay abroad to maintain their family unity (“silent transfer”).”[1] 
The Israeli occupation authorities are in effect establishing a pre-visa requirement for foreign passport holders who wish to visit Palestine, further extending Israel’s apartheid regime to the Palestinian diaspora and their friends and families who want to visit Palestine while facilitating access to illegal colonial settlements for Zionist extremists.
For foreigners, the only means of access is through Al Karamah (Allenby Bridge):  even if the person is from a country that enjoys visa exemptions with Israel, they will only be able to enter the country through Al Karamah Bridge with Jordan. Access to Al Lydd Airport (Ben Gurion) will only be granted in “exceptional humanitarian cases.
A granted a permit to a foreign citizen does not ensure entry: as stated in Israel’s own document, it “refers to a permit for a foreigner to arrive at the Allenby Bridge Crossing and does not guarantee actual entry into the Area. Only after the foreigner has arrived at the border crossing and been questioned will the final decision be made regarding the foreigner’s entry into the Area.”[2] (p 7).
Arbitrariness: regardless of any considerations presented in the document, the common arbitrary practices of the Israeli occupation will play a role in allowing or denying foreign visitors from entering occupied Palestine. As part of its obligations as the occupying Power, which controls all the entry points to occupied Palestine, Israel is obliged to grant the entry/exit of people to/from Palestine. It is clearly stated in the new regulations that: “As a rule, a foreigner has no vested right to enter the Area. Applications from foreigners will be evaluated according to the discretion of the authorized officer.[3]
In theory, a tourist can visit both Israel and occupied Palestine without going through the pre-visa process: “this procedure does not apply to foreigners asking to visit the Area and Israel in parallel. Such foreigners shall be handled in accordance with the procedures of the Population and Immigration Authority”[4]nevertheless, its applicability will remain up to the “discretion” of the Israeli officer in charge. There have been several experiences of visitors asked to sign documents committing not to visit occupied Palestine (referred to as “Judea and Samaria”).
A foreigner who falls in love in Palestine must inform the Israeli occupation authorities within 30 days: The new regulations explicitly say that “a foreigner married to a resident of the Area, or forming a couple with one, must proceed to make arrangements according to Part 4 of this procedure before arriving at the Area. If the relationship starts after the foreigner arrived at the Area, then the authorized COGAT official must be informed in writing (at a special e-mail address) within 30 days of the relationship’s start.”[5]
Targeting Educational Institutions: a foreign professor can obtain a permit for a maximum of five months. To get a new permit, the professor must leave for at least nine months; lecturers and researchers can stay in occupied Palestine for a maximum of 27 months before leaving the country, where another application can be made. The total period shouldn’t exceed five years.
According to the new regulations, the Israeli occupation authorities, not the Palestinian Ministry of Education, are “entitled” to set a quota of 150 students and “may be limited to certain disciplines.[6]
With regards  to lecturers: “Israel will permit Palestinian institutions of higher education to employ lecturers from overseas only if they teach in fields that have been designated as essential by Israel, and only if the lecturers and researchers are accomplished and possess at least a doctorate, according to a new set of procedures by the Defense Ministry.”[7]  Under the directives, the Israeli officer in charge, and not the Palestinian Ministry of Education, can decide whether a “lecturer contributes significantly to academic learning, to the Area’s economy, or to advancing regional cooperation and peace.[8] There is another quota of 100 professors unilaterally imposed by the Israeli occupation.
Volunteers: “The period of volunteering under this section shall not exceed a continuous term of 12 months. A volunteer whose period of volunteering has ended may return to volunteer in the Area only after a year has passed since the expiration day of the volunteer permit, and subject to submitting a new application that will be assessed on its own merits.[9]
International Experts are also affected: they should exit occupied Palestine after the expiry date of their visa/permit and will be able to apply for a new permit only after nine months.[10]
IMPOSING TWO DIFFERENT SYSTEMS FOR FOREIGN PASSPORT HOLDERS BASED ON THEIR ORIGIN
Travellers of Palestinian origin will have to fill out a questionnaire specifying first-degree relatives in occupied Palestine (including all names, ID and passport numbers, local and cellphone numbers, and email addresses). They will also be asked to declare whether they own land or property in the area and if they “own or are claiming inheritance in the area.”[11]
Suppose the travellers are Jews going to illegal colonial settlements in occupied Palestine. In that case, they can use all entry ports (whether to Israel or occupied Palestine) and could immediately acquire Israeli citizenship in accordance with Israel’s racist “Law of Return” and the “Citizenship Law.”
OUR POSITION
The State of Palestine rejects all Israeli restrictions, stating that any recognition of such regulations amounts to recognition of Israeli sovereignty in occupied Palestine. Israel must be forced to repeal the restrictions. It’s a non-negotiable right for Palestine to control its population registry and border crossings and build and operate an international airport. By controlling Palestine’s population registry and access to our country, the Israeli occupation is perpetuating an apartheid regime that denies the Palestinian people their inalienable rights.
RECOMMENDATIONS:
  • Governments must make clear to Israel that they don’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty in occupied Palestine and therefore do not consider that Israel has any right to set such policies in occupied Palestine.
  • Governments must notify Israel that such policies will be met with immediate reciprocal steps, including restricting Israeli settlers’ ability to request visas (in case of countries with visa waiver agreements with Israel) or preventing them from accessing their territory. Regardless of any new procedures, such steps should be taken.
  • Governments and international organizations must condition their cooperation with Israeli educational institutions on Palestinian educational institutions having full rights, including the freedom to accept international students and bring in professors, lecturers, experts, and volunteers from abroad.

    [1] Available at https://www.righttoenter.ps last accessed on 5 May 2022.
    [2] Available at תבנית ממח (www.gov.il) p 7 last accessed on 5 May 2022.
    [3] Ibid.
    [4] Ibid.
    [5] Ibid.
    [6] Ibid.
    [8] Available at תבנית ממח (www.gov.il) p 7 last accessed on 7 May 2022.
    [9] Ibid.
    [10] Ibid.
    [11] Ibid.

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