The Honorable [Insert Full Name of Congressperson]
[Room #] [Name of Building] [Senate or House] Office Building
United States [Senate or House of Representatives]
Washington, D.C. [20510 zip code for the Senate or 20515 zip code for the House]
Dear [Representative or Senator] [Insert Full Name of Congressperson]
As a constituent of your [district/state], [option to add a thank you for demonstrated support of senator or representative in human rights or civil liberties issues]. I am writing to you to request your immediate intervention regarding my human right to live in union and free from interference with my Palestinian born spouse and children in the West Bank. [My spouse/children are US citizens] As you may be aware, the Israeli government controls entry and exit into the West Bank. In the last _ year(s), the Israeli authorities have not issued me/ restricted me the requisite visas/permits to stay in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), in particular in the West Bank (what about Gaza?).
For decades, the Israeli authorities have stopped not issuing resident permits to spouses. Instead they require foreign spouses married to Palestinians in the West Bank to apply for visas. In the last few years, they have restricted not only the length of these visas (now averaging 3-6 months), but they begun to deny visas and for others prohibit travel out of the airport, employment and travel in Jerusalem and other places- effectively on the basis that my spouse is a Palestinian. [The absurdity of the matter is that in some cases like mine, my spouse has Israeli permits to use the airport while I am prohibited and must use the more arduous and expensive option of travelling by car to another country like Jordan to fly back to the US.
For the last __ years, I have been enduring on a daily basis complete insecurity whether I will be denied permission to stay and live with my husband and children. I am not alone- there are over __ US citizens in the same position. In any day, the Israeli government can deny me a visa and I will be faced with the threat of deportation from these Palestinian areas. Under international human rights law, by virtue of my marriage to a Palestinian of the West Bank I should be accorded as far as a possible residency with all the attending rights. But even the visas that the Israeli government is issuing for me and the other US citizens spouses, accords even less permissions than a US tourist obtains upon entry into Israel. Also, the decision to restrict and deny the visas appears to be completely arbitrary and non-transparent – there are no written regulations by the Israeli authorities and no authority to be held accountable. Further, there is a clear discrimination between a US citizen like me- married to a Palestinian – and other US citizens. Such type of arbitrary and discriminatory policy is abhorrent to US constitutional principles and international human rights law.
[Personal story, including how long you have been married, history of visas –what visas you have had, when your problems began, current status of visa/legal proceedings and any previous contact with American Citizens Services at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and lack of response or response received]
This issue has received critical coverage in the Israeli media. I attach these articles for your information.
Residents of the oPt, like people all over the world, have the right to marry at will and to live together with their families. By maintaining its general refusal to permit foreign nationals, including US citizens, to securely and permanently reside with their family members in the oPt, Israel, as the occupying power, is blatantly violating international humanitarian law (IHL). Third states, such as the USA, have a duty to ensure Israel’s respect for IHL and have an obligation to defend the interests of their own nationals when they are subjected to arbitrary or discriminatory treatment by a friendly state and to protect them against violations of human rights including Israeli use of duress in coercing foreigners to collaborate with the occupier in order to gain entry into the oPt.
In the attached annex I have listed in detail the violations of our rights and the steps needed by the Israeli government in order to ensure our rights. I’ve also attached the relevant sections from the basic human rights conventions that both Israel and the US have committed themselves to. However, the first and priority step is for the Israeli government to allow us to live and reside with our spouses in our homes as long as we desire.
As a [representative/senator] of the United States of America, which is a third state maintaining friendly relations with Israel, we urge you to fulfill your obligations as a third state party and challenge the arbitrary exclusion of your citizens from the oPt by:
- Contacting the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem urging them to take action with the Israeli authorities regarding the arbitrary visa regulations facing US citizens and violations of their right to freedom of movement.
- Ensure Israeli implementation of the rights to family unity and family reunification and the establishment of clear and transparent procedures for foreign nationals seeking to reside in the oPt, in keeping with international law.
- Obtain Israeli cancellation of the stipulation by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) that foreigners are restricted to a 27-month, single entry, maximum stay.
- Demand Israel’s adoption and implementation of a clear, transparent policy for issuing multiple entry residency permits to foreign nationals, including US citizens, that respect their right to freedom of movement.
- Object all arbitrary denials of entry and residency that harm Palestinian family life.
- Take appropriate measures based on reciprocity to ensure that the correct treatment accorded to Israel nationals seeking to enter the United States of America is reciprocated by correct treatment of US citizens seeking to enter Israel or the oPt.
Thank you for your consideration and response to my concerns. [option to add a sentence of Senator or Representatives previous positive history in human rights or civil liberties issues and how this connects to upholding human rights in this instance.]
List of Violations of our rights and Hardships We’ve Experienced:
- The Israeli Freeze on issuing residency for spouses married to residents of the oPt.
- Granting of visas since 2014 stamped with “Judea and Samaria only,” without issuing transparent regulations on the terms of this visa and stamp.
- Denial of entry into the oPt.
- Denial of visa extension to remain with spouse in the oPt without reason.
- Granting of shortened visas of less than 1-year, in violation of the de facto policy issued in 2006/7.
- Denial of visa extension due to the fact that the spouse was traveling out of the oPt during the time of visa application.
- Demand to pay bond of up to 30,000 ILS (roughly $8,500) in order to obtain visa to reside with spouse in the oPt.
- Request to attend interview at the Israeli Civil Administration.
It should noted that in December 2006 and again in March 2007, the Israeli Civil Administration announced a de facto policy for treatment of foreign nationals married to residents of the oPt (attached here). Not only was this de facto policy not transparent, but also it signaled Israel’s intent to continue to violate IHL.
- Demand to sign documents in Hebrew or English which violate the de facto policy issued in 2006/7, stipulating one or all of the below items, depending on the person and the date of interview:
o Not allowed to use Ben Gurion airport.
o Not allowed to enter Israel, even for appointments at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.
o Not able to apply for permissions to enter Israel or use Ben Gurion airport, even if spouse is granted these permissions.
o Not allowed to work in the oPt.
o Not allowed to drive Israeli license plate cars.