UPDATES


2023


December 2023

U.S. to Deny Visas to Violent Israeli Settlers & Some West Bank Palestinians

As acts of violence spike in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, American officials say they will take action against people “believed to have been involved in undermining peace.” The Biden administration is imposing visa bans on dozens of Israeli settlers who have committed acts of violence in the West Bank, taking action against what U.S. officials call a potential trigger for wider violence as Israel wages war in Gaza.

U.S. officials are most concerned about a recent surge in attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, but the new policy will also deny entry to Palestinians who have committed violent acts against Israelis. Under State Department privacy rules, the names of the people who will be designated in the coming days will not be made public.

In a daily press briefing, the State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, said the first visa bans would be enacted on Tuesday. Designated Israeli citizens who currently have visas to enter the United States will be notified that their visas have been revoked, he said. Any other settlers without current visas will see their applications to obtain one rejected. But the new action would have no effect on West Bank settlers who are dual Israeli-American citizens and thus do not require visas to enter the United States.

Read full article here (published 5 December 2023).


November 2023

U.S. warns Israel it’s violating visa waiver deal with West Bank closure

The Biden administration warned Israel that it is violating the visa waiver agreement with the U.S. by preventing Palestinian Americans who live in the occupied West Bank from entering Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack, two Israeli and U.S. officials told Axios.

Why it matters: A continued violation of the agreement by Israel could trigger a snap-back mechanism in the deal and suspend the privileges Israeli citizens get by not needing a visa to enter the United States.

According to U.S. and Israeli officials, newly-confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew met several days ago with the Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and expressed his concern about the movement restrictions.

Read full article here (published 16 November 2023).


October 2023

Visa Update: Israeli Civil Administration resumes reviewing visa extension applications

Visa Update During the Israel-Gaza War from BBH Law Office: the Israeli Civil Administration informed our Law Office that it has resumed reviewing visa extension applications. Foreign passport holders whose visas have expired recently should apply for extension until October 27, 2023

Following the breakout of the Israel-Gaza war on October 7, 2023, the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) has stopped reviewing visa extension applications submitted by foreign passport holders, thereby preventing them from being able to continue staying in the West Bank legally. In addition, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Occupied Territories (COGAT) has almost completely stopped reviewing West Bank entry applications submitted by foreign passport holders who are married to Palestinian ID holders, or who work, study or volunteer in the West Bank.  October 17, 2023, our office demanded that both the ICA and COGAT provide solutions to those problems and refrain from causing additional harm to these people and their families.

On October 18, 2023 we received partial response from the Israeli Civil Administration stating that that it has now resumed reviewing visa extension applications for foreign passport holders, and requests to enter Israel for flying from Ben-Gurion Airport, in special cases. The ICA informed our office that foreign passport holders whose visas have expired recently, and on the day of October 7, 2023 held a valid visa, should apply for extension until October 27, 2023 – and their visas will be extended. If they submit their applications on time, the ICA has stated that it would not consider the period they stayed without a valid visa as a breach of the visa terms.

See full statement here (issued 18 October 2023).

Israeli entry into US Visa Waiver Program goes into effect

Israelis became eligible to travel to the US without a visa on Thursday, the Israeli Embassy in Washington announced…. Israeli citizens with a biometric passport will now be able to travel to the US by applying for an ESTA application up to 72 hours before their trip.

Israel had sought entry into the VWP for several decades, but this past fiscal year was one of the first times it met a key requirement — a visa application refusal rate below three percent…. However, it took until the last minute for the countries to iron out the details of another key component of the VWP — that Israel grants reciprocal travel rights to all US travelers akin to those provided by the US to citizens of countries participating in the program.

Biden Administration officials briefing reporters last month clarified that the US would continue to monitor Israel’s compliance with the VWP requirements and reserves the right to suspend or terminate Israel’s membership in the program if it violates the terms.

Palestinian-Americans and Americans of Arab and Muslim backgrounds have long faced discrimination by Israeli authorities while traveling to and from the Jewish state. On July 19, Israel and the US signed a memorandum of understanding, detailing the terms of the reciprocity requirement, which are different from that of any other VWP member.

Read full article here (published 20 October 2023).

Fears for Khaled El Qaisi’s well-being after his release in Israel

The Palestinian Italian researcher [Khaled El Qaisi] has been released from Israeli custody but still isn’t allowed to return to his wife and child in Italy. Khaled El Qaisi, 28, has not been heard from since he was released by Israeli authorities on October 1 and told to speak to nobody until October 8. The Palestinian Italian researcher who founded a Palestinian Documentation Centre in Rome had spent a month in arbitrary Israeli detention after being arrested as he was crossing from Palestine into Jordan at the Allenby Bridge.

Amnesty International Italy said El Qaisi had been held in a number of Israeli detention facilities, including Ashkelon prison, where he was “held in solitary confinement for 14 days … and prevented from having regular contact with his family and his lawyers”.

For full article see here (4 October 2023).

A Visa Program Exception for Israel

The US has admitted Israel into the Visa Waiver Program even though the country continues to discriminate against Palestinian American travelers.

The decision, which will take effect in two months, was cheered by Israeli and US officials, who say it will enhance economic ties and security cooperation between the two countries—but sharply criticized by Palestinian Americans, who believe the move condones Israel’s continuing discrimination against Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim American travelers, as well as those active in the Palestine solidarity movement. Palestinian rights advocates say that in addition to allowing Israel to treat some American visitors differently than others, admitting Israel into the VWP also functions as a gift to the current far-right Israeli government. “My community is being sacrificed to give [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu a perk,” James Zogby, the head of the advocacy group Arab American Institute, told Jewish Currents.

For full article see here (October 3, 2023).


September

Admitting Israel into the Visa Waiver Program Violates the Rights of Millions of Americans and U.S. Law

Washington, D.C. on September 27, 2023 – In an extraordinary move positioning politics over U.S. law, the Biden Administration announced the admittance of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) today. In doing so, they have entered into an agreement with a foreign government that regularly discriminates against Arab Americans, particularly Palestinian Americans, thereby denying a group of American citizens the equal protection of the law.

James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, stated:

“This Administration has failed the Arab American community and the central principle of equal protection under the law. By prioritizing a political perk to a foreign country over the equal rights and safety of American citizens, the Biden Administration has agreed to continued, blatant discrimination against Arab Americans, including Palestinian Americans, and others who advocate for Palestinian human rights.”

Throughout Israel’s decades-long discrimination against our community, we have demanded our rights be protected. The best we got then were statements of concern and a travel warning from the State Department. When the conversation shifted to the implausible discussion of visa waiver, we heard over and over again ‘Blue Means Blue’ and ‘we will not do this without guaranteeing your rights.’ Those words ring hollow today. Instead of protecting our rights, we have a secret MOU that gave our rights away and an opaque political process that did not happen with any of the other forty countries previously admitted into the program.

With this move, Israel has extended its discriminatory apartheid laws to American citizens with our own government’s enthusiastic support. We will not relent in our opposition. We will continue our work documenting the cases of discrimination, demanding our government release the data of this discrimination, and calling for congressional oversight of a move that violates both the spirit and the substance of a law they passed. And we will pursue the legal means available to us to protect our rights.”

For full press release see here (27 September 2023).

DAWN Joins Litigation Alleging Discrimination, Seeking Injunction to Stop Israel’s Entry into Visa Waiver Program

(Washington D.C., September 27, 2023) – The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State should suspend Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) until pending litigation alleging the program unlawfully discriminates against U.S. citizens of Palestinian origin is resolved, said Democracy for the Arab World Now today.

DAWN’s Director of Advocacy for Israel/Palestine is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, led by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, that seeks an injunction against the government’s admission of Israel to the VWP. The deadline for Israel to be admitted to the VWP is September 30.

“The U.S. should halt implementation of the visa waiver for Israel at least until a judge reviews what we believe to be the government’s arbitrary and capricious actions that enshrine Israeli apartheid in a U.S. program,” said Adam Shapiro, DAWN’s Director of Advocacy for Israel/Palestine. “Our government should not allow Israel to discriminate against Americans, regardless of their national origins.”

For full press release see here (27 September 2023).

Civil Society Organizations United in Opposition to Israel’s Admission Into the Visa Waiver Program

Washington, DC – September 27, 2023: Civil society organizations representing tens of thousands of Palestinian Americans, Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and allied communities are expressing deep concern and outrage regarding the United States’ decision to admit Israel into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) despite Israel not fully meeting the requirements outlined by the law.

Abed Ayoub, Executive Director of ADC National, said, “By endorsing a tiered system for U.S. citizens, our government has given its tacit approval to Israel’s prejudiced policies and apartheid actions. This decision broadcasts a stark message: not all American passport holders are viewed equally. ADC does not accept that message and will be using every available option to fight it.”

Hanna Hanania, Government Affairs Committee Co-Chair and Past President of the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine (AFRP), said, “Although we were repeatedly assured that the core principle of the U.S. VWP is ‘blue is blue’, today’s announcement says otherwise. By admitting Israel into the VWP despite its clear disregard for the program requirements of reciprocity and equal treatment, the Biden administration has compromised both the integrity of the VWP and our rights as Americans. This is unacceptable and should raise alarms not just for Palestinian Americans – but for all Americans who believe that our government should prioritize safeguarding our rights as U.S. citizens. We are disappointed, but not defeated. Now is the time for us to hold our government accountable and make it clear that we will not accept anything less than full reciprocity for all Americans, no matter their ethnicity, religion, or politics.”

Ahmad Abuznaid, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said, ​​”We learned from the civil rights movement the fallacy of ‘separate but equal.’ Today we are obligated to reject Israel’s inclusion into the Visa Waiver Program because separate is never equal. Palestinian Americans’ tax dollars are just as green, our passports are just as blue, and our rights are just as precious as any other American.”

For full press release see here (27 September 2023).


August 2023

Jerusalem Story: Yesterday, I was a “Security Threat” – Today, I Am Welcome in Jerusalem

On August 5, 2023, I went to Jerusalem.

For the entirety of my adult life, I never thought I would get to say that.

Overnight, I went from being a “security threat” to the State of Israel—as every Palestinian is—to being allowed entry almost everywhere. For years, I planned my travel around the hours of the Allenby Bridge, the only entry and exit point for Palestinians to and from the West Bank. But now—suddenly—I was allowed to use Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport.

“As early as I can remember, I knew that I was not allowed to enter Israel (or Jerusalem, which it has annexed and controlled) without a military-issued permit.”
“I have always been aware of the arbitrary nature of the Israeli apartheid regime, but I had never felt it so deeply.”

Jerusalem is undeniably meaningful to many Palestinians and my day there is unforgettable, although it left me with more questions than answers about this completely new experience of my identity. The colonial state has not only fragmented the land, it has also shattered the lives of Palestinians. Israel is treating this program as a calculated valve release of its oppression and deeply rooted racism, racial profiling, and violence toward Palestinians. That should not be accepted. The right to movement, to enter, and to be treated as a human should apply to every Palestinian native of this land, everywhere.

For full article see here (28 August 2023).

Israel Is Unlikely to Respect US Visa Waiver Program Rules

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace fellow, Zaha Hassan argues that “[b]ased on the MoU and the publicly available guidance interpreting it, the United States has deviated substantially from federal statutory requirements.” She notes that the MOU fails to fix the challenge of reciprocity, warning the agreement permits the continuation of Israel’s discriminatory treatment of US citizens and “effectively normalizes Israel’s apartheid regime over Palestinians in the occupied territories.”

Procedures for entry of foreign nationals into West Bank: While the relevant US authorities assessed Israel’s qualification for admission to the VWP, in February 2022, the Israeli Coordinator for Government Affairs in the Territories (COGAT), the military authority responsible for Palestinians in the West Bank, published its West Bank foreign entry procedures in English and in unclassified format (though it has been revised at least twice, once in September and again in December 2022). The procedures essentially end all tourism to the West Bank if the traveler is visiting a Palestinian individual or a Palestinian academic institution in either occupied East Jerusalem or the West Bank. The few classes of travelers allowed to enter must obtain a military-issued permit, and are restricted to using only the land crossing with Jordan. Americans visiting Jewish Israelis or illegal Israeli settlements and academic institutions in the West Bank, however, are not subject to the restrictions….

Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim American membership organizations, civil rights groups, humanitarian organizations, and other interested parties … were assured that all Americans would be treated equally were Israel to enter the VWP. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Brian Shatz (D-HI), along with 14 other Democratic senators, penned a letter calling on the Departments of State and Homeland Security to ensure the non-discriminatory treatment of Americans, and asked whether the US would be requiring changes to Israeli policies. And a bipartisan group of 65 senators sent a letter to the same departments urging the United States and Israel to address these issues, including the reciprocal treatment of US citizens. A number of members of Congress also sent individual and joint letters to complain about the specific treatment of their constituents at Israeli-controlled border crossings or the impact of the COGAT entry procedures on their ability to travel.

Among the failures of the MoU, Hassan notes are:

Disparate Treatment of Palestinian Americans: Under the terms of the MoU, and according to related updates to the Israeli entry procedures, Palestinian Americans will continue to be treated differently than all other travelers

Restrictions on Gaza Entry and Exit: Despite the State Department’s continued assertions that Israel will permit Americans entry to Gaza as part of the VWP (subject to security procedures), the MoU provides that only persons with first-degree family members … may apply for entry with 45-days advance notice. Americans inside Gaza are excluded from using the airport in Israel… The procedures related to Gaza will only come online in mid-September, leaving little time to assess Israel’s compliance with them. Regardless, the reciprocity requirement fails here because Israeli nationals are not subjected to similar restrictions when seeking entry to or transit through the United States.

Ideological and Security Justifications for Exclusion: Current Israeli law and procedures specifically exclude supporters of Palestinian human rights and those affiliated with particular political or non-governmental organizations from entry to Israel and the occupied territories. Nothing in the MoU or in any State Department guidance addresses exclusion based on speech, conscience, or associations, … Given that Israel has designated virtually all Palestinian political organizations as “terrorist organizations” and has, since October 2021, extended this designation to prominent Palestinian human rights groups and community-based organizations, the failure to address this leaves many Americans vulnerable to exclusion simply for upholding what are essentially universal values.… The Committee for Academic Freedom of the 1,200-member Middle East Studies Association has also objected to the MoU’s failure to constrain the use of security justifications, arguing that, “The practice of using national or religious origin or protected speech as a proxy for exclusion amounts to impermissible discrimination and violations of the right to free speech, which adversely impacts the academic freedom of US students and scholars.”

Ineffective Compliance Review: The provisions of the MoU contain no yardstick for measuring Israel’s compliance with the reciprocity requirement; nor do they require denial of Israel’s admission or its removal from the program if it does not adhere to requirements.

US Foreign Policy Undermined: Beyond the impact on the civil liberties of US citizens, the MoU undermines US foreign policy objectives that seek to preserve the possibility of a negotiated political solution between Israel and the Palestinians. It may also make classes of US citizens more insecure when traveling internationally. By accepting three separate entry procedures for Palestinians holding different IDs—one for the West Bank, another for Gaza, and yet another for East Jerusalem—the United States is mimicking Israel’s own policy that seeks to fragment Palestinian populations in the occupied territories, which furthers Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and encourages emigration. In addition, the United States’ failure to challenge Israel’s closure policy for Gaza and its acquiescence to Israel’s disparate treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank compared with Jewish settlers illegally residing there effectively normalizes Israel’s apartheid regime over Palestinians in the occupied territories. Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of Palestinian East Jerusalemites, whom the United States has excluded from benefiting from visa-free travel even though they are nationals of Israel, and despite the fact that the plain language of the applicable federal statute provides that nationals of a VPC are included in the Visa Waiver Program.

The current US agreement with Israel also gives legitimacy to the distinctions Israel has created between nonresident and resident PA-ID holders, which risks playing into the plans of those in the Israeli government who wish to displace and dispossess Palestinians.

Finally, the US acquiescence to the differential treatment of Americans traveling abroad sends a message to other countries that the United States is not a zealous defender of the rights and security of certain classes of its citizens. Poor treatment of Arab American travelers in other parts of the world may become more pronounced. US passports will be devalued at a time when international travel is fraught with security risks. Today it is Arab Americans. Tomorrow it very possibly will be others.

For full article see here (22 August 2023).

U.S. Visa Waiver Pilot Blows Up Claim That All Palestinians Are a Security Threat

Israel has turned travel into a nightmare for Palestinians. Easing entry and exit arrangements for Palestinian Americans as part of the visa waiver pilot program provides relief for some, but is also riddled with pitfalls.

For full article see here (22 August 2023).

12,000 Palestinian-Americans Entered Israel from West Bank in U.S. Visa Waiver Pilot Program

More than 12,000 Palestinians with American citizenship residing in the West Bank have entered Israel in the past few weeks, since Israel was forced to ease travel restrictions for them in order to be accepted into the United States visa waiver program. The estimate was provided by Israeli defense sources who believe that the number of Palestinians in the West Bank with American citizenship is in the tens of thousands. A visa waiver would allow Israelis to visit the U.S. without having to receive a visa at the American embassy as they are currently required to do, but one of the conditions imposed by the American side is that all American citizens are given equal treatment at entry and exit points in and out of Israel – including American citizens living in Gaza and the West Bank.

Despite concerns raised by the security establishment, the government agreed that every American citizen, including those holding Palestinian ID cards or passports from enemy states, would be allowed to receive a visa-free 90-day tourist permit to Israel…. Up until now, the policy has applied only to Palestinian Americans residing in the West Bank or overseas. From September 15th, Israel has committed to adopt the same policy toward the hundreds of Palestinians with American citizenship residing in Gaza…

In the past two weeks, Israel has been asked to provide clarifications on … discrimination against Palestinian-Americans residing in the West Bank in comparison to other American citizens, such as Jewish Americans visiting Israel. While every other American can travel freely between the West Bank and Israel (for example, to visit a relative in an Israeli settlement), an American with a Palestinian ID living in Ramallah is required to pass a checkpoint into Israel on foot and leave their vehicle behind.

For full article see here (21 August 2023).

Israel & U.S. are laughing in our faces, all the way to the visa waiver program

Over seven years, I’ve learned that my American passport isn’t worth as much as I thought it was, so long as I’m in any way affiliated with Palestinians. I’ve been turned around at borders, interrogated about my religion, harassed and accused of supporting terrorism because of my relationships with Palestinians, and denied a visa time and time again. I’ve paid thousands of dollars in legal fees and security deposits to the Israeli government, gone to court, and been separated from my family, all so that I could simply live with my family and work as a journalist in the West Bank. After years of fighting, I’ve managed to secure a very uncertain and very temporary, single-entry West Bank-only visa that can be revoked or denied at any time. It’s not ideal, but it’s more than most have, and for that, I am grateful.

A “town hall” hosted by the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs exposed the charade of Israel’s bid to enter the U.S. waiver program and confirmed what we already knew: Israel has no plans to ensure equality, and the U.S. knows it but doesn’t care.

… after 12 minutes and 2 seconds, the livestream Townhall ended. A total of 10 questions, three of which related to logistical issues around driving, were asked and vaguely answered.

And that was it. That was the extent to which the US government felt it needed to address the questions of thousands of its citizens who are still so obviously in the dark on where they stand, and how this new “pilot program” affects them. Not only did the moderator not even ask five percent of the 260+ questions left on the question forum, they didn’t even bother to use half of the allotted time for the “town hall.”

To say it was a slap in the face would be the understatement of the century.

To read full article see here (17 August, 2023).

Gaza Americans urge Washington to include them in Israel visa deal

GAZA, Aug 3 (Reuters) – U.S. passport holders with Palestinian papers and families in Gaza are urging Washington to ensure they are treated equally under a reciprocal deal with Israel intended to insure visa-free travel for American and Israeli citizens.

Israel, facing a Sept. 30 deadline to qualify its citizens for visa-free admission to the United States, said it has loosened access through its main airport and at the occupied West Bank’s boundary for Palestinian Americans, allowing more than 2,000 people to cross into or through Israel.

U.S. State Department officials have said the Visa Waiver Program must apply to all American citizens, including those in Gaza, but a number of Palestinian Americans with Gaza identity papers have said they have been prevented from entering Israel.

“As an American I think we should have those benefits because Israelis now, even those Israelis who live in illegal settlements are able to come to America without harassment,” Hani Almadhoun, a Palestinian-American visiting family in Gaza, said.

To read full article see here (3 August 2023).

How Israel codifies its system of exclusion and oppression

Cynical, vague and oppressive Cogat 2022 Procedure was carefully designed to maintain the occupier’s control over Palestinians. …The 2022 Procedure is designed to further Israel’s military control and make it difficult for diaspora Palestinians to teach, study, volunteer, work or live in the occupied West Bank.

I recently co-authored a report entitled “Fenced Off: Israel’s 2022 rules on entry of foreign nationals into the West Bank”. The report demonstrates how the regulations show Israel’s total disregard for its duties and obligations in terms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

The 2022 Procedure is all about Israel further entrenching occupation, annexation and apartheid. By preventing Palestinian families, where at least one member is a foreign national, from being able to live together, Israel is creating a coercive environment designed to cause a “silent transfer” of entire families from the occupied West Bank…. The rules also strengthen the Big Brother environment of surveillance and control maintained by the Israeli military regime, designed to make day-to-day life in the occupied West Bank unbearable…. If the 2022 Procedure is applied as anticipated in the coming months, it will deepen the reality of fragmentation for the Palestinian people, divorced from all the promises and values that form the pillars of the international community’s postwar consensus.

The deafening silence of the international community and third states no longer simply conveys disdain towards Palestinians and their rights, but also an appalling indifference towards a state that continues to commit the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

To read Dania Abul Haj’s full piece  see here (1 August 2023).

Traveled to Palestine since 19 July?

Israel is still discriminating against Palestinian Americans who try to visit loved ones in Palestine and Israel—despite promising the US it would start treating all US citizens and nationals equally in a bid to join the US’s Visa Waiver Program.

Were you harrassed, discriminated against or denied entry?

Don’t let Israel’s unjust treatment of US citizens go unreported

For reporting form to US State Department, see here (posted August 2023).

For AJP  HOTLINE for US CITIZENS with ENTRY ISSUES & report form click here (posted February 2023).


July 2023

ADC Files Complaint Against ElAl Airlines on behalf of American-Palestinian Traveler

Washington, D.C. | July 31, 2023 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has filed a complaint on behalf of Noor Wazwaz, a U.S. citizen, who was denied boarding on an El Al Israel flight to Ben Gurion Airport on July 18, 2023. Ms. Wazwaz faced serious discrimination and harassment by agents working for El Al Airlines and Israel, with the cooperation of US agencies, including the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), both in the US at Newark Liberty International Airport and in Israel at Ben Gurion Airport due to her Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab backgrounds. The complaint, filed with the US Department of Transportation (DOT), calls for an immediate investigation into El Al Airlines and its treatment of Ms. Wazwaz, as well as into the airlines use of race, national origin, and religion to discriminate against passengers.

She was forced to undergo extensive and humiliating searches and questioning unlike other passengers. These included separate and multiple screenings, head to toe pat downs, removal of certain articles of clothing, swabbing of all personal items, amongst others. Ms. Wazwaz posted a video thread on Twitter of the incident, and it can be found by clicking here.

ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said, “It is unconscionable that a U.S. citizen would be subject to such treatment, let alone having it happen here in the U.S. There is no justification for the treatment she faced, and we demand an immediate investigation into all of El Al’s policies. There is no room for airlines who create different rules and procedures for passengers of different racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. There is no justification of allowing Israeli security personnel to target our community members at American airports. The treatment Ms. Wazwaz faced has been historically faced by US citizens of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim backgrounds while flying El Al and continues until today.”

For full press release see here 31 July 2023.

MESA letter raising concerns about Israel’s accession to the US Visa Waiver Program

Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom in order to express our concern regarding the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recently concluded between the United States and Israel concerning Israel’s admission to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

We are deeply concerned that the provisions of the MOU may negatively impact U.S. citizens and nationals seeking entry to Israel or the OPT, especially Palestinian-Americans, Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans, as well as Americans of other backgrounds who wish to travel to Israel or the OPT for study or research. There is good reason to expect that, on illegitimate grounds that the U.S. government will be unable to adequately assess, review or challenge, U.S. citizens and nationals may be denied entry because of their ethnic, national or religious identity, or because they have expressed certain views regarding Israeli policies. Such grounds may include alleged Israeli security concerns and alleged violation of Israeli laws against advocacy of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Tolerating such denials of entry would constitute a violation of the constitutional right of US citizens and nationals to freedom of speech and expression, and would also infringe the principles of academic freedom.

First, the MOU adopts existing Israeli policy for differential treatment of certain categories of U.S. citizen travelers, subjecting those who hold a Palestinian Authority identity card to a variety of separate requirements and permissions while U.S. citizens not on the Palestinian population registry will benefit from a standard waiver of such restrictions to entry.

Second, the MOU allows a discriminatory regime to govern access to Gaza in ways that would adversely impact our members.

Third, we are concerned that the MOU applies only to Israeli citizens, rather than to nationals as provided under federal statute. We believe that this amounts to excluding scholars and students who are Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem – and who are issued Israeli travel documents and should qualify as nationals as defined by the VWP statute – from benefitting from VWP access to the United States.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, given Israel’s long and well-documented record of excluding Palestinian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans and other American citizens based on suspected pro-Palestinian sympathies or activism on alleged “security” grounds, we are deeply concerned that the academic freedom of many American scholars in the field of Middle East studies will be adversely impacted by the ongoing imposition of arbitrary exclusion from Israel under the terms of the MOU. 

Israel’s practice of exclusion without either evidentiary basis or procedural protections must be terminated. The practice of using national or religious origin or protected speech as a proxy for exclusion amounts to impermissible discrimination and violations of the right to free speech, which adversely impacts the academic freedom of U.S. students and scholars. 

In light of our concerns, we ask that you immediately suspend the initiation of a trial period for the admission of Israel to the VWP and revise the MOU to explicitly provide for protections against discrimination based on national or religious origin or protected speech activities. We further urge you to take measures to ensure that all U.S. citizens and nationals are given equal access to the benefits of visa-free travel to Israel and the OPT before taking any additional steps towards the inclusion of Israel in the VWP program.

For full press release see here (31 July 2023).

KPFK Public Radio – Middle East in Focus: MOU signed by the US & Israel on US Visa Waiver Program

KPFK public radio interviews Dr James Zogby and Sam Bahour on the highly problematic MOU admitting Israel into the US Visa Waiver Program.

To listen to the interview, click here (30 July 2023).

AAI: For Arab Americans, Blue is Not Blue

News last week that the US and Israel were about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) advancing Israel’s entry into the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) shouldn’t have caught us by surprise. But it did. For months, we had been assured by various Biden Administration officials that Israel could not meet the requirements of the program. Concerns focused on the VWP’s statutory requirement that participant governments must guarantee full reciprocity to US citizens seeking entry – without regard to race, religion, or national origin.  

As has been well documented, Israel routinely disregards American passports, blatantly ignoring the rights of Arab Americans and Americans practicing First Amendment expression for Palestinian rights. These US citizens have reported being harassed, detained, and outright denied entry by Israeli officials. During these incidents, Arab Americans have been strip-searched, questioned for hours about family and property histories, and even forced to give access to their social media accounts.

By admitting Israel into the VWP in violation of statutory requirements, the Administration will choose to abandon the rights of Arab American citizens to give Israel a political perk. This decision is an egregious breach of responsibility owed by the US government to its citizens. It is an insult to my community—and the law that created the visa waiver program. 

For AAI’s President Dr James Zogby’s full statement see here (24 July 2023).

FMEP publishes the US-Israel MOU on Visa Waiver Program

To read a copy of the US-Israel MOU, click here (21 July 2023).

New procedures published for Palestinian-Americans

For new procedures issued by GOI for Palestinian American tourists entry into Israel see here (July 2023).


“FENCED OFF”: New ICJP report on Israel’s 2022 rules on entry of foreign nationals into West Bank

London, 18 July 2023- Today, the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has publicly released a report FENCED OFF: Israel’s 2022 Rules on Entry of Foreign Nationals into the West Bank on Israel’s recent Procedure on the entry and residence of foreign nationals in the West Bank. The report was released in collaboration with the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and supported by members of the Right to Enter campaign.

Tayab Ali, Co-Director at ICJP, said:

“This Procedure is a draconian development that is designed to disrupt people’s lives, strip people of their rights and segregate people from one another. It is a classic tactic of divide and conquer and an entrenchment of Israeli apartheid. However, these new regulations simply formalise a reality that Palestinian people have been forced to live with for years.

It gives a totally blank check to border guards, as there is no requirement to provide any reasons in cases of denial of entry. It is a bureaucratic nightmare designed to tie people’s ankles together with red tape.

The report calls on Israel to conduct a review of their non-compliance with international law, amend or repeal the 2022 Procedure, and remove all arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinian people’s rights and all visitors to the occupied West Bank. ICJP also call on the international community, including Third States such as the UK, to publicly condemn the Procedure, call for a review of Israel’s international obligations and monitor and protect the rights of their own citizens whose rights are infringed under these measures.

The report concludes that before Israel is permitted to join the VWP, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State must ensure the following.

  1. Full reciprocity for American citizens traveling to and from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
  2. Full access to Israel and the OPT for all Americans.
  3. Guaranteed freedom of expression for Americans advocating for Palestinian human rights.

To read full press release see here (18 July 2023).

For full ICJ report see here (18 July 2023).


June 2023

Israeli Discrimination May Be Written into U.S. Law

Israel’s border policies are a danger to the principles of visa reciprocity.

Recent reports that the U.S. Embassy in Israel is negotiating an agreement that would effectively create a special exception to exempt Israel from the program’s reciprocity requirement are of deep concern. Without an agreement that ensures Israel will honor the principle of reciprocity and respect the rights of all American travelers, the visa waiver agreement between the United States and Israel is likely to become the first one to enshrine discrimination against certain American travelers as acceptable.

…Such an agreement for differential treatment of Americans would violate the fundamental reciprocity principle upon which the highly coveted U.S. Visa Waiver Program was built and would effectively normalize ethnoreligious discrimination and racial profiling of American citizens. No other country of the 40 current participants in the waiver program has had difficulty committing fully to the requirement for reciprocity of treatment—a fundamental tenet that undergirds all of its diplomatic interactions, as well as international human rights conventions and stated U.S. values of civil rights, justice, and equality.

The U.S. government has no authority to negotiate away the rights of some Americans, and it’s outrageous that it would consider such a thing. Of course, the 30,000 to 70,000 Palestinian Americans who live in the West Bank and the hundreds who live in Gaza should be able to use the airport in Israel; that should be non-negotiable.

But the inquiry into whether Israel qualifies for the program does not end there. The number of Americans affected by Israel’s discriminatory legal regime at border crossings is much broader than those who claim Palestinian descent. They include Arab and Muslim Americans and those born in, or who have ever held travel documents from, states Israel considers enemies—in several cases, even after they have signed peace agreements and/or normalized relations with Israel, such as Jordan and Morocco.

It also includes any American who publicly supports constitutionally protected political boycotts of Israel—including U.S. members of Congress—or those who write, teach, or speak out about Palestinian human rights. In contrast, the United States does not impose restrictions on the travel of Israeli visitors—regardless of their political views, countries of origin (including those with

Because of the special challenges presented by Israel and the regime it imposes on certain groups of travelers, previous administrations, including President Barack Obama’s, have refrained from pursuing a visa agreement with Israel.

The DHS and State Department must take the time to get this right, or, if that goal is not achievable, they must avoid greenlighting Israeli policies that have been harming certain groups of Americans for decades. If they do anything less than guarantee full compliance with the reciprocity requirement, the Biden administration will effectively be writing racial discrimination back into U.S. law.

For full article see here (20 June 2023).

Critics skeptical of Israeli “pilot program” to land U.S. visa waiver

“This is Apartheid in action,” Ahmed Abofoul, an attorney with the human rights organization Al-Haq, told Mondoweiss at the time. “Say, for example, an American Palestinian and American Jew come [to the West Bank] together. The Palestinian would be treated differently from the Jew. It’s all part of the apartheid system. What we are seeing is representative of how Israel applies its apartheid laws to Palestinians everywhere, both in the occupied territory and abroad. Israel targets Palestinians simply for being Palestinians.”

Foundation for Middle East Peace President Lara Friedman told Mondoweiss: “This effort strips the term ‘reciprocity’ of all meaning, gives a U.S. kosher stamp to foreign governments engaging in blatant racism against Americans, and demonstrates yet again that the rule of U.S.-Israel relations – regardless of which party is in the White House, and even when talking about the welfare and rights of American citizens – is zero accountability.”

“Israel will demonstrate that it doesn’t discriminate against Palestinian-Americans by creating an entirely different process for entry that only Palestinian-Americans will be subjected to,” tweeted Yousef Munayyer. “What a joke.”

Last month over a dozen Democratic Senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the administration to ensure equal treatment for all U.S. citizens before considering Israel’s admission into the program. “We appreciate the Administration’s stated position that, in order to be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, Israel must meet the requirements of reciprocity and equal treatment for all U.S. citizen travelers to Israel and/or the West Bank,” it reads. “To date, however, we have seen no statements from the Government of Israel regarding actions or intentions to change current practices and policies that negatively impact U.S. citizens on the basis of their religion, national origin, or ethnicity, especially in the case of Palestinian-Americans or Arab Americans.”

More recently, a group of more than 30 community leaders representing thousands of Palestinian and Arab Americans met with Homeland Security officials to express concern over the waiver. Among the concerns raised were the demands that all American citizens and nationals, including Palestinian Americans on the Palestinian Population Registry, be allowed to travel through Israeli–controlled entry points and checkpoints unimpeded, the end to Israeli travel bans without due process, and an end to the extended detention and interrogation of American travelers.

American Federation of Ramallah Palestine’s (AFRP) Government Affairs Committee Co-Chair George Salem released a statement after the meeting. “Travel bans are yet another tool in Israel’s toolbox to fragment the Palestinian community and deny us our right to visit and maintain relationships with our ancestral homeland,” he said. “Before even being considered for the VWP, all travel bans on entering and exiting issued by Israel without due process must end, and past visa denial decisions that were made without due process cannot be used as a basis for blanket denial of entry.”

The meeting was a follow-up to a letter 50 community organizations sent to Antony Blinken and the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in May outlining concerns with Israel’s potential admission into the program.

For full article see here (19 June 2023).

ADC launches letter-writing campaign for US citizens on the VWP

Tell the US Government that American Rights are Non-Negotiable

The U.S. Government is about to enter into the final phase of the assessment of Israel’s eligibility for the Visa Waiver Program. On July 1 the process will enter into the testing phase, one of the final steps before a decision on admission is reached, as Israel implements a 30-day pilot program attempting to show that they have overcome their biggest hurdle for inclusion, reciprocity. Israel unequivocally fails to meet this fundamental requirement, regardless of what they decide to do for 30 days.

Now is the time to make your voice heard. Tell the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security in no uncertain terms that Israel cannot meet any reasonable understanding of reciprocity. Let them know that admission into the Visa Waiver Program is a privilege that must be reserved for countries that meet all the program’s requirements in statute and spirit. Make it clear that by granting Israel entry into the program despite its ongoing discriminatory practices, the U.S. government would be forced to create an incredibly complex system of conditions that privilege the rights of some Americans at the expense of others. Demand that the novelty of Israel’s application and unique situation as an occupying power not be used as an excuse to forego the steadfast demand for equal and fair treatment.

“We cannot, and must not, trivialize reciprocity and negotiate away the rights of American citizens in an attempt to achieve a political victory.”

For full details on letter writing campaign see here (June 2023).

Waiving US visas for Israelis would be a mistake

The US should not give up protecting its own citizens just to present another political gift to the Israeli government.

Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab writes: If the US government admits Israel to the Visa Waiver Program without its explicit formal agreement to end all discriminatory practices against all Americans (including Palestinians, Muslims, Arabs and defenders of the Palestinian cause), it would put its stamp of approval on the extension of Israeli apartheid-like policies onto American citizens.

Israel would never accept that its citizens be treated with anything less than equal dignity and neither should the United States.

For full article see here (14 June 2023).

Progressive Israel Network Sends Letter to Blinken & Mayorkas on Israel’s application to join U.S. Visa Waiver Program

Progressive Israel Network has sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Israel’s application to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. The letter, signed by 7 organisations urged that conditions of full reciprocity must be met prior to Israel’s acceptance into the VWP, noting:

We … share the concerns of United States Senators who wrote to you on May 24, 2023 that Israel “does not appear to be on the path” to fully meeting this critical requirement. The Senators rightly noted a number of ways in which Israeli law, policy and practice fall short of providing reciprocity to all Americans. As the State Department has long warned in its online travel information website, “Some U.S. citizens of Arab or Muslim heritage (including Palestinian-Americans) have experienced significant difficulties and unequal and occasionally hostile treatment at Israel’s borders and checkpoints.”

To read full letter see here (5 June 2023).

American Federation of Ramallah Palestine: 30+ organizations meet with U.S. officials on Israel’s Visa Waiver Program bid

Washington, D.C. – As the U.S. Government continues to assess Israel’s eligibility to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP), a group of more than 30 community leaders representing thousands of Palestinian Americans, Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and allies met senior officials from the Departments of State and Homeland Security (DHS) last week to discuss the community’s concerns with Israel’s potential admission into the program.

Core to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program is the principle of reciprocity, which requires that participating countries treat every American citizen traveling with a U.S. passport – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, creed, or secondary nationality – just as the U.S. would treat foreign nationals of the participating country at all U.S. points of entry and transit. However, Israel’s current policies and practices on entry, exit, and transit of American citizens are antithetical to the requirement of reciprocity.

Noting that Israel currently does not meet VWP reciprocity requirements, DHS and State Department officials reaffirmed their commitment to reciprocity under the guiding principle of “blue is blue,” meaning that anyone with a blue American passport seeking entry or transit through Israel must be treated equally by Israeli authorities. Officials also stated that they have made it clear to the Israeli government that it must demonstrate reciprocity in action prior to being admitted into the VWP.  Disappointingly, they remained ambiguous around what Israeli-controlled points of entry will be included and whether checkpoints will be covered under reciprocity. Specifically, there was no clarity whether the VWP-required reciprocity will extend to the crossings from Israel into the West Bank and Gaza, from the West Bank into Israel, and from Jordan into the West Bank – all of which Israel controls.

George Salem, Co-Chair of the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine’s (AFRP) Government Affairs Committee said, “Travel bans are yet another tool in Israel’s toolbox to fragment the Palestinian community and deny us our right to visit and maintain relationships with our ancestral homeland. Before even being considered for the VWP, all travel bans on entering and exiting issued by Israel without due process must end, and past visa denial decisions that were made without due process cannot be used as a basis for blanket denial of entry.”

Hanna Hanania, Co-Chair of AFRP’s Government Affairs Committee, said, “The Palestinian and Arab American community are united in our demand that no exceptions be made for Israel when assessing its eligibility for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, and that the rules of the program are fully and equally applied. This process cannot be a negotiation and the statute is clear. There is no room for concessions or compromise.”

Chris Habiby, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s (ADC) National Government Affairs and Advocacy Director, said, “Accepting anything less than full and equal treatment of American citizens would be a betrayal of the foundational principles of the Visa Waiver Program. Compromising reciprocity introduces an infinitely increasing, chaotically complex series of conditions that only serves to reinforce Israel’s system of discrimination.”

Some of the key demands regarding Israel’s consideration for the VWP shared with DHS and State Department officials by the coalition of community organizations include:

  • All American citizens and nationals – including Palestinian Americans on the Palestinian Population Registry – must be able to travel to/through all Israeli–controlled entry points and checkpoints unimpeded, and must be treated equally regardless of ethnicity, religion, secondary nationality, etc. This includes the crossings from Israel into Gaza, from the West Bank into Israel, and from Jordan into the West Bank.
  • All travel bans on entering and exiting issued by Israel without due process must end. Past visa denial decisions that were made without due process cannot be used as a basis for blanket denial of entry.
  • In the event of an entry denial, Israel must provide a detailed written explanation of the reason for denial. This explanation must go beyond simply stating the reason for denial, as Israel has consistently abused the use of “national security” as a basis for denial of movement.
  • The use of extended detention and interrogation of American travelers must end on both entry and exit. Israel must cease taking personal property, including, but not limited to, personal computers, watches, game devices, tablets, phones, etc.
  • Israel must repeal the inherently discriminatory COGAT procedures, which are designed to exclude almost all Americans from visiting the Palestinian West Bank, and are in direct conflict with the reciprocity requirements of the VWP.
  • A robust testing period should last a minimum of 3 months and ensure non-discriminatory policies and actions. Prior to the initiation of the testing period, the State Department must develop and implement a reporting system to track denials and mistreatment of U.S. citizens at all Israeli-controlled points of entry and checkpoints in order to provide aid to U.S. citizens and determine if Israel is eligible for/abiding by the requirements of the VWP.
  • The State Department and Department of Homeland Security must implement a comprehensive oversight system to regularly assess Israel’s compliance with the requirements of the VWP, with clear consequences for lack of compliance, including removal from the VWP.

For full press release see here (5 June 2023).

Columbia University: Impossible Ethnographies; Notes on Israel’s Blockade of Palestinian Anthropology

Insaniyyat is soliciting reflections from researchers who have had projects interrupted, prevented, or simply made inconceivable due to Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian movement. Closure and visa policies have wide implications for where and what is studied in the Anthropology of Palestine, who can conduct that research, and what is researchable. We are interested in contributions that demonstrate the material effects on scholars’ research agendas and on the very possibility of undertaking research in Palestine. We ask that interested authors send us either a short abstract 250-300 words, or a longer narrative piece under the title “Impossible Ethnographies.” Images are also welcome.

Please share the call for contributions and submission form among any potentially interested authors. 

For more see here (2 June 2023).


May 2023

Confidential EU report warns about ‘drastic acceleration’ of Israeli pressure on Jerusalem

European diplomats are asking union officials to ‘unequivocally’ show opposition to the Israeli government’s plans to alter the status and borders of the disputed city

Brussels and the members of the European Union must “unequivocally” oppose the Israeli government’s plans and legal initiatives to unilaterally alter the status and borders of Jerusalem, where Israel has “drastically” accelerated pressure on the Palestinian population in the last year, according to a confidential report seen by EL PAÍS and delivered to the EU’s External Action service (EUAA) by the diplomatic representatives in East Jerusalem and Ramallah of nearly all of the EU’s member states, plus the EU delegate.

“The document also recalls that six Palestinians have lost their residence in Jerusalem by virtue of a legal amendment approved in 2018. The vast majority of residents in East Jerusalem have a permanent residence permit issued by Israel. That year, parliament gave the Interior Ministry the power to revoke it for individuals who have committed attacks, endangered public safety or “betrayed the State of Israel.” The latest person to have his residency revoked was the French-Palestinian human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri, who was deported to France last December.

Among the measures that should be “considered,” according to the report’s annex of recommendations, there are two related to border policy. One is to keep out “known violent settlers and those who call for acts of violence.” The other, to apply the principle of reciprocity when faced with “Israeli discriminatory practices with visas that restrict the freedom of movement of EU citizens.”

For full article see here (30 May 2023).

Difficulties on the way to US visa exemption – ‘Israel does not yet meet the requirements’

An official at the US State Department told Al-Arabiya in English that Israel has not yet reached an agreement with the US on the most sensitive issue on the way to obtaining the long-awaited exemption: freedom of entry and movement even for Palestinians who hold an American passport. ‘Work is being done on the issue,’ an American official told Ynet.

For full article see here (28 May 2023).

Senators Urge Biden Admin: Ensure Equal Treatment for All U.S. Citizens When Mulling Israel Visa Waiver

WASHINGTON – Sixteen U.S. senators on Wednesday urged the Bidenadministration to ensure that equal treatment of all U.S. citizens –regardless of ethnicity, national origin and religion – is upheld withinthe Visa Waiver Program, as it considers Israel’s candidacy to join the coveted program. The letter is the most significant Congressional missive to date expressing skepticism that Israel is currently eligible to enter theprogram. Acceptance of Israel into it would spare its citizens thetime-consuming and expensive process of obtaining visas for U.S. visits,allow for 90-day visits for tourism or business and catalyze economic cooperation.

For full article see here (24 May 2023).

Van Hollen, Schatz Lead Over a Dozen Senators in Letter Urging Administration to Ensure Equal Treatment for All U.S. Citizens as It Considers Israel for Visa Waiver Program

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) led 14 of their colleagues in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas urging the Administration to ensure equal treatment of all U.S. citizens – regardless of ethnicity, national origin, and religion – is upheld within the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), as the Administration considers Israel’s candidacy to join the program….The letter outlines some of the changes needed for Israel to come into compliance with the VWP’s reciprocity and equal treatment requirements and seeks assurances regarding how the Administration will measure compliance with those requirements should Israel be admitted to the VWP.

Reciprocity and Equal Treatment for All U.S. Citizens

all candidate countries must meet the standards for accession to the program. As Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas, Ambassador Nides and others in the Administration have repeatedly made clear, our standard is that “blue is blue” — meaning “equal treatment and freedom of travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin, religion, or ethnicity.” Based on past experience and current policies and practices, significant changes will be needed for Israel to come into compliance with this requirement. 

Blue is Blue

None of the 40 countries currently participating in the Visa Waiver Program apply such discriminatory laws, policies, and practices against certain groups of U.S. citizens. To do so would violate the “blue is blue” requirement for participating countries. That’s why on January 30, Secretary Mayorkas said, “We will continue to work with the Government of Israel as it works to fulfill all the remaining program requirements, one of which is for Israel to provide equal treatment and freedom of travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin, religion, or ethnicity — for example, Arab-Americans, including Palestinian-Americans — seeking to enter or transit through Israel.”

While we would like to see Israel meet the program requirements for entry into the VWP before the September 30th deadline, it does not appear to be on a path to do so. We request your response to the questions below.

  1. Do you agree that, under a Visa Waiver Program, ALL U.S. citizens, regardless of ethnicity, national origin or religion, should be able to travel freely and without limitation to Israel and/or all parts of the West Bank for 90 days for all the purposes enumerated under the program?
  2. Do you agree that, under a Visa Waiver Program, a U.S. citizen entering Israel and traveling to a Palestinian town on the West Bank should be treated no differently than a U.S. citizen entering Israel and traveling to a Jewish settlement on the West Bank or to any other place on the West Bank, including being allowed to use the same point of entry?
  3. Do you agree that Israel must enact and implement changes to the COGAT policies as they apply to any U.S. citizen traveler and any other measures that violate the equal treatment requirements prior to admission into the Visa Waiver Program?
  4. What mechanisms have you put in place to ensure that, if Israel is admitted into the Visa Waiver Program, the U.S. can monitor compliance with the reciprocity and equal treatment requirements of the Program? Given the State Department’s awareness of the history of discrimination against certain groups of U.S. citizen travelers to Israel, will you implement a system to receive and document reports from those who may experience discriminatory treatment? What other mechanisms do you plan to implement to ensure compliance with the equal treatment requirements?
  5. If countries in the Visa Waiver Program do not comply with the reciprocity and equal treatment requirements, what is the mechanism in place to remove them from the program? If one does not exist, what steps need to be taken to hold countries accountable for violating the rules of reciprocity? 

For full press release see here (24 May 2023).

For the full letter see here (24 May 2023).

French MPs Visiting West Bank Made to Sign Pledge to Avoid Protests in West Bank, Israel

Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority required French members of parliament arriving in the West Bank for an economic conference to sign a form demanding that they avoid demonstrations during their stay in Israel and the West Bank….

It also requests the signatory’s guarantee “not to confront” police or the army in Israel and in the Palestinian territories, and a statement that those who participate in a demonstration during the visit will not be granted entry to Israel in the future.

In response, the Population Authority said the form “is used in extremely exceptional cases, when there is prior information or there is a fear that the visitors have come with the purpose of disturbing public order or the security forces in Judea and Samaria … We are reviewing the incident and whether it was appropriate to use the procedure in this case.”

For full article see here (9 May 2023).

April 2023

Family unification status cannot be revoked as  collective punishment; 7 East Jerusalemites’ deportation blocked

HaMoked: Family unification status cannot be revoked as a collective punishment; District Court prevents deportation of 7 innocent Palestinians from East Jerusalem “for general deterrence considerations”On April 13, 2023, the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs accepted HaMoked’s series of appeals of October 19, 2022, and reversed the Appeal Tribunal judgment of September 20, 2022, which upheld for the first time revocation of family unification status “for deterrence purposes”. The judgment of Judge Tamar Bar-Asher was issued in the matter of 10 Palestinians who have been living in East Jerusalem for years with stay permits or temporary residency status in the framework of family unification and child registration processes and who are somehow related to an assailant who committed a lethal attack against Israelis on January 8, 2017 in Jerusalem. HaMoked’s appeals argued that their status revocations were essentially a collective punishment of innocent people. Seven of the ten had been left with no status in Jerusalem following the Appeal Tribunal judgement. Thus, for the time being, the threat of their deportation from the city has been lifted.The judgment invalidated the Tribunal’s ruling that the Minister of Interior is authorized to terminate family unification and child registration procedures due to considerations of deterrence even without explicit statutory authorization.

For full press release see here (16 April 2023).


March 2023

Jewish Insider: Nides – Israel’s entry to Visa Waiver Program could come this summer

Israelis hoping for visa-free travel to the United States could see progress on the issue as soon as this summer, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides told Jewish Insider on Tuesday. 

“It’ll be done, probably, come July, August, is when they’ll do a review process,” Nides said.

For more than a decade, Israeli leaders have been pushing for the United States to add Israel to the program, which would allow 90-day visa-free tourist and business visits. Israelis who are now applying for American visas face wait times of six months or more just to receive an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. 

“There’s very clear processes here. This is not, like, loosey-goosey. You have very clear rules and laws that have to be fulfilled for one to qualify,” said Nides. The Visa Waiver Program was created by Congress in 1986. Its other requirements include biometric passports and the sharing of criminal databases, as well as a reciprocal entry policy. 

“If you’re a Palestinian American living in Detroit, you have to be able to go from Detroit through Ben Gurion [Airport] to Ramallah to visit grandma,” Nides explained, and vice versa: “If you live in Ramallah and you’re a Palestinian American, you have to be able to go to Ben Gurion and go visit grandma in Detroit. You would think that that’s just common sense, but that’s not what’s happened.” 

“It’s not that Herculean. Doing reciprocity means people will be treated the same,” said Nides. “If we can do that, I mean, that’ll be a big deal.”

“The devil’s in the details. We’re dead serious about this,” Nides added. 

For full article see here 29 March 2023.

AJP & AFSC: Defying the Gaza Exception: Freedom of Movement, the Seige, and the Visa Waiver Program

Israel’s potential inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program has been making headlines. The waiver would allow for visa-free stays for citizens of both countries—but some citizens would be ruled out of the waiver: Palestinians. Critics have rightly pointed out that Palestinians, regardless of their citizenship status, face restrictions on travel within Palestine. But what about Gaza? Palestinians are barred from entering Gaza regardless of their citizenship or status, including Palestinian Americans from Gaza who are separated from their families and homeland. In fact, Gaza yet again has been left out of the conversation though Palestinians in Gaza face an arduous maze of obstacles for any form of travel, whether for medical emergency or education. The Visa Waiver Program is predicated on easing freedom of movement, but Israel’s regime is built on the exact opposite; restricting mobility. 

This event will feature speakers Fidaa Al-Aydi and Yousef al-Jamal, who will share their insights on the impact of the possible visa waiver program and the ongoing siege on the people of Gaza. The event will be moderated by Jehad Abusalim. 

To join the event via Zoom, hosted by AJP and AFSC, click here (16 March, 2023).

Eight Steps Biden Could Take to Show Netanyahu He Means Business

Washington has tried to play nice with the extremist Israeli government, but as its messages seemingly fall on deaf ears, it does have tougher options at its disposal

“Measures do not need to be limited to rhetoric. One area of bilateral policy that could be utilized is Israel’s potential entry into the coveted U.S. visa waiver program.

The Biden administration (with ambassador Nides steering the matter) and successive Israeli coalitions have prioritized Israel’s entry – which would spare Israeli citizens the time-consuming and expensive process of obtaining visas for U.S. visits, allow for 90-day visits for tourism or business, and catalyze economic cooperation.

Since Israel took a massive step toward entry in January after meeting the 3-percent benchmark for rejected visa applications, U.S. Embassy officials have continued to prioritize ensuring Israel meets the rest of the requirements by this September’s deadline. Perhaps the worst-kept secret concerning the process is that this year presents a rare window for Israel’s entry due to low application numbers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Should Israel fail to meet the deadline, it is highly unlikely it will manage to gain entry moving forward.

The Biden administration could send a strong message by using Israel’s attempted entry as either a bargaining chip or outright removing it from the agenda – making clear that such contempt from Israeli officials will not be met unchallenged.”

See full article here (1 March 2023).


February 2023

AJP: HOTLINE for US CITIZENS with ENTRY ISSUES and other issues within the oPt

If you or a loved one face any mistreatment by Israeli authorities and need support, please reach out to AJP Action’s Israeli Discrimination hotline by dialing (844) 939-0921or filling out our incident form.

For more information see here (February 2023).

For incident form see here.

Israel expels EU Parliament member traveling to Palestine on official EP mission; all MEPs in delegation banned from visiting Gaza

See tweet here (posted 21 February 2023).

“Blue Means Blue”: Reciprocity, Israel, and the Requirements for Entry to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program

Israel’s application to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program has caused a stir as Palestinian Americans and supporters of Palestinian rights have long experienced difficulties traveling to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. A recently published unclassified version of an Israeli military order reveals that while most people visiting Palestinians in the West Bank would be prohibited from entering, those staying in Israeli settlements would face no similar restrictions.Please join us for a discussion led by Carnegie’s Zaha Hassan on the challenges faced by foreign travelers to the West Bank. The discussion will feature Samar Asad Hawari and Kamal Nawash, two Americans personally affected by the entry rules; Leora Bechor, an Israeli immigration law expert; and Jessica Montel, executive director of HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual based in Israel.

To join the event hosted by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on 14 February 2023, click here.

Atlantic Council: Will 2023 be the year Israel joins the US Visa Waiver Program?

The Biden administration has expressed support for helping Israel qualify for the United States Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Israel’s long-running efforts to join the program have faced a range of political, legal, and practical hurdles in meeting US benchmarks for entry. With a new Israeli government at the helm and the country’s annual visa rejection rate falling below three percent as required by the US government, will 2023 be the year Israel finally joins the VWP?

Please join the Atlantic Council for a public event featuring opening remarks from US Deputy Chief of Mission to Israel Stephanie L. Hallett, as well as a panel discussion with current and former US and Israeli officials, who will examine the background for renewed US-Israel negotiations and assess both the progress made under the previous Israeli government and next steps forward for Israel’s accession into the program. This event builds off a 2022 Atlantic Council issue brief co-authored by Ruth Marks Eglash and panelist Scott Lasensky: “Fulfilling the Requirements: Israel’s Entry Into the US Visa Waiver Program.”

To register for the virtual event on 7 February 2023, click here.

Corazones bajo ocupación: el caso de las familias palestinas separadas por Israel Primera modificación

Israel ejerce desde hace décadas una división de las familias palestinas, muchas de las cuales llevan años sin verse o reunirse. Lejos de facilitar estas relaciones, cada vez más leyes y políticas israelíes fragmentan a parejas, padres e hijos y parientes que viven entre el Estado hebreo y Gaza, Jerusalén Este y Cisjordania. Al habitual motivo de seguridad, Israel admite hoy de forma explícita que estas medidas persiguen un objetivo demográfico: mantener una mayoría judía en el territorio.

For full article by France 24 see here (4 February 2023).


January 2023

U.S. Embassy Statement: Israel Meets NIV Refusal Rate Requirement for Visa Waiver Program

For press release see here (30 January 2023).  

Jerusalem Story: Visiting Palestinians in the West Bank? The Rules Remain Unclear, and You Could Be Denied Entry

On October 20, 2022, Israel activated new procedures for foreign passport holders seeking to visit Palestinian areas of the occupied West Bank.

The procedures—detailed in a 90-page document issued by the Ministry of Defense—are confusing and created a situation of uncertainty for travelers.

Jerusalem Story interviewed Israeli lawyer Yotam Ben-Hillel, whose law firm has worked with HaMoked—Center for the Defence of the Individual, an Israeli human rights organization, to challenge the new rules in Israeli court. We spoke about the procedures’ implementation, what has changed—and what remains unknown.

For full interview click here (28 January 2023).

West Bank – New Entry Rules Further Isolate Palestinians: Israel’s Guidelines Impede Visiting, Studying, Working

(Jerusalem) – New Israeli guidelines on access to the West Bank for foreigners threaten to further isolate Palestinians from loved ones and global civil society, Human Rights Watch said today. The guidelines, which came into force in October 2022 and were amended in December 2022, set out detailed procedures for West Bank entry and residency for foreigners, a process distinct from the procedure for entry to Israel.

Israeli authorities have long made it difficult for foreigners to teach, study, volunteer, work, or live in the West Bank. The new guidelines codify and tighten longstanding restrictions, threatening to make it even harder for Palestinians in the West Bank, who already face severe Israeli-imposed movement restrictions, to be with family members who lack a West Bank ID and to engage with foreign students, academics, experts, and others.

“By making it harder for people to spend time in the West Bank, Israel is taking yet another step toward turning the West Bank into another Gaza, where two million Palestinians have lived virtually sealed off from the outside world for over 15 years,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This policy is designed to weaken the social, cultural, and intellectual ties that Palestinians have tried to maintain with the outside world.”

The 61-page “Procedure for entrance and residence of foreigners in the Judea and Samaria Area [a reference to the West Bank]” replaced a three-page document of procedures first implemented in December 2006. It sets out the Israeli army’s policy and procedures with regard to foreigners who seek to enter solely the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, or to extend a stay for a visit or for a “specific purpose”, for example, to study, teach, volunteer, or work there….

While countries have wide discretion over entry into their sovereign territory, international humanitarian law requires occupying powers to act in the best interest of the occupied population or to maintain security or public order. There are no apparent justifications based on security, public order, or the best interests of Palestinians for how significantly Israeli authorities restrict volunteers, academics, or students from entering the West Bank or Palestinians’ loved ones from remaining on a long-term basis, Human Rights Watch said.

“An occupying army has no business determining which professors are qualified to teach at Palestinian universities, blocking human rights defenders from interacting with the occupied population, or cruelly separating families,” Goldstein said. “The US and European states should press Israeli authorities to make it easier, not harder, for people, including their own citizens, to build meaningful connections with West Bank communities.”

For full Human Rights Watch report see here (23 January 2023).

Right to Enter Campaign releases The New COGAT Rules – In Short

23 January 2023RTE releases an executive summary of its October 2022 brief on the new COGAT rules on entry and residence for foreign nationals into the Israeli-occupied West Bank, now being implemented. Recommendations for third States are included.
Please find Executive Summary (13 Jan 2023)  here .

Please find full RTE Briefing (Oct 2022) here.


2022


December 2022

Israel’s expulsion of a Palestinian lawyer is a warning: be obedient

With the deportation of lawyer Salah Hammouri, born in Jerusalem to a Jerusalemite family, to France on Sunday, Israel is effectively warning all Palestinian residents of the city, present and future, that if they are not submissive, silent and obedient, their permanent residency status will be revoked.

The case of Hammouri, who was deported on the order of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, indicates that Israel feels sufficiently confident to upgrade its techniques of subjugation and intimidation, and that it is not impressed by diplomatic protests (by France, in this case)….

Hammouri’s deportation was preceded by the revocation of his residency status over a year ago, based on the March 2018 law amendment, accepted by the Knesset, that allows the voiding of residency status over “breach of trust against the State of Israel.”

What lies at the basis of the amendment is the application of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law to Jerusalem-born Palestinians, whose families have lived there since long before Israel was established.

Read full article here (published 19 December 2022).

Mondoweiss & US Campaign for Palestinian Rights release: Love Under Occupation

To see the film by Yumna Patel and Luay Awwad click here (5 December 2022).


November 2022

Palestinian who waited nearly 22 years for Palestinian ID remembers Shireen Abu Akleh

On the six-month anniversary of her death, Al Jazeera revisits the story of how Shireen Abu Akleh highlighted the plight of a young man denied an ID by Israeli authorities for more than 20 years. In 2020, for her final project for a digital media diploma at Birzeit University, she focused on a young man, Fayez Kawamleh. For close to 22 years, Kawamleh was living a life of fear: he was denied an identity card by the Israeli authorities and could not get a job or travel – not even between different cities in the West Bank – or get married. His life was at a standstill.

“We are six people in the family. We all live in the same house, under the same conditions. They gave half of the family ID cards and denied the rest. The only thing I can think of is that they are trying to push us to leave,” Kawamleh added, referring to Israeli authorities.

Read full article here (published 11 November 2022).

Israel interrogates Dundee councillor and trade union bosses after trip to Palestine

Dundee trade union bosses were detained and interrogated at an Israeli airport as they tried to leave the country following a visit to Palestine. The security incident happened on Wednesday [9 No] as the group arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv following a visit to Dundee’s twin town Nablus in Palestine. Although finally allowed to leave the country after two hours of questioning, four of the group had their luggage seized and removed from the plane.

Among those apprehended and interrogated by security officials were Mike Arnott of Dundee TUC and Jim Malone of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). Dundee councillor Pete Shears, who was representing the Communication Workers Union, and Mary McGregor, convener of the Dundee/Nablus Twinning Association, were also detained.

Mike Arnott said: “This was a very deliberate action by the Israeli state to muck us about.”

The group claim they may have been under surveillance during their visit, which saw them sign an agreement of solidarity between the Dundee trade unions and the General Union Council of Palestinian Labour Unions, Nablus Branch. Arnott added: “They always seemed to know where we were and what we were doing throughout the trip.”

Read full article here (published 10 November 2022).

Incoming MK tells US envoy that Likud will fast-track bills for visa waiver

Returning Likud MK Danny Danon has reportedly spoken with US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides to assure him that the party would be working to advance Israel’s inclusion in the US Visa Waiver Program once it returns to power. According to the Ynet news site, Danon told Nides during a phone call on Friday that the expected incoming government is interested in fast-tracking the necessary legislation — despite Likud having obstructed such efforts in recent months.

Read full article here (published 6 November 2022).


October 2022

HaMoked launches survey on harm caused by new COGAT procedure

HaMoked Centre for the Defense of the Individual has launched a survey to document harm caused by new Israeli procedure on entry and stay of foreign nationals in the West Bank. The survey data will help prepare the human rights organisation’s legal challenges to the restrictions.

To participate in survey click here: https://forms.gle/ciSxwUaQGkAYyTq79

20 US lawmakers call on U.S. to keep Israel out of Visa Waiver Program

WASHINGTON – Twenty House Democrats on Thursday called on the Biden administration to keep Israel out of the Visa Waiver Program, days after Haaretz revealed the U.S. believes Israel is still not in compliance with the necessary requirements for entry into the coveted program.

Nineteen Democrats joined Rep. Don Beyer’s missive to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which noted that Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Alice Lugo informed him in late September that “Israel does not currently meet all [visa waiver program] designation requirements, including extending reciprocal visa-free travel privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals.”

The main sticking point is “reciprocity” – ensuring that all U.S. citizens are treated equally at Israeli points of entry. Travelers who are not white and Jewish have long complained about racial profiling at Ben Gurion Airport. Palestinians with American citizenship, meanwhile, travel via the Allenby Bridge crossing with Jordan.

The Beyer-led letter notes that “it is clear that Israel cannot and should not be admitted into the visa waiver program under the status quo,” further highlighting the new “discriminatory restrictions” imposed by the Israeli military for entry into the West Bank.

The lawmakers not only call on the U.S. to press Israel on these restrictions, but further assure reciprocity for all U.S. citizens and open a hotline that publishes monthly reports for future visa waiver program evaluations.

Regarding reciprocity under the VWP, an Embassy spokesperson added that “Israel must extend reciprocal privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals — including Palestinian Americans — as those the United States would extend to Israeli citizens. We seek equal treatment and freedom to travel for all such U.S. travelers to Israel regardless of national origin or ethnicity.”

Read full article here (published 28 October 2022).

20 House Dems call on Biden administration to press Israel for end to discriminatory treatment of US citizens

In a letter to US Secretary of State Blinken, Representative Don Beyer and 19 other US lawmakers raised objections to Israel’s new regulations on entry into the West Bank and ongoing discriminatory of US citizens:

It is incumbent upon Israel as a key US ally and beneficiary of significant aid to treat US citizens with dignity and respect regardless of race, religion, and ethnicity, and it is especially pertinent at this time because Israel is currently being evaluated for entry into the United States Waiver Program.

Unfortunately, Israel has consistently refused to extend fair treatment to US visitors attempting to visit through Israeli-controlled entry points.

We ask that you press Israel to withdraw any COGAT regulations for the West Bank that are discriminatory, to assure the reciprocity that America requires for our citizens, as a requirement for Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program. Further, we ask that you open a hotline for Americans facing discrimination and publish monthly reports to assist future VWP evaluations.

Read full letter here (issued 27 October 2022).

Rebuilding Alliance urges action: Press Israel to repeal new restrictions discriminating against Americans

On October 20th, the Govt. of Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) official implementation of new restrictions on the entry of foreigners to the West Bank on 20 October, Rebuilding Alliance calls on US citizens to contact Congress.

This onerous set of restrictions discriminates against Americans and is not in the interest of the Palestinian people, which Israel is obligated to assure as the occupying power.

Now is the time to reach out to your Senators and Representative and ask that they press the Govt. of Israel to repeal this 90 page set of restrictions.

Email Congress

These restrictions will impact many Americans and will further isolate Palestinians in the West Bank from friends, family, and the rest of the world.

Israel is currently being considered for entry to the American Visa Waiver Program- but the implementation of these restrictions, and the discrimination against Americans (which violates the reciprocity required by law in the VWP) should disqualify them from the program.”

Email Congress and tell them to reject these restrictions, which are contrary to American ideals.

Read full call to action here (23 October 2022).

Press Questions US State Dept on Israel’s restrictions on entry and Visa Waiver Program eligibility

QUESTION: The U.S. says that Israel is still not in compliance with Visa Waiver Program requirements. Could you elaborate on this? Could you —

MR PATEL: Sure, Said. So, I’m not going to get into specific bilateral negotiations, but we continue to work with Israel towards fulfilling all Visa Waiver Program requirements such as extending reciprocal privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals, including Palestinian Americans. And we seek equal treatment and freedom to travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin. But I don’t have any other updates to offer on that.

QUESTION: You know the COGAT ruling, Israeli ruling, will go into effect like in two or three days, which will restrict the movement of Palestinians, their entry, what they need to comply with and not comply with, and so on. So, this is really a timely issue that you guys should respond to this in more clear statements on this issue.

MR PATEL: … We, of course, remain concerned about potential adverse impacts that some of these procedures could have on civil society, on tourism, on health care facilities, on academic institutions, and this is something that we’re continuing to remain engaged on. But I don’t have a new assessment to offer you.

To read excerpts from Press Briefing see here (18 October 2022).

US official: We seek ‘equal treatment’ for all US citizens with Visa Waiver Program

The US “continues to work with Israel towards fulfilling all Visa Waiver Program requirements, such as extending reciprocal privileges to all US citizens and nationals, including Palestinian Americans,” a State Department official said Tuesday.

Vedant Patel, the department’s principal deputy spokesman, addressed a question about media reports indicating that the Department of Homeland Security had told a Democratic congressman Israel still was not in compliance with Visa Waiver Program requirements, saying: “We seek equal treatment and freedom to travel for all US citizens regardless of national origin, but I don’t have any other updates to offer on that.”

A letter on the matter was sent in September from the Department of Homeland Security to Rep. Don Beyer (D-Virginia), saying Israel currently does not meet all the requirements to be included in the program, including reciprocal visa-free travel for all US citizens, Haaretz reported.

Read full article here (19 October 2022).

Concerns raised over Israel joining US visa waiver programme

As Israel continues to inch closer to obtaining a visa waiver to the US, critics are pointing out the lack of equal treatment of all Americans at the country’s ports of entry. Several NGOs and US lawmakers are raising concerns over Israel becoming closer to entering the US visa waiver programme, which allows visitors to enter the country for 90 days without applying for a visa.

“Israel shouldn’t be admitted,” Ayah Ziyadeh, director of advocacy for Americans for Justice in Palestine-Action. “They have a long history of discriminating not only against Palestinian Americans but against Americans in general who have expressed views against Israel. Any American who holds a pro-Palestinian view is affected.” Moreover, further scrutiny exists for those wishing to enter the occupied territories to visit Palestinians, while the same scrutiny does not exist for those visiting settlers in the West Bank….

One of the latest US Congress members to speak out on the issue is Don Beyer, who has been circulating a Dear Colleagues letter for other members to sign…. Beyer’s letter urges US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to verify that all US citizens are being treated equally at Israeli ports of entry. It also notes the significance of the new COGAT regulations.

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, has been advocating for reciprocity of treatment for Arab Americans entering Israel for the past 40 years. Based on his own experience of being held at the airport, he is aware of the disparate treatment of Arab Americans and non-Arab Americans. “If they give Israel the visa waiver, they’re throwing us under the bus,” he told The New Arab. “Either Israel treats us as equal citizens, or they simply cannot get the visa waiver.”

Read full article here (19 October 2022).

U.S. Says Israel Still Not in Compliance with Visa Waiver Program Requirements

According to a letter led by Democratic Rep. Don Beyer circulating among congressional offices, DHS Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Alice Lugo informed him in late September that “Israel does not currently meet all [visa waiver program] designation requirements, including extending reciprocal visa-free travel privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals.”

“In light of that position, it is clear that Israel cannot and should not be admitted into the visa waiver program under the status quo,” the Virginia Democratic lawmaker informs U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a letter, which closes for signatures on Wednesday. It calls on the United States to press Israel to withdraw the new “discriminatory restrictions” imposed by the Israeli military for entry into the West Bank; to assure reciprocity for all U.S. citizens; and to open a hotline that publishes monthly reports for future visa waiver program evaluations.

Beyer highlighted the “onerous and discriminatory” new restrictions issued by the Israeli army’s Coordinating Office for Government Affairs in the Territories, which were delayed following international outcry and concerted U.S. pressure, but are now set to go into effect later this week and criticized “…their decision to escalate discrimination by codifying regulations is especially disconcerting given the desire of both the United States and Israel to admit Israel into the VWP.”

Read full article here (published 18 October 2022).

Entry denied: Former coordinator of BDS movement in Europe repatriated to Spain

Israel denied entry to the Catalan activist Alys Samson, former coordinator in Europe of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel (BDS), who was repatriated this Saturday to Spain after denied entry on Friday at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv…. Samson had planned to travel to the occupied Palestinian territories to coordinate the visit of a delegation of members of the Spanish Senate and deputies of the Catalan Parliament that arrived yesterday and will be on the ground for the next few days. However, the activist saw her access banned at the airport checkpoints, where she was taken to a room where she was subjected to interrogations.

“This denial of entry is a clear example” of the bans that Israel puts “on people who are critical of its apartheid regime,” denounces the activist, who also sees it as “a way to punish the Palestinian people.” “Israel further isolates Palestinians by blocking the passage of people who defend their rights,” Samson laments.

Israel has in the past banned activists, representatives of foreign countries or institutions for their support or ties to BDS…. In 2019, two US Democratic congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who support the boycott, were not allowed to enter. In May of this year Israel denied entry of the Spanish MEP Manu Pineda, also close to the positions of BDS. In 2018, Israel denied entry to Spanish aid worker Ana Sánchez, who it accused of belonging to the boycott movement.

(un-official translation)

Read full article here (in Spanish, published 9 October 2022).

RTE policy brief calls for discarding of Israel’s new WB entry procedures

In sum: the new procedure appears to only create more grounds and procedural hurdles on the basis of which foreign nationals can be denied entry and residency in the oPt, the autonomy of local organisations and institutions can be restricted, and the family life of Plestinians – and Palestinians’ ability to maintain a centre of life in the oPt – impeded. The amended rules published include nothing indicating COGAT is finally stepping away from a practice where it uses rules on entry and residency as a pretext to further its unlawful demographic transformation and territorial fragmentation of the oPt; further its political censorship and suppression of an independent Palestinian political, social and cultural national project; and further its concomitant intrusion in and repression of all aspects of Palestinian life.

The procedure also clearly indicates the unlawful premise on which it is predicated: the occupying power reserving for itself considerations, competences, and powers in the oPt reserved only for legitimate sovereigns.

We therefore call for the procedure being discarded in its entirety, or frozen until COGAT goes back to the drawing board and devises a procedure that is clear, consistent and transparent, and fully compliant with all applicable international law.

Read full policy brief here (posted 5 October 2022).


September 2022

Beyond the Clickbait, Israel’s New (and Old) Visa Procedures Reveal a Cruel Reality for Palestinians

In this episode of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast, Jessica Montell, Executive Director of the Israeli human rights organization HaMoked, joins FMEP’s Lara Friedman to discuss the latest version of Israel’s new procedures — published, updated, and due to be implemented on October 20, 2022 — governing all entry of foreigners solely to the West Bank.

Hamoked notes: “the new procedure is highly restrictive and needlessly hampers the entry of foreign passport holders to the oPt and their ability to stay there without interruption….All this, without any legal basis or reasonable grounds, and contrary to Israel’s obligation to act for the benefit of the protected population living under occupation.”

Listen to recording of live interview here; find more information and resources here, posted 23 September 2022.

Knesset Bill adopting US visa waiver rules passes first reading

Israel has taken a further step towards joining the US visa waiver scheme. The Knesset gave a first reading yesterday to a bill sponsored by the Ministry of Justice on information gathering on people entering leaving and entering Israel. The bill is part of a package of legislative measures promoted by the Ministry of Justice designed to enable Israelis to benefit from exemption from the need to obtain a visa to enter the US….

This bill, it should be pointed out, is a condition set by the US government for Israel’s accession to the list of countries participating in the visa waiver program.

The bill will allow gathering of data relayed by passengers in the ticket reservation process and collected by the airlines in the normal course of their business…. The preamble to the bill states: “PNR data include broader information, which the airlines gather in the normal course of their business, for their own needs, and these data may vary from one airline to another in accordance with their operational needs. This is unverified personal information voluntarily provided by passengers when they reserve a flight, and it includes, among other things: mobile telephone number, email address, payment means, address for sending invoice, travel dates, itinerary, information about baggage (number of bags, weight), and the passenger’s travel history.”

For full article, see here, published September 20, 2022.

How many Arabs live between the Jordan River and the sea? A mystery no one wants to solve

There’s a debate raging over the numbers of Jews and Arabs living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

…The demographic question has always been a central definer of the Zionist movement, which sought to move a dispersed Jewish collective to a single territory, and to forge in it a sovereign state in which it constitutes the majority. For more than a century, two currents have existed in the demographic discourse on the Jewish side, consistent with Zionism’s central tenets. One current embodies anxiety about being swallowed up into an Arab majority, with which it believes there is no possibility of a joint political entity, so that it favors the partition of the country on the basis of two entities, one of which would contain a Jewish majority. The second current clings to the belief that a Jewish majority already exists or will soon be achieved in the land, so that partition is unnecessary and the aspiration should be for sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel.

…The demographic debate became the core of the political-strategic discourse about Israel’s future, and it remains unresolved to this day, both because Israelis can agree neither on the question of the boundaries of the Land of Israel, nor on the future legal status of Palestinians in the territories.

Read full article here (published 20 September 2022).

My Name Is Tina, and I’m American… My Life is Here in Palestine

“My name is Tina, and I’m American. I met my husband in 1996 when we were teaching in a school. We got married and had three daughters. In 2009, we decided to move to Palestine, because my husband’s family is there. Since then, I have been living on temporary visas waiting for our Family Reunification Application to come through. 

The news of the new Israeli policy imposing restrictions entering Palestine has caused me a great deal of distress. My Family Reunification was rejected, and without this, I cannot remain in Palestine. If Israel’s new entry procedures are enacted into law, my status as a foreigner in the West Bank will be in peril. If I’m allowed to stay, it will only be on a visitors visa which allows for a three month stay. Uprooting my family from Palestine and going to the United States is not a feasible option as my children are studying here and they only speak Arabic. 

My life is here in Palestine… It is a tragedy that after living in Palestine for 13 years, I’m considered a tourist.”

Letter from Rebuilding Alliance, posted 15 September 2022; for more on Rebuilding Alliance Contact Congress Campaign to Ensure Americans Fair Entry to Palestine, see here.

Right to Enter: IN THEIR OWN WORDS – People affected speak out about Israel’s West Bank entry restrictions

“The new Israeli policies leave the fate of our families in the hands of a discriminating occupying force whose interests are intrinsically opposed to our hopes and dreams of raising our families in the security of a stable Palestinian society….”

Read RTE’s full “Quotes Release”  here (posted 14 September 2022).

Why Palestinians Say Israel Is Marching Into Apartheid

Israel’s draconian new rules for controlling who can enter the West Bank – and its stripping of residency of East Jerusalem Palestinians on conditions that don’t apply to Jews – show that its mask is slipping.

International law defines apartheid as “a system of legalized racial segregation in which one racial group is deprived of political and civil rights.” Several Israeli policies can be shown to fit this term, with its significant negative moral connotations.

Let’s examine two policies – the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories’ newly released procedure for foreigners entering the West Bank, and Israeli residency policies regarding Jerusalem Palestinians – and see how they fit the international definition of apartheid….

As to how this fits the definition of an institutionalized apartheid regime, we can note that not a single Jew or Israeli lost his or her East Jerusalem residency status because they were away for seven years. The “center of life” law applies to Palestinians only.

Second, the aforementioned COGAT rules apply only to Palestinian residents of the West Bank. They do not apply to Jewish Israeli settlers living in the West Bank who number close to half a million people living in more than 250 Israeli settlements.

Israel is creeping into the abyss of apartheid in the name of security and greed. Israel has implemented rules and regulations of its own creation to control the Palestinian populations in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, including on foreign visitors – students, volunteers, professors and physicians. It has unabashedly confiscated large areas of the West Bank for settlement building.

For full article, see here, published 13 September 2022.

EVENT: Isolating Palestinian higher education: Thurs 15th Sep

Fobzu and UCU in cooperation with Birzeit University

Isolating Palestinian higher education:

New restrictions on Palestinian universities under occupation

Professor Beshara Doumani, President of Birzeit University
Dr Hassan Jabareen, Founder & Director of Adalah
Chair: Professor Mandy Turner, Manchester University

REGISTER HERE

PHROC to International Community: Take Prompt and Concrete Measures to Halt Israel’s  West Bank Entry Procedure

The 11-member Palestinian Human Rights Organisation Council has appealed to the international community to take prompt and concrete measures to halt Israel’s new procedure for entry and residence of foreigners in the West Bank as announced on 4 September and slated to go into effect next month.

….These Israeli measures [published 4 September] are in breach of international humanitarian law and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Entry restrictions encroach on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, receiving humanitarian and development assistance, and hosting medical practitioners and other experts. Furthermore, these measures impinge on the sovereign rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to host experts, artists, athletes, students, tourists, and volunteers….

Critically, the Israeli decision coincides with unprecedented escalation throughout the oPt, including forced population displacement and transfer on both sides of the Green Line. Israel targets Palestinian infrastructure, including donor-funded projects. Destruction is not limited to land levelling, home demolitions, and uprooting of trees, as it also extends to undermine Palestinian society’s capabilities, resilience, survival, and civil society organizations.

Read PHROC’s full statement here (issued 14 September 2022).

Press Release: Right to Enter Campaign Rejects Israel’s Draconian Entry Procedures (8 Sep 2022)

The Right to Enter rejects entirely Israel’s attempts to make more palatable its draconian new procedures restricting the entry of foreign passport holders into the occupied West Bank. We continue to view these procedures, now slated to go into effect October 20, 2022, as Israel’s attempt to further intensify its control over Palestinian daily life—determining who they love, who they learn from, who they work with, what outside resources they are able to access, their control over tourism and trade, and further isolating the West Bank— further entrenching its matrix of control over the oPt, as Israel continues its crushing military blockade over the Gaza Strip since June 2007 (see Palestine Action Aid for more on Gaza).

We continue to call on the international community to intervene and pressure Israel to halt these procedures in their entirety. . . .

A negotiation approach, rather than a principled approach, will inevitably lead to an unsatisfactory result. There is really no reason why Israel, as an occupying power, should be permitted to consistently violate international law in how it administers movement and migration into the oPt. . . .

“In any other country, I and spouses like me would have clear criteria and a transparent process to follow to gain a citizenship that we would qualify for through residency and contribution to the nation. Instead, we must live in fear of being deported, never knowing what to do to be able to remain with our families with certainty, or to return if we travel,” says a mother of three who has lived in the West Bank for over 20 years on a tourist visa. . . .

Per Birzeit University, “The new directive invests the Israeli military the absolute right to select which international faculty, academic researchers and students may be present at Palestinian universities, including academics and students of Palestinian origin but without residence documents, living and working in Palestine. . . . Plainly put, the directive puts Palestinian universities under siege and divests them of basic control over their academic decisions.”

To read full RTE press release, see here (issued 8 September 2022)

No Room for Love in Apartheid Israel

The idea that bureaucrats and officials feel entitled to determine every single aspect of Palestinian life (including whom we love and how we do that) is beyond the concept of control, it is about the institutionalization of a decades-long colonial fantasy about enslaving Palestinian bodies. This logic of entitlement has defined decades of oppression in Israel/ Palestine….

It is important to feel shocked by the new rules, as normalizing this oppression should not be an option. Yet, it is crucial to understand that they represent nothing exceptional or incidental and should be understood within the broad context of entitlement and intervention that governs everyday life in Palestine.

The targeting of Palestinian intimacies is not a metaphor. It takes place amidst the material realities of ordinary people and their everyday lives. The colonial fragmentation of Palestine and Palestinian land is an everyday exercise of power, and is most clearly reflected in the systematic separation of our bodies. In one way or another, access to land – a question at the core of settler-colonialism, is manifested, among other things, through access to love…

However, there is another side to this story. …intimacy is as much a realm of resistance as it is one of domination. One way to understand the Palestinian struggle is as a struggle for togetherness. And one way to read the colonial regime is as an attempt to tear Palestinians apart, from the world, but also from each other. I am appalled by news of the recent policy, but also know, as all Palestinians do, that it is only a small part of a long, ongoing story.

Read the full article here (published 6 September 2022)

Hamoked director, Jessica Montell explains new Israeli restrictions on France 24

This procedure not only affects foreigners. It will deny tens of thousands of Palestinian families the basic right to live together and prevent Palestinian institutions from benefiting from international cooperation. The Procedure is now set to come into force October 20. We will continue our efforts at the Israeli High Court, but international advocacy is more important now than ever, to demand that Israel respect its international legal obligations, allow Palestinian institutions to set their own priorities and allow families to live together.

To view, see here (issued 8 September 2022)

LIVE Q&A – COGAT entry procedures to the West Bank for foreigners

Jerusalem24 hosts live Q&A with expert lawyer Leora Bechor of the Law Offices of Bechor & Ben-Hillel, the legal team challenging COGAT’s new policy on behalf of Israeli NGO HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual – THURSDAY, 8 SEPTEMBER 2022 FROM 14:00-15:00 UTC+03

For recording of the event, see here (livestreamed 8 September 2022).

Breaking down Israel’s regulations on foreigners in the West Bank

Israel has delayed the implementation of revised restrictions on foreigners entering the occupied West Bank after a widespread backlash…. The regulations, which are set to come into effect next month, would affect foreigners wishing to visit, do business, reunite, and reside with their Palestinian families, work or volunteer in the West Bank, or study or teach at Palestinian academic institutions. …Palestinian legal experts, academics and digital rights groups have expressed outrage over the incoming Israeli policy, which they say further complicates the rules of movement, and adds restrictions to an already convoluted system.

For full article, see here (published 5 September 2022).

US monitoring ‘onerous’ IDF limits on foreign visits to West Bank Palestinians

The US is concerned by new “onerous” IDF regulations that could restrict foreign visits to Palestinian territories, scheduled to go into effect on October 20.

“We remain concerned about the potential for these policies to reduce foreign travelers, volunteers, academics, students and investors in the West Bank,” a senior US Embassy official in Jerusalem told reporters on Sunday.

“We will continue to work with the Israeli government on this,” she said. “We have been very clear about our concerns all along, and we will continue to do so,” she added.

For full article see here, published 4 September 2022.

US Ambassador concerned over revised COGAT guidelines

Today COGAT published its revised guidelines. Since February, U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs, and I have aggressively engaged with the Government of Israel on these draft rules – and we will continue to do so in the 45-day lead up to implementation and during the two-year pilot period. I continue to have concerns with the published protocols, particularly regarding COGAT’s role in determining whether individuals invited by Palestinian academic institutions are qualified to enter the West Bank, and the potential negative impact on family unity. It is important to ensure all of these regulations are developed in coordination with key stakeholders, including the Palestinian Authority. I fully expect the Government of Israel to make necessary adjustments during the pilot period to ensure transparency as well as the fair and equal treatment of all U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals traveling to the West Bank.

(Posted 4 September 2022)

New Israeli rules on foreigners tighten control in West Bank

An Israeli military body has released a list of rules and restrictions for foreigners wanting to enter Palestinian areas of the West Bank, extending its control of daily life and movement in and out of the occupied territory.

COGAT, the Israeli body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, stepped back from a number of controversial restrictions that had appeared in a draft of the rules published earlier this year… But many of the changes in the 90-page document released late Sunday appeared to be largely cosmetic. The U.S. ambassador expressed concern over the rules, and critics said they merely entrenched Israel´s 55-year control over the Palestinian population in the territory.

The initial draft included a requirement that a foreigner who forms a serious romantic relationship with a local Palestinian notify the Israeli military within 30 days of the “start of the relationship,” defined as an engagement, wedding or moving in together. The 30-day notice was removed from Sunday´s rules. But it nonetheless says that if a foreigner starts a relationship with a Palestinian, “the appointed COGAT official must be informed as part of their request to renew or extend the existing visa.”

The new rules also dropped earlier limits on the number of foreign students and teachers allowed to study or work in the West Bank. The amount of time they can stay in the territory was also lengthened. Yet COGAT continues to hold great discretion over who is allowed in. It must approve the academic credentials of a university lecturer invited by a Palestinian institution, and holds the right to screen potential students if there is “suspicion of misuse” of a visa.

Read full article here (published 5 September 2022).

Israel’s war on love

Israel loves war, even a war on love. It also loves peace but only at the expense of basic Palestinian rights.

Before we get to Israel’s latest bizarre assault on Palestinian romance, let us briefly address its tragic relationship with war, for no other country has fought as many wars in so few years. None. Well, except perhaps the United States….

But Israel’s war on the Palestinians has not been limited to the military front. It has also waged war on Palestinian culture, landscape, environment, demography, civil society and religion, as part of its violent occupation. Recently, I’ve written about Israel’s bizarre war on ice-cream. Today, I find myself once again shaking my head in wonder at Israel’s sadistic assault on yet another aspect of Palestinian life: love….

Reading through the new directive, I noticed one clear difference with the draft procedures first published in February, which is the absence of quotas for foreign students, and lecturers (150 and 100 respectively), a limitation that elicited an objection from the European Commission for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth….

In other words, Europe, like the US, has leverage with Israel. If they don’t use it for peace and justice, they should at least do it for love.

Read full article here (published 5 September 2022).

Israel postpones ‘demographic engineering’ rules in Palestine territories

Israel has delayed until next month new rules on visas for the occupied West Bank and dropped at least two controversial aspects relating to relationships, a day before the measures were due to be implemented. But Israeli rights group HaMoked alleged that the amended text would still cause major dislocations in family lives.

“… the basic problem remains: Israel will prevent thousands of families from living together, if one spouse is a foreign national, for blatantly political reasons of demographic engineering,” added HaMoked’s director].

For full article, see here (published 5 September 2022).

Emigre Palestinians hurry back to visit fearful of new Israeli rules

All summer, Palestinians from the millions-strong diaspora have been flocking to the West Bank, fearful new Israeli rules expected to take effect next week could make future visits hard if not impossible.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian lawyer Rasem Kamal said he has been inundated with clients from the diaspora wanting to register power of attorney amid deep uncertainty about arranging their affairs. “Many people are rushing to come to the West Bank and finish their business here or give the power of attorney because they understand… there may be restrictions on their ability to visit,” he said.

Ahmed Yassin, a Palestinian-American who divides his time between Monterey, California and the West Bank, is among thousands visiting Ramallah to see extended family and reconnect with their roots. “I’ve been to a wedding every day for the past two weeks, I’m exhausted,” he joked.

The new rules will deprive “thousands of Palestinian families of the right to live together without interruption and to live a normal family life”, said HaMoked, the Israeli rights group that led the supreme court appeal against the measures.

“These draconian measures will severely impact their work, and impair the lives of the Palestinian people,” said [Canadian doctor Benjamin] Thomson, director of the Keys of Health project aimed at rebuilding healthcare in the Palestinian territories.

“This is micromanaging, with the purpose to damage the Palestinian social fabric,” said Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American businessman who moved to the West Bank from Ohio in 1995.

Read full article here (published 3 September 2022).

New rules make foreign visitors to West Bank declare romantic ties to Palestinians

Foreign passport holders in the West Bank will be required to report their romantic relationships with Palestinians to Israeli authorities, according to new, hotly contested rules set to take effect on Monday.

Palestinian legal experts and human rights advocates say the move, which would also restrict Palestinians from visiting family members and sharply limit Palestinian academic exchanges with foreign universities, is an escalation of an already entrenched system of discrimination against Palestinians in the West Bank, which Israel captured in 1967.

The new restrictions — which also ask applicants to declare if they have land or are inheriting land in the West Bank — would not apply to the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The territory’s two-tiered legal structure treats Jewish Israelis as citizens living under civilian rule while Palestinians are treated as combatants under military rule, subject to nighttime military raids, detention and bans on visiting their ancestral lands or accessing certain roads.

“One side of this is about control & isolation,” Salem Barahmeh, executive director of Rabet, the digital platform of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, wrote on Twitter Saturday. “The other is: if you can’t be together in Palestine then you will have [to] leave & to do so elsewhere. It’s about driving as many people as they can outside of Palestine to maintain supremacy.”

Fadi Quran, campaign director for activist group Avaaz, tweeted that the new rules signal that in the occupied West Bank, “love is dangerous.”

Sam Bahour, an American-Palestinian economist, cited Israel’s High Court rulings to delay the new rules’ implementation as proof of their illegitimacy. He said he has been fielding daily phone calls from Palestinian emigres throughout the world worried that the new procedures could make future visits difficult or impossible. He said the new protocols would be so “absurd” that they would be “impossible to implement.”

But, he said, they have delivered a decades-old message from Israel to the Palestinians: “Stay away.”

Read full article here (published 4 September 2022).

Israeli rules say West Bank visitors must declare love interest

Foreigners must tell the Israeli defence ministry if they fall in love with a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank, according to new rules. If they marry, they will be required to leave after 27 months for a cooling-off period of at least half a year. It is part of a tightening of rules on foreigners living in, or wanting to visit, the West Bank.

New restrictions on Palestinian universities include a quota for 150 student visas and 100 foreign lecturers, while there are no such limits in Israeli ones. Businesspeople and aid organisations say they will also be severely affected. The rules set strict limitations on the duration of visas and visa extensions, in many cases preventing people from working or volunteering in the West Bank for longer than a few months.

“This is about demographic engineering of Palestinian society and isolating Palestinian society from the outside world,” says Jessica Montell, executive director of the Israeli non-governmental organisation HaMoked, which has petitioned the Israeli High Court against the regulations.

The new rules do not apply to those visiting Israel as well as Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank, nor Jewish settlements. In such cases, entry involves the Israeli immigration authorities.

The PLO – the umbrella body representing the Palestinian people – has said they bring in “apartheid regulations that impose a reality of one state and two different systems”.

Read full article here (published 3 September 2022).


August 2022

Bachelet deplores Israel’s failure to grant visas for UN Human Rights staff in oPt

GENEVA (30 August 2022) – Israel’s refusal to issue or renew visas for UN Human Rights staff in the occupied Palestinian territory will not prevent the Office from continuing to monitor and report on the human rights situation on the ground, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said today.

“In 2020, the 15 international staff of my Office in Palestine – which has been operating in the country for 26 years – had no choice but to leave,” said Bachelet. “Subsequent requests for visas and visa renewals have gone unanswered for two years. During this time, I have tried to find a solution to this situation, but Israel continues to refuse to engage.”…

Bachelet said that barring the UN Human Rights Office’s international staff occurred in a context where Israeli authorities are increasingly limiting human rights “eyes and ears on the ground”. There is a growing roll call of UN staff and mechanisms, non-governmental organisations and others being expelled or refused entry.

“Israel’s treatment of our staff is part of a wider and worrying trend to block human rights access to the occupied Palestinian territory,” Bachelet said.

“This raises the question of what exactly the Israeli authorities are trying to hide.”

For full article, see here (published 30 August 2022).

Rebuilding Alliance hosts meeting with senior US Congressional staff on COGAT procedures

Last Saturday, Rebuilding Alliance brought seven senior Congressional staff to meet with the Right to Enter group in Ramallah and what we learned was heartbreaking — but we also learned that there’s an opportunity that can benefit from your attention.

On September 5th, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories will implement new procedures on entry to Palestine that restrict American visitors and/or residents in significant and troubling ways. Now’s the time to ask Congress to stop this.

As you may know, the US. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security are currently weighing extending the U.S. Visa Waiver Program to include the citizens of Israel. In turn, Israel must provide reciprocal Visa Waivers for U.S. citizens. Because fair and equal entry to all U.S. citizens without discrimination is a program requirement, this is our opportunity.

It’s time for our Embassy and our members of Congress to intervene and ensure Americans fair entry to Palestine. Let’s begin: Email Congress Now

For full letter, see here (posted 26 August 2022).

PA deters Palestinians from using Israel’s Ramon Airport

Palestinian Transportation Minister Assem Salem confirmed during a radio interview on Aug. 16 that he will raise some suggestions and measures that can deter Palestinians from traveling through Ramon Airport, noting that there is no contact between the Palestinian government and Israel regarding Palestinian travel through the airport….

[Spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Transportation Musa Rahal] stressed that they refuse in principle to use the airport for travel because it contradicts the principle of Palestinian sovereignty. He called on Israel to allow them to operate the Palestinian Qalandia Airport north of Jerusalem, which was closed by Israel with the outbreak of the intifada in 2000.

The sources pointed out that Israel has recently tried to push Palestinians to use the airport by approving a number of restrictions on Palestinian travelers through Al-Karama crossing that connects Jordan and the West Bank, due to the careful inspection and security investigation that the majority of Palestinian travelers are subject to. They have to pass through three stops to cross into Jordan. The first is Palestinian, the second is Israeli and the third is Jordanian.

For full article, see here (posted 23 August 2022).

Human rights & peace organisations in Israel to EU: Entry restrictions deny Palestinian self-determination

To: Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

As leaders of sixteen of the foremost human rights and peace organizations in Israel, we would like to request your intervention against Israel’s harsh new restrictions on the entry and stay of foreigners, including citizens of EU member states, in the West Bank. These repressive rules deny Palestinians’ their basic rights to live with their families and to determine their society’s own priorities, while undermining vital exchanges and cooperation with the world, including Europe….

In fact, the motivations underlying the new COGAT procedure appear to be a matter of “demographic engineering” and the isolating of Palestinian society as part of perpetuating the prolonged Israeli occupation and denying Palestinian self-determination and freedom.

Read full letter here (issued 16 August 2022)

Israel May Not Meet Deadline for Visa Exemption, U.S. Official Warns

Israel’s participation in the program is subject to the passing of two laws governing the transfer of data about travelers trying to enter the U.S. Due to upcoming elections, the two bills are stalling in the Knesset.

For full article, see here (posted 4 August 2022).


July 2022

Israel’s international mobilities regime: visa restrictions for educators and medics in Palestine

This article examines Israel’s control of international presence in Palestine as an ‘international mobilities regime’ that has damaging effects for the provision of services in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Focusing specifically on educators and medics, the discussion draws on long-term fieldwork to set international visa restrictions in the context of the ‘internal’ control of Palestinians’ mobilities before documenting the effects for education and healthcare provision. Discussion then turns to the scale and function of bureaucracy that produces a further significant effect: to make nothing happen whereby projects are stalled, cancelled or rendered inconceivable.

Two main arguments are made: that Israel has developed an international mobilities regime that extends its control over Palestinian spaces; and that the scale of control is perceptible only by careful attention to the lost possibilities effected by bureaucratic restriction – and key contributions are explicated for further enquiry into bureaucracy-as-deterrent, the international dimensions of Israel’s mobility restrictions and a turn to ‘unspectacular’ sites of colonial control.

Read full article here (published 21 July 2022)

HaMoked: Israel Announces Delay of New COGAT Procedure

“So there’s good news & bad news regarding our efforts against the Israeli military’s outrageous new restrictions on entry of foreigners to the West Bank. The procedure was supposed to take effect July 5. In response to our High Court petition, the State announced that it had been postponed to September 5, “as the Respondents have not yet made a decision regarding all the objections made regarding this procedure”. That’s the good news.

Yesterday, the Court rejected our petition out of hand as “premature”, given that the military “has not yet reached a final decision on the matter.” This is a setback but it’s definitely not the end of the story.

We now have until September to put pressure on Israeli authorities to cancel or dramatically amend this procedure so as to respect Palestinians’ individual and collective rights. If this procedure is not fundamentally revised – we’ll be back in Court in September.”

For details see here (posted 20 July 2022).

Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Expatriates Register Objection to COGAT Procedure with UN Special Rapporteurs

During a meeting in mid-July, RTE members were assured by a representative of the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates that the PA considers the proposed COGAT procedure unacceptable and in violation of applicable international law.  According to the Ministry, a letter of objection was sent to relevant UN Special Rapporteurs in which they “explained the situation and flagrant violation it holds on the right to education, movement and residence guaranteed under International Law.”

Following the letter, the special rapporteurs issued a letter to the Israeli government expressing serious concern that:

“The Procedure could curtail academic freedom, in violation of the right to education recognized by article 13 of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)…. The enjoyment of academic freedom necessitates ‘the autonomy of institutions of higher education”, so that they can make effective decisions “in relation to their academic work, standards, management and related activities’.”

“Palestinian universities would face undue restrictions in recruiting and attracting foreign lecturers and researchers, and fostering intellectual exchange at their institutions.” “…inhibit existing long-term academic projects and programs, or the planning of long-term research programs and activities, and undermine the existing accreditation, recruitment, appointment and promotion procedures at Palestinian universities.”

“The Procedure accords the COGAT unfettered discretion in approving entry and residence permits for foreign lecturers, researchers and students, is problematic and would pose an obstacle to the enjoyment of academic freedom. It may have the effects of depriving Palestinian academics and students of opportunities to engage with international scholars and to freely pursue, develop, transmit and exchange knowledge and ideas in their fields of academic interest.”

“The interference by COGAT into decisions that should be solely adopted by academic institutions, in particular when it comes to identify what is a “necessary field” in academic research, which lecturer could contribute significantly to academic learning and research, and which students should be enrolled.”

For full letter from Special Rapporteurs (Ref.: OL ISR 7/2022), see here (dated 29 April 2022).

US Organizations to Biden: Prioritize the “Fundamental Freedoms” of Palestinians

In advance of Biden’s visit to the region, more than a dozen American organizations reiterated the urgency to hold Israel accountable for discrimination and crimes against Palestinians during President’s trip to Israel and the Occupied West Bank.

[The State Department and Biden Administration’s] dismissive and dangerous attitude toward the rights of Palestinians – including those with U.S. citizenship – is not new. It has permeated the Biden Administration’s policies regarding Israel/Palestine at every level. We see this in the administration’s publicly stated desire to expedite Israel’s admission into the Visa Waiver Program, despite its consistent record of unequal and discriminatory treatment of Palestinian-Americans seeking to enter at Israeli-controlled ports of entry, effectively deeming Israel ineligible for the program. This is also despite Israel’s new proposed Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) entry rules, a 97-page document of procedures which seek to severely restrict, track, and trace the travel of foreign nationals to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, control Palestinian population growth, and keep data on the land claims of Palestinians holding foreign nationality, therefore laying the groundwork to steal more Palestinian land. It is also a brazen attempt to obscure the unequal treatment of Arab-Americans generally, and Palestinian-Americans specifically, by moving those interactions from ports of entry to Israeli embassies and consulates. This policy is blatantly discriminatory, as it will only affect Americans who wish to visit Palestinian neighborhoods in the West Bank, but not those seeking to travel to any of the illegal Israeli settlements.

For full letter see here (published 14 July 2022).

Fighting for the families threatened by Israeli entry restrictions: Interview with HaMoked

The Center for the Defense of the Individual – HaMoked has filed a petition with the Supreme Court on behalf of 19 petitioners who are likely to be harmed as a result of newly established administrative procedures entitled: “Procedures for the entry and stay of foreigners in the West Bank.”

Jessica Montel, Director General of the Center for the Defense of the Individual – HaMoked, tells Jerusalem24: “It will not be the foreigners who will be affected by this new measure, but the Palestinian community as a whole. This measure limits the ability of the Palestinian community to benefit from its contact with the world. It also dictates severe restrictions on universities.”

US authorities have been critical of the procedures.

In this episode of Wake Up Palestine, Jessica Montel talks about the legal battle in fighting the Israeli administrative procedures over the West Bank.

For full article, see here. For interview, see here (posted 5 July 2022)


June 2022

Adalah sends letter to Attorney General protesting new entry procedures

Adalah Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel has sent a letter on behalf of Birzeit University to the Attorney General and the Israeli army on 26 May 2022 demanding that the procedures be amended and that many of the restrictions be lifted, and to allow Palestinian universities to submit applications for residence permits for foreign lecturers and students rather than requiring individuals to make requests. Israeli universities enjoy wide institutional autonomy and decision-making power in recruiting foreign academic staff and in accepting foreign students, and facilitating their entry and stay.

For more details see here (posted 30 June 2022).

Arab American Institute Protests Biden Administration’s Failure to Protect Arab Americans

Is the Biden administration relegating Arab Americans to second-class citizenship? We are demanding answers from @SecBlinken for shocking comments made by an unnamed US official at the US embassy in Jerusalem: #NoWaiver4Israel
Tweeted here 29 June 2022

Israel delays travel restrictions on West Bank in apparent gesture to Biden

Israel has delayed the implementation of strict rules limiting the ability of foreigners to enter and stay in the occupied West Bank, in what is believed to be a gesture to Joe Biden before the US president’s visit to the Middle East next month. A statement from the high court on Wednesday said the new rules would be shelved until early September, as a decision had not yet been made regarding objections to the proposed policy. An injunction alleging discriminatory and restrictive criteria was filed by HaMoked, an Israeli non-profit organisation focusing on Palestinian legal rights, last week. The rules were due to come into effect on 5 July.

Palestinian academics, business leaders and rights groups expressed outrage over the policy when it was first outlined in February….

“This is going to cause major issues. Some of our board members come here frequently and they need to be able to see their investments. They are destroying Palestinian businesses but also Oslo,” said Bassem Khouri, the chief executive of a pharmaceutical company in the West Bank, referring to the 1990s peace process agreements.

“Who can live and work here is supposed to be a Palestinian decision. This is designed to isolate us.”

…The new procedures apply only to Palestinians, and not Israeli settler communities living across the Green Line in violation of international law….

“Elements of this policy are clearly not compatible with Israeli rights law or international law, and a slap in the face for Israel’s partners in the US and Europe too,” said Jessica Montell, the executive director of HaMoked.

“The newly proposed restrictions for entry into the West Bank are an additional Kafkaesque measure to levy direct damage on the Palestinian community, which is supposed to be protected under international law,” said Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American business consultant based in Ramallah.

For full article see here (published 29 June 2022).

Hamoked petitions High Court to halt Israeli military’s discriminatory & draconian restrictions on entry to WB

On June 23, 2022, HaMoked, together with 19 individual petitioners, petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to halt the Ministry of Defense’s new Procedure for Foreigners’ Entry to and Residence in the West Bank. The petition was filed by Attorneys Yotam Ben Hillel and Leora Bechor…. The petition details the severe harm of the new procedure, set to come into force on July 4 including separating families, restricting academic freedoms, blatant discrimination  and objects to Israel’s violation of its legal obligations as an occupying power.

On June 29, 2022, in its response to the petitioners’ request for an interim order, the State announced that the procedure’s entry into effect had been postponed to September 5, 2022, “as the Respondents have not yet taken a decision regarding all the objections made regarding this procedure”. On July 18, 2022, the Court rejected the petition out of hand as “premature”, given that the competent authority had not yet reached a final decision on the matter.

See full press release here (posted 23 June 2022).

IMEU releases new Instagram explainer on Israel’s racist discrimination against Palestinians trying to enter Palestine

See post here (posted 22 June 2022).

Presentation on Israeli Restrictions on Foreign Nationals in the West Bank hosted by APN

Far from the limelight, the government of Israel has recently introduced a new set of regulations governing foreign nationals’ entry to and residence in the West Bank. This new ordinance, scheduled for implementation on July 5th, further expands the already stringent travel and residence regulations for foreign nationals. The repercussions for US citizens are immense. Palestinian-Americans and others who travel to the West Bank have raised this issue with the Biden administration, expressing grave concerns, and administration officials have raised concerns over this matter with Israel’s government. These new regulations, adopted by Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), will impact diaspora Palestinians traveling to the West Bank, academic scholars, students, civil society volunteers, journalists, and any foreign national who intends to reside in the West Bank (except, of course, those heading to Jewish settlements). To discuss this matter, Americans for Peace Now hosted Jessica Montell, the executive director of Hamoked – The Center for the Defense of the Individual.

For live recording of meeting, see here (15 June 2022)

Right to Enter – Update June 2022

Concerted efforts by grassroots activists like “Lem Sheml – Haqi” [Family Reunification – My Right], alongside ongoing efforts in the diplomatic and legal spheres have, over the past year, given rise to several celebrated developments, including the approval of lem sheml applications for over 900 people, for the first time in nearly 15 years. While demonstrating that bringing pressure to bear on Israel’s violations of international law can make a difference, Israel’s backsliding on promises to address objections raised against its administration of entry and residence in the oPt highlights the need to redouble efforts to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law.  Meanwhile, the deepening, expanding harm caused to the Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) resulting from Israel’s continued obstruction of movement and access continues.

For details see full RTE Update here (posted 8 June 2022).

Al-Haq and PCHR  to UN Human Rights Council: Israel’s Escalated Residence and Entry Policies Further Entrench its System of Apartheid over Palestinians

In its continued efforts to establish an Israeli-Jewish demographic majority on both sides of the Green Line and maintain its apartheid over the Palestinian people, Israel’s new entrance regulation is its latest tool to further fragment, dominate, surveille, control the movement, and displace the Palestinian people. Israel’s new ordinance of February 2022, entitled: “Procedure for Entry and Residence for Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Area” implements expansive entry requirements into the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on foreigners, including Palestinian refugees and exiles, who hold foreign passports. By utilizing language that refers to the OPT as “Judea and Samaria” or the “Area,” Israel’s intention to illegally maintain an indefinite occupation of Palestinian territory by entrenching its de facto annexation in the OPT is further exposed.

For full statement (A/HRC/50/NGO/152), see here (submitted 23 June 2022)

HaMoked: addresses Knesset on COGAT’s proposed procedures

See live recording here (in Hebrew with English subtitles, posted 8 June 2022).

Israel restricting entry of foreigners to Palestine, also for dual citizens and Erasmus students

Haitham Hanna, who lives in Hakunila, Vantaa, has not visited his birthplace in Taybeh on the West Bank of Palestine for five years. Next year, he would like to get there to meet his sisters and take his children from Finland to the festival in his old hometown. The 61-year-old service supervisor has lived in Finland for almost 37 years and is a Finnish citizen. As a rule, Palestinians need a special permit to enter Israeli territory. Even if a Palestinian has the citizenship of another country, the Israeli authorities treat him only as a Palestinian. Next year, Hanna’s journey with her family may be even more difficult, as Israel is now planning to tighten the access of foreigners and dual citizens to the Palestinian territories.

Read full article here (in Finnish, published 8 June 2022).

Israel’s West Bank Ordinance: The Latest Effort to Suppress Palestinian Civil Society

Fifty-five years ago, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, kicking off a military occupation that remains a core pillar of what many in the international human rights community are increasingly characterizing as apartheid. Fifty-five years later, the Israeli government is still finding new ways to entrench this apartheid system, and to silence the organizations and activists that stand in its way. On July 5, the day after the United States celebrates its independence from a colonial occupation, Palestinians in the West Bank will face new restrictions on their lives – as will any foreign nationals seeking to interact with them –  when Israel implements a new ordinance designed to further cement its control over the West Bank and bolster its efforts to suppress Palestinian civil society.

Unfortunately, these new policies are only the latest reinforcements in a longstanding and concerted effort by the Israeli government to defame, defund, and ultimately dissolve humanitarian and human rights operations in the occupied Palestinian territory, shrink civil space, and cut off professional, economic, and interpersonal ties between West Bank residents and the rest of the world.

Notably, the ordinance stipulates that “Implementation of this procedure shall be contingent on the security situation and the prevailing Israeli policy, which is reviewed and amended from time to time.” So in case it was not already clear, nothing in the ordinance should be misconstrued as establishing or protecting a right to visit, work in, or volunteer in the West Bank.

Beneath the explicit restrictions and procedures in the ordinance looms a more sinister threat — the likelihood that Israel will use the information it collects through these procedures to further surveil, intimidate, and criminalize Palestinian civil society. A look at Israel’s other recent efforts to curtail civil society in Palestine sheds light on how these new policies are well-suited to the same task…. Against the backdrop of these politically motivated legal attacks and terrorism designations, Israel’s new ordinance fits perfectly in a pattern of behavior designed to crush Palestinian civil society and those who dare support it.

If the Biden administration still means to pursue its commitment to center human rights in U.S. foreign policy, it needs to consider not only the immediate consequences of its silence on Israel’s assault on Palestinian civil society, but also the global implications of waging economic warfare on its adversaries for human rights violations while ignoring the human rights abuses of its allies. The United States needs to recognize that the growing threat of authoritarianism around the world, which the Biden administration at least professes to abhor, festers also in the nations it counts among partners. It needs to consider the security implications of a world in which civic engagement, non-violent dissent, humanitarian action, and human rights advocacy are increasingly redefined as acts of terrorism. Then, weighing these considerations, the administration should break its silence by calling on Israel to revoke its designations of the Six, scrap the West Bank ordinance, and respect the rights of Palestinians, foreign nationals visiting Palestine, and civil society organizations in Palestine.

For full article, see here (published 8 June 2022)

HaMoked: addresses Knesset on COGAT’s proposed procedures

See live recording here (in Hebrew with English subtitles, posted 8 June 2022).

Israel restricting entry of foreigners to Palestine, also for dual citizens and Erasmus students

Haitham Hanna, who lives in Hakunila, Vantaa, has not visited his birthplace in Taybeh on the West Bank of Palestine for five years. Next year, he would like to get there to meet his sisters and take his children from Finland to the festival in his old hometown. The 61-year-old service supervisor has lived in Finland for almost 37 years and is a Finnish citizen. As a rule, Palestinians need a special permit to enter Israeli territory. Even if a Palestinian has the citizenship of another country, the Israeli authorities treat him only as a Palestinian. Next year, Hanna’s journey with her family may be even more difficult, as Israel is now planning to tighten the access of foreigners and dual citizens to the Palestinian territories.

Read full article here (in Finnish, published 8 June 2022).

Israel’s West Bank Ordinance: The Latest Effort to Suppress Palestinian Civil Society

Fifty-five years ago, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, kicking off a military occupation that remains a core pillar of what many in the international human rights community are increasingly characterizing as apartheid. Fifty-five years later, the Israeli government is still finding new ways to entrench this apartheid system, and to silence the organizations and activists that stand in its way. On July 5, the day after the United States celebrates its independence from a colonial occupation, Palestinians in the West Bank will face new restrictions on their lives – as will any foreign nationals seeking to interact with them –  when Israel implements a new ordinance designed to further cement its control over the West Bank and bolster its efforts to suppress Palestinian civil society.

Unfortunately, these new policies are only the latest reinforcements in a longstanding and concerted effort by the Israeli government to defame, defund, and ultimately dissolve humanitarian and human rights operations in the occupied Palestinian territory, shrink civil space, and cut off professional, economic, and interpersonal ties between West Bank residents and the rest of the world.

Notably, the ordinance stipulates that “Implementation of this procedure shall be contingent on the security situation and the prevailing Israeli policy, which is reviewed and amended from time to time.” So in case it was not already clear, nothing in the ordinance should be misconstrued as establishing or protecting a right to visit, work in, or volunteer in the West Bank.

Beneath the explicit restrictions and procedures in the ordinance looms a more sinister threat — the likelihood that Israel will use the information it collects through these procedures to further surveil, intimidate, and criminalize Palestinian civil society. A look at Israel’s other recent efforts to curtail civil society in Palestine sheds light on how these new policies are well-suited to the same task…. Against the backdrop of these politically motivated legal attacks and terrorism designations, Israel’s new ordinance fits perfectly in a pattern of behavior designed to crush Palestinian civil society and those who dare support it.

If the Biden administration still means to pursue its commitment to center human rights in U.S. foreign policy, it needs to consider not only the immediate consequences of its silence on Israel’s assault on Palestinian civil society, but also the global implications of waging economic warfare on its adversaries for human rights violations while ignoring the human rights abuses of its allies. The United States needs to recognize that the growing threat of authoritarianism around the world, which the Biden administration at least professes to abhor, festers also in the nations it counts among partners. It needs to consider the security implications of a world in which civic engagement, non-violent dissent, humanitarian action, and human rights advocacy are increasingly redefined as acts of terrorism. Then, weighing these considerations, the administration should break its silence by calling on Israel to revoke its designations of the Six, scrap the West Bank ordinance, and respect the rights of Palestinians, foreign nationals visiting Palestine, and civil society organizations in Palestine.

For full article, see here (published 8 June 2022)

Progressive lawmakers ask Biden to keep Israel off visa waiver program

In a series of letters sent to senior administration officials over recent weeks – and ahead of President Joe Biden’s expected visit to Israel next month – more than a dozen Democrats warned the administration about new guidances issued by the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

In a letter expected to be published Friday, lawmakers including but not limited to Reps. Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez, Betty McCollum and Marie Newman tell U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that COGAT’s updated entry guidances “further complicates and formalizes previous written and unwritten entry restrictions and requirements for Americans wishing to visit, do business, reunite and reside with their Palestinian families, work or volunteer in those parts of the occupied West Bank under Palestinian Authority (PA) civil and security administration, or study or teach at Palestinian academic institutions.”… They call Israel’s pattern of behavior at points of entry toward Arab and Muslim Americans “clearly ethnically-based discrimination.”

The lawmakers say this has long been an issue, irrespective of the updated COGAT guidance, adding that Israel should be ineligible for entry into the VWP [Visa Waiver Program] unless it ends “all ethnically, racially, religiously and politically based discrimination at its borders … regardless of any purported ‘justification.’”

“Israel’s inclusion in the program would represent an endorsement of travel discrimination against American citizens by the federal government,” they state.

Read full article in here (published 9 June 2022).

EUP submits parliamentary questions regarding new restrictive policy on the entry & stay of foreigners in the West Bank

The European Commission has been formally requested by the European Parliament to respond in writing to parliamentary questions concerning  Israel’s announced new restrictive policy on the entry and stay of foreigners in the West Bank. The submission notes that “the new rules include strict quotas on the number of foreign students (150) and lecturers (100) allowed at Palestinian universities for restricted periods of time and subject to further conditions. In addition to harming Palestinian education and academic exchanges, the new rules risk obstructing the EU’s Erasmus+ programme. Under Erasmus+, 366 students and staff moved to Palestinian universities from Europe in 2020 alone, greatly exceeding these new quotas.”

For full Parliamentary submission, see here (dated 9 June 2022).

‘Apartheid in action’: The danger of Israel’s new West Bank travel restrictions

New Israeli restrictions on Palestinians with foreign passports are receiving condemnation from legal experts, while the Biden administration does little to defend the rights of U.S. citizens.

The COGAT revisions have received strong criticism from human rights groups and legal experts, who say that they will make life even more difficult for Palestinians. The West Bank isn’t part of Israel, but the country has controlled entry to and movement within the area for decades, imposing draconian restrictions on the population. 

Ninety-seven pages worth of rules constitute the COGAT policy, which doesn’t apply to individuals visiting any of the West Bank’s many Jewish settlements. The policy refers to the area as “Judea and Samaria,” a biblical name preferred by the Israeli government.

“This is Apartheid in action,” Ahmed Abofoul, a lawyer with Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq told Mondoweiss of the new policy. “It’s all part of the apartheid system. What we are seeing is representative of how Israel applies its apartheid laws to Palestinians everywhere, both in the occupied territory and abroad. Israel targets Palestinians simply for being Palestinians.”

Human rights experts say the new restrictions laid out by COGAT are particularly dangerous due to the fact that it assumes Israeli sovereignty and jurisdiction over the entirety of the occupied West Bank. 

“Israel seeks to bureaucratize its de facto control of all Palestinian land by introducing new procedures of intelligence gathering that will be employed to further dispossess Palestinians of their land and identity,” Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, Executive Director of Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP Action), told Mondoweiss. “Israeli authorities understand that – according to international law – they do not have the legal right to sovereignty over the occupied Palestinian territory. Therefore, they aim to circumvent this reality through subversive tactics that treat Palestinian land as their own.”

“Israel is betting on the complicity of the international community through its inability – for decades – to deter violations of its legal obligations as an occupying power,” he continued. “It believes that this new violation against the Palestinians will pass after a storm in a teacup, similar to the storm that ensued regarding the American recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. The new COGAT rules are part of Israel’s broader effort to Judaize the occupied Palestinian territories and dismantle inactive and evidently ineffective international resolutions from within, one by one.”

“So essentially, you have one military officer deciding for a whole nation what the nature of their academia and academic institutions will look like. They will decide what subjects Palestinians can study, what professors can come or not, and what students can come from abroad to study.”

“It is a very dangerous, and flagrant form of domination,” Abofoul said. 

Since the new ordinance was published, Palestinians have also expressed concerns that the new procedures are part of the latest attempt by the Israeli government to ramp up surveillance of their communities. 

“They not only have the power to reject people from visiting, but they’re also collecting information on them and those they want to visit,” Abofoul told Mondoweiss, warning of the sinister implications that could come with Palestinians having to declare property that they own or stand to inherit.

For full article, see here (published 3 June 2022).


May 2022

AJP Issues URGENT Act Now: Israel is trying to prevent us from visiting Palestine – 6 June DEADLINE

Take Action Now

Did You Know

Urge Congress to Sign on to Rep Tlaib’s Letter by 6 June

Israeli limits on West Bank travel draw scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers

In one letter sent this week to the heads of the State, Education, and Homeland Security departments, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., and 11 other Democrats note that the new rules “severely restrict the ability of American academics and students to teach and study at Palestinian universities in Occupied Palestinian Territory.”….

“These one-sided procedures infringe upon Palestinians’ right to education and the academic freedom of American professors and students who wish to engage with their Palestinian counterparts,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that the policy has “no defensible rationale.”

In another letter, sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this month, Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., wrote that the new rules “could significantly impact [her constituents’] ability to travel, visit relatives, or do business in parts of the occupied West Bank.”

…The [US State Department] spokesperson added, “We seek equal treatment and freedom to travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin or ethnicity.”

Read full article in here (published 29 May 2022).

Members of European Parliament boycott trip after Israeli snub

Last-minute Israeli blacklistings and red lines have prompted MEPs to call off an official trip, posing the question if Israel can belittle the EU Parliament with impunity. Six MEPs led by Spanish left-winger and well-known Palestinian supporter Manu Pineda were due to meet Palestinian ministers in the occupied territories this weekend. But instead EU staff, some of whom were already at airports, were told to turn around and go home because Israeli restrictions had made the visit untenable…..

“Once again, Israel is blocking Parliament’s attempts and work to assess the situation of the Palestinian people,” Pineda, who is chair of the EU Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Palestine, said….

“The European Parliament, and the EU at large has shown that it can take appropriate retaliatory measures in cases where countries such as Russia or China target our MEPs,” [Irish Green MEP Grace O’Sullivan] said…. “I want to see similar leadership in this current situation,” O’Sullivan said, referring to Metsola and von der Leyen’s follow up.

Read full article here (published 22 May 2022).

US Rep Wexton addresses US Secretary of State Blixen on COGAT ‘Foreign Entry Rules for Occupied West Bank’

Dear Secretary Blinken,
I am writing on behalf of a number of my constituents who have expressed concern to me about new rules which are set to take effect that could significantly impact their ability to travel, visit relatives, or do business in parts of the occupied West Bank. The new policy could also prevent my constituents with first degree relatives in the occupied West Bank from flying into Ben Gurion Airport unless they obtain a pre-approval 45-days prior to travel. Additionally, according to the policy, they must also disclose information on any land they own in the West Bank or that they may inherit in the future as a precondition to entry. It appears that Americans who wish to visit Israel or any of the settlements would be exempt from the new rules. This disparate treatment under the law is concerning.

COMMENTARY: The RTE welcomes efforts by all parties to ensure transparency and clarity as to the policies and procedures applied by Israel affecting entry, residency and movement in the oPt for foreign nationals, including members of the Palestinian diaspora. We urge, however, that representatives and third States go beyond issuing inquiries on the applied policies and procedures and require that Israel’s policies and practices are fully compliant with international law and its obligation to ensure the welfare of the Palestinian population. We also urge third States to do everything they can to protect their own constituents and citizens from injury and prevent their legitimate interests from being harmed by the unlawful conduct of other States (in this case, Israel).

Read full letter here (19 May 2022).

Association for International Development Agencies – AIDA: Analysis of COGAT procedures for foreigners entry and residence

• The procedure enacted by the Israeli military government is in violation of the duty to restore and ensure public order and civil life in occupied territory. The restriction of freedom of movement disrupts the economic, social, and cultural life of the area with no justification.
• The Palestinian people, writ large, are directly injured in relation to the Israeli violations should the procedure be implemented, be it in part or in full. The Palestinian people, through the PLO, have a right to invoke Israeli responsibility, to demand cessation and reparation, and to adopt countermeasures.

• The fact that Israel is violating some peremptory norms of international law – including the basic rules of international humanitarian law, the prohibition of racial discrimination, and the right to self-determination – produce erga omnes/ erga omnes partes obligations, and has consequences for the regime of state responsibility. States not directly injured by Israeli violations and international organizations must not recognize as lawful the procedure and must cooperate to bring it to an end through measures permitted by international law. Under Common Article 1 to the GCs, all the states parties must cooperate to ensure that Israel complies with international humanitarian law.
• States not directly injured and international organizations can exercise political and diplomatic pressure, adopt measures of retortion, invoke Israeli responsibility before political, institutional (e.g., the UN Security Council, the EU Council), and judicial fora, as well as adopt countermeasures in compliance with the relevant rules of international law, to induce Israeli compliance with its international obligations and the rescinding of the procedure forthwith.

Read full analysis here.

Israel Tightens Restrictions on Travel to Occupied Territories

The new rules formalize invasive questioning that has long been the reality for those traveling to the territories. Some — like a requirement that those visiting Palestinian family members disclose a series of personal details about them — have always been the norm. But the rules also include a new slate of restrictions that Palestinians in the diaspora warn will drastically curtail their ability to visit their families and homeland. They include a condition that visitors disclose details about any land they might own or expect to inherit in the territories, a limit to the number of trips one can make, and a requirement that visitors apply for a permit 45 days before traveling — a measure introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic, ostensibly for public health reasons, that Israel is now seeking to make permanent….

U.S. critics of the rules note that they come at a time when U.S. officials can exercise particular leverage, as Israel is currently seeking to join the U.S. visa waiver program, which allows visitors from participating countries to travel to the U.S. for business or tourism without a visa. In March, the U.S. and Israel signed an information exchange agreement bringing Israel closer to approval for the program. The State Department spokesperson said that officials are “reviewing the regulations in detail in order to determine if there is any linkage to the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program.”

The new COGAT rules appear to serve multiple purposes: by discouraging travel to the West Bank, they further isolate Palestinians and seek to undercut growing global solidarity with them. They limit the ability of foreigners of Palestinian descent to maintain ties with their families and homeland. And they enable the large-scale collection of personal data on anyone traveling to the territories, feeding into a sprawling surveillance effort already underway that some have dubbed Israel’s “Facebook for Palestinians.”

Read full article here (published 13 May 2022).

Israel tightens grip on West Bank with planned restrictions

JERUSALEM (AP) — If, during your travels in the Holy Land, you decide to take the next step with your Palestinian sweetheart, you should notify the Israeli military within 30 days…. That’s what it says on page 30 of a new 97-page policy released by COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank.

The wide-ranging policy imposes new restrictions on foreigners who marry Palestinians or who come to the West Bank to work, volunteer, study or teach, further extending Israel’s nearly 55-year military rule into nearly every corner of Palestinian life. The rules do not apply to people visiting Israel or the more than 130 Jewish settlements scattered across the West Bank.

“It’s outrageous that the Israeli military thinks it can micromanage Palestinian society to this extent, to decide who’s qualified to teach at a university, who is entitled to have foreign volunteers,” said Jessica Montell, director of the Israeli human rights group HaMoked.

Her group filed a legal petition with lengthy objections to the policy, leading Israeli authorities to delay its implementation from May 20 until early July.

The policy could also anger the United States, which has long refused to enter into a visa waiver program with Israel, in part because Israel treats Palestinian-Americans differently than other U.S. citizens. The State Department said it was studying the new procedures and “engaging with Israeli authorities to understand their applications.”

Read full article here (published 5 May 2022).

Israel’s new West Bank entry rules decide ‘who is a Palestinian’ 

“Based on human rights law and international humanitarian law, Palestinians have the right to family life, and Israel has the obligation [as the occupying power] to promote the welfare of the Palestinian population,” Daniel Shenhar, a lawyer for the Israeli human rights group “Hamoked”, who represents several Palestinian families applying for a family reunion, said to The New Arab.

“Which Palestinian institutions can employ foreigners or take volunteers? The Israeli military thinks it should decide. What are the qualifications for lecturers in Palestinian universities? Again the Israeli military has decided,” he said.

“In fact, the Israeli military decides who is a Palestinian, because of its control over the Palestinian population registry and its denial of family unification,” he noted.

Among the restrictions, non-residents seeking entry have to declare if they have family,  property or inheritance in the West Bank, in addition to making a US$ 21,000 deposit that would be returned after “compliance with the terms of the residence permit has been verified, or the foreigner has departed”.

For some legal critics, these rules are a form of “de-facto annexation”.

“It is rather an assertion of Israeli control of the Palestinian population, rather than a direct form of annexation because Israel already controls the West Bank,” Wessam Ahmed, senior researcher at the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, told The New Arab.

“Israel feels it is able to dictate to Palestinians who can and who can’t enter, which is an extension of Israel’s broader policy of annexation and control,” he stressed. “

“But beyond the question of annexation, there is a bigger picture of Israel’s continued assertion of domination of the Palestinian people, which is part of its broader colonial policy,” he added.

Read full article here (published 4 May2022).


April 2022

RTE  Briefing Note on New COGAT Procedures for West Bank Entry

The RTE Campaign strongly objects to COGAT’s newly published procedures governing the entry and residency of foreigners in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The RTE calls on the US, the EU and other third states to explicitly object to the internationally unlawful premises underlying the proposed policy and to demand that Israeli authorities freeze the new policy and go back to the drawing board to rectify current practice and devise a clear, consistent and transparent policy fully in line with Israel’s international legal obligations.

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”). The policy will also gravely and arbitrarily restrict the opportunities for local institutions in various sectors, including the higher education sector, to seek, hire and retain staff they need based on their own assessments, and will isolate the oPt’s West Bank through its severe limitations on visitors and other categories of persons from the rest of the world, including the Palestinian diaspora.

Israel is not a sovereign over the oPt (the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip), and does not have the right to administer the entry and residence of foreign nationals in that territory according to its own sovereign prerogative.

Read RTE’s full statement here.

New IDF limits on foreigners visiting West Bank Palestinians delayed

Israel has delayed by 45 days the impositions of restrictions on foreign travel to Palestinian areas of the West Bank that target universities, schools, non-governmental groups, the business sector, and family reunification. The restrictions, first published in February by the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, had been scheduled to go into effect on May 20, but will now only be implemented in July.

The delay came in response to a letter sent by attorneys Yotam Ben-Hillel and Leora Bechor on behalf of the Israeli left-wing NGO HaMoked, which asked that the IDF freeze its new restrictions published in a 97-page document and fix the “flaws.”

“It heightens to absurdity bureaucratic nightmare of occupation,” HaMoked Executive Director Jessica Montell said, adding that it places a “foreign military” in charge of Palestinian society.

The grassroots Palestinian group Right to Enter has called on countries with diplomatic ties to Israel to “object to all arbitrary denials of entry and residency that harm Palestinian family life, educational, health and social service institutions, and businesses and act to resolve all such cases of exclusion.”

Read full article here (published 30 April/ updated 1 May 2022).

Israel’s Restrictions on Traveling to WB Just Got 92 Pages Worse

“We were seeing rigid restrictions on entry and on continued residence that had no basis in the regulations,” says Jerusalem-based attorney Leora Bechor, who together with fellow attorney Yotam Ben Hillel challenged those regulations and policies in a 2019 lawsuit that is ongoing to this day. In an attempt to have their suit dismissed, COGAT presented the Israeli court with a new set of regulations on the entry and residence of foreigners in the West Bank, expanding the previous version from four pages to a whopping 62 pages of restrictions—97 pages in the English version.

The new regulations, which were published in Hebrew in February, were originally set to take effect this May 22. In response to objections by Bechor and Ben Hillel, however, COGAT stated this week, on April 28, that it would delay their implementation by an additional 45 days. The Israeli High Court of Justice is set to hear arguments in the case on Monday, May 2. Bechor discussed the case and Israel’s “more draconian” restrictions on the West Bank in an interview with Democracy in Exile.

Read interview with Leora Bechor here (published 29 April 2022).

Scholars at Risk Urges Israeli Government to Protect & Promote International Academic Travel to West Bank

Scholars at Risk has issued the below letter expressing concern over an Israeli government directive that will severely restrict international scholars’ and students’ travel to and work in the West Bank.

Dear Prime Minister Bennett:

I write on behalf of Scholars at Risk to express our deep concern over an Israeli government directive that will severely restrict international scholars’ and students’ travel to and work in the West Bank. In addition to the immediate impact on international scholars and students, the directive will endanger Palestinians’ meaningful enjoyment of academic freedom, the right to education, and the benefits of science….

Vague, overbroad, and incomplete provisions in the directive, particularly around COGAT’s role, raise serious concerns that applicants may be reviewed in an opaque and potentially arbitrary and inconsistent manner and that Palestinian higher education institutions will be severely impaired in their ability to recruit scholars. These provisions further compound our earlier concerns about historic patterns of restrictions on academic travel into and within the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), as described in our previous letter and in past reports….

SAR respectfully urges you to rescind the directive; ensure that Israeli immigration policies comply with international standards relating to academic freedom; and otherwise remove vague, arbitrary, or excessive restrictions on academic travel into and work within the West Bank and the OPT generally.

Read full statement here (posted 27 April 2022).

City University of New York: Support Our Palestinian Colleagues, Reject Israeli Measures Against Academic Freedom

We, as members of the City University of New York community, express our strong opposition to Israel’s most recent attempt to restrict Palestinian rights to education and to undermine the academic freedom and autonomy of Palestinian institutions of higher education.

We declare our support for the call to action issued by Birzeit University, and our intent to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues “to defend the Palestinian people’s right to education, free from duress, intervention, and political persecution.”

We call on Israel to abide by international law to both protect and facilitate the functioning of Palestinian civil institutions, including higher education. We urge Israeli authorities to repeal this destructive policy and instead adopt and implement a clearly documented and transparent policy enabling full access and presence to foreign nationals intending to work, study, or educate students at Palestinian universities in the occupied Palestinian territories. This is the bare minimum needed to ensure Palestinians’ right to education, and to secure for our Palestinian colleagues the forms of academic freedom that we so value for ourselves. 

With little faith in Israel as an occupying power to uphold its obligations under international law, we call on CUNY, together with other US universities, to join us in our demands that Israel 1) repeal the new “Procedure for Entry and Residency of Foreigners;” 2) end its restrictions on entry based on political speech and Palestinian heritage; and 3) adopt policies granting visas for exchanges and work permits to Palestinian universities that are  fully equalitable with those applied to Israeli universities.

We invite individuals and organizations to endorse this statement. To endorse, please click here.

Read full statement here.

British Society for Middle Eastern Studies Calls on Israeli PM to Cancel New Procedures for Entry into West Bank

Dear Prime Minister,
We write on behalf of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) to protest against Israeli violations of Palestinian academic freedom. Specifically, we call on you to cancel the recently announced “Procedure for Entry and Residency of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Region”

As the occupying power, Israel has a duty to maintain the functioning of Palestinian civil institutions, including Palestinian universities.These measures will prevent Palestinian universities from operating according to the educational and development needs of the Palestinian economy and from fully benefitting from the international exchange of knowledge and research that is fundamental to universities everywhere. They are also in violation of the right to education as outlined by the UN Economic and Social Council on 8 December 1999, in General Comment 13, which stipulates that “Members of the academic community, individually or collectively, are free to pursue, develop and transmit knowledge and ideas, through research, teaching, study, discussion, documentation, production, creation or writing” and that the “enjoyment of academic freedom requires the autonomy of institutions of higher education.”

Hence, we call upon you to cancel the implementation of the recent directive (“Procedure for Entry and Residency of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Region”) and to lift all restrictions preventing international academics and students from working/studying in the West Bank.

Read full statement here (posted 6 April 2022).

Middle East Studies Association of North America Letter Protesting New Israel Government Directive Affecting Palestinian Universities

We write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to protest Israel’s recently released directive, “Procedure for Entry and Residency of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Region,” scheduled to take effect as policy in May 2022…. We regard this as both an attempt to isolate Palestinian scholars and students from the international scholarly community and a form of censorship aimed at constraining the freedom of speech and association of international academics and students by denying them access to and engagement with Palestinian scholars and students, as well as professional and educational opportunities at Palestinian universities.  We condemn this proposed policy in the strongest terms as a clear escalation of the persistent efforts of your government to deny Palestinians the right to education.

We know that a state like Israel that values higher education and learning would not accept an occupying military force to act as an academic arbiter in its own institutions. Yet, this directive is but the most recent development in the ongoing constriction and violation of Palestinian academic freedom. A brief glimpse over the last months points to this long record. In fact, our committee has written to you numerous times about  egregious and violent attacks on Palestinian university students and staff, and in particular those at Birzeit University (see our latest letters on  8 February 202222 December 202121 July 202128 June 2021; and earlier on 11 April 2019.) These attacks, assaults, and detentions are grave violations of basic rights to education and academic freedom. Specifically, these are clear violations of the right to education enshrined in Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Israel is a party to the UDHR and a signatory to the ICESCR and is therefore obligated to uphold them.

We call upon you to reject these proposed policies and prevent their becoming law.  

Read full statement here (posted 5 April 2022).

Israel planning massive traveler data base

It’s a Hacker Bonanza, Experts Say: Israel wants to collect the names, passport numbers and even credit cards of every person entering or leaving. ‘We cannot allow ourselves to become a dictatorship,’ experts warn.

The Israeli government is planning a new massive database to collect the data of all those leaving and arriving in Israel. The memorandum regarding the planned legislation was published last week and the public has until the end of April to file objections to the controversial database.

Legal and cyber experts are already voicing criticism of the plan, which they say will infringe on citizens’ privacy rights, pose a real security threat and will be hard to regulate and oversee.

Read full article here (posted 4 April 2022).

American Anthropological Association Calls on GOI to Rescind New Procedures Threatening Palestinian Higher Ed

On behalf of our 8000 members worldwide, the American Anthropological Association calls upon the Israeli government to rescind its February 2022 military order that threatens the autonomy of Palestinian higher education and Palestinians’ rights to education.

Read full statement here (posted 1 April 2022).


March 2022

HaMoked demands Israel’s Minister of Defense amend draconian new procedure for entry of foreigners to the oPt

[T]he procedure would severely infringe on the right to family life and academic freedom of Palestinian universities, and harm the local economy.

Read full statement here (posted 24 March 2022, updated 27 April).

Call to Action: Birzeit University Rejects Israeli Measures Against Academic Freedom

Birzeit University rejects Israel’s most recent attempt to constrict the fundamental right of Palestinians to education and to undermine the academic freedom and autonomy of Palestinian universities.

The attack on the right to education and academic freedom that these proposed procedures embody are part of the ongoing assault on Palestinian institutions of higher learning since their establishment.

We call on all academic and human rights organizations to join us in refusing these procedures, and demand that governments worldwide hold Israel, the occupying power, accountable for this clear violation of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), the right to education enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966). 

This moment is dangerous for the future of Palestinian higher education, but it is also a moment to join together for justice, freedom, and equality. Palestinian universities, like all universities, are places of knowledge production that connect scholars and students across the globe and inspire them to imagine and build a better future for all. 

Read full statement here (posted 12 March 2022).

Israel to Decide for Palestinian Universities which Foreign Lecturers Can Teach at West Bank Universities

“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. Aspiring instructors will have to submit applications for such permits at the Israeli consulate in the applicant’s country of origin. … only authorized persons at the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) can approve the entry of an instructor “after they have proven to our satisfaction that the lecturer will make a significant contribution to academic education, to the regional economy or to the promotion of regional cooperation and peace.” The number of lecturers will be limited by a quota to be determined by Israel, which currently stands at 100.”

“The new procedures come after 15 years of Israel gradually tightening limitations on entry of citizens of friendly countries, whose destination is the Palestinian communities (and not settlements) in the West Bank. The worsening limitations also target spouses of Palestinian residents, businesspeople, lecturers and students. Over the years, this policy was the subject of dozens of petitions to the High Court of Justice. The state’s response to these petitions was that the authorities were formulating a new policy on the issue; decisions on the matter were therefore postponed.”

Read full article by Amira Hass here (published 8 March 2022).


December 2021

Hussein Al-Sheikh Tweets Promise of 550 “Family Reunions”

Will Israel Make Good on the PA’s Residency Promise?

By Friday the activists of the movement “Family Reunification: My Right” will know whether the promise made to them at the beginning of the week will be kept. By the end of 2021 they will know whether they, and like them thousands of spouses and parents of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, will finally receive residency status, and will no longer be defined by Israel as “illegal residents” in their homes because the entry visa in their passports expired long ago.

The promise was made by a senior Palestinian official. The problem is that only Israel can implement the promise. It is the only entity that decides who, when and how many nuclear Palestinian families will be entitled to have Mom or Dad receive residency status in the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967.

Read full article by Amira Hass here (published 28 December 2021).

Palestinian-Americans to be allowed to land at Ben-Gurion in order to advance negotiations on US visa waivers for Israelis

Israel has informed the US that Americans of Palestinian descent will be allowed to land at Ben-Gurion Airport as negotiations continue for a visa waiver for Israelis visiting the US, Army Radio reported on Sunday. The decision was made after discussions by the Shin Bet and the defense establishment, although it is still unclear what the inspection for these citizens will be at the entrance to the country.

Read full article here (posted 26 December 2021).

An Israel Exception to US Visa Waiver Program Requirements

Rosen-Scott et al letter to Blinken & Mayorkas: On 12/15, US Sens. Rosen (D-NV) and Scott (R-FL), along with 16 bipartisan Senate cosigners, sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas and SecState Blinken “in support of certifying Israel as an eligible country for participation in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)…The letter offers a number of arguments for why this certification would be good for the US, none of which have anything to do with the actual legal requirements to qualify for the program [In tweets about the letter, Rosen emphasized that “Israel is one of our closest allies and an important trading partner. Adding Israel to our Visa Waiver Program will benefit our economy and enhance our national security” and Scott argued that “We must make clear that the U.S. stands & supports our great ally & the Jewish people.” Again, these arguments have nothing to do with the actual requirements for qualification for the VWP. In particular, the letter (and tweets) ignore the fact that Israel does not meet the requirement for reciprocal treatment of U.S. citizens (with respect to entry, Israel systematically profiles/discriminates against Muslim Americans and Arab Americans). Which means, in effect, that these members of Congress are asking for an Israel exception to the VWP requirements – one that would, in effect, hold Israel to a lower standard than other nations by allowing its citizens to travel freely to the US without visas, while giving a green light to Israel systematically discriminate against some American travelers based on their ethnicity/religion.

Read full report by Foundations for Middle East Peace and find links to further information here (posted 23 December 2021).

How Israel Expelled Me, a German PhD Student, for Something I Had No Intention of Doing

At Ben-Gurion Airport they yelled at us and threatened us as we were accused of  ‘planned participation in human rights demonstrations’ – something that should be allowed in a democratic country anyway.

… The interrogator threatened us with “a 10-year travel ban and being marked as an international security risk.” Somehow, despite knowing that this was only a threat, the prospect was terrifying. One interrogator kept yelling at us as they kept calling us liars.

It was like a movie, but more real and far more scary. We found ourselves captive in a game of good cop/bad cop…. They even tried pitting us against each other, saying the other had confessed and we could stop lying now as they already knew. I also had to hand over my phone to let the interrogators scan my Facebook feed.

At the moment I still can’t tell if and how the academic cooperation between my university and Birzeit University can continue if physical meetings remain impossible.

Read full story by Sarah Rueller, researcher at University of Siegen, Germany here (published 19 December 2021).


November 2021

US visa exemption for Israelis not before 2023

The process granting a visa exemption for Israeli travelers to the US will not be finished before 2023, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said after a meeting with US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

Read full article here (published 18 November 2021).

Policy Analysis: Israel Is Not Eligible for Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program is administered by the State Department and provides for reciprocal, visa-free entry to the United States and participating countries by their respective nationals. The program has stringent entry and security requirements. Despite Israel’s long-standing desire to join the program, its discriminatory treatment of US citizens based on their ethnic and religious identities and their political viewpoints has led to a high rejection rate of US citizens seeking entry to Israel and to Occupied Palestinian Territory it controls, rendering it ineligible for participation in the program.     

The Department of State’s international travel information for Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory contains ample documentation of Israel’s discriminatory entry regime. Among these findings are: 

  • Discrimination based on ethnic and religious affiliation. “
  • US citizens on the Palestinian population registry are not allowed to freely enter Israel.
  • US citizens on the Palestinian population registry are often denied the use of Israel’s airport.
  • Israel frequently denies entry to US citizens who express solidarity with the Palestinian people, infringing upon their freedoms of association and speech.
  • Israel often denies entry to US citizens who refuse to give access to their social media and email accounts for its purpose of attempting to determine their ethnicity, religion, and political viewpoint.

…[L]ast year, Israel rejected for entry 6.7 percent of US citizens, more than double the percentage of rejections allowed under the terms of the Visa Waiver Program. 

Read full analysis here (published 14 November 2021).


October 2021

Israel’s ‘gesture’ to Palestinians reveals the extent of its control over the West Bank and Gaza

Tuesday’s [19 October] announcement by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – that Palestinian residency will be granted to 1,200 people who have been living in the West Bank or Gaza Strip with their families for many years – worried and confused the people most concerned with the issue.

Among them were activists in the Family Reunification – My Right movement, whose protests over the past year put the residency issue back on the agenda of coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The activists said there are many more people waiting for residency in the West Bank and Gaza than just 1,200…. The ministry never gave an official number, but from conversations with officials in the PA’s Civil Affairs Ministry, the activists understood that residency would be granted to around 5,000 people, in several stages. It now turns out that the number is much lower.

“An Israeli defense official said he doesn’t know where the number 5,000 came from, but at the moment, the government has decided to approve changes in the Palestinian Population Registry for a total of only 4,000 people. This means that the Palestinian Interior Ministry will now be able to issue Palestinian identity cards to some, and update the place of residence on existing ID cards of others.

A statement issued by Al-Sheikh on Tuesday said this was just the first installment. But the [Israeli] defense official said he isn’t currently aware of any further installments.

Moreover, only 1,200 of these 4,000 people are actually being granted residency. For the other 2,800, Israel is merely letting the PA change their place of residence on their ID cards. These 2,800 are registered Palestinian residents who were born in Gaza and have been living in the West Bank for 15 years or more. Until now, Israel hasn’t approved their change of address, which greatly restricts their freedom of movement within the West Bank…. The defense official also said that the 442 Palestinian adults who received residency last week – all of them people whose parents are already residents – are included in the 4,000 as well.

Read full article by Amira Hass here (published 20 October 2021).

Palestinian Civil Affairs list of approved lem sheml  applicants

موافقات الهويات وتغيير العنوان

Find full list of names here (published 18 October 2021)

The Struggle for Palestinian Family Unification Succeeds –    Haltingly, Little and Late

Instead of keeping to its agreements, Israel offers ‘a gesture’ in the form of Palestinian IDs to people without status in the West Bank and Gaza. Still on hold is family unification for residents of the territories married to Israeli citizens.

For 442 adult Palestinians, October 11, 2021 will be remembered as a happy day: They were born to registered Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but for various reasons they were not included in the Palestinian population registry before reaching age 16.

The granting of residency status [to a reported 5,000 men and women married to residents of the West Bank and Gaza] was one of the promises of “easements” or relief from Defense Minister Benny Gantz to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his civil affairs minister, Hussein al-Sheikh, at their meeting in Ramallah in August. But the term “easement” (hakalot in Hebrew) is an exercise in whitewashing.

The setting of a 5,000-person quota and the term “easement” shows that an unknown but probably high number of other spouses will remain in the same conditions of uncertainty and draconian travel restrictions for many years, until the next “easement.” For this reason, many others will be deterred from marrying whom they want if he or she is not an official resident, or they may decide to move abroad.

And yet, it’s doubtful whether even this “easement” would have been granted if not for the movement Family Unification – My Right, which was launched this year by those affected by the freezing of the process.

Read full article by Amira Hass here (published 13 October 2021).

Palestinian Civil Affairs announces approval of lem sheml  for 442 individuals

Read full list of names on Civil Affairs FB  (posted 11 October 2021).


September 2021

Israeli Control of the Palestinian Population Registry

Israel’s Gaza-West Bank separation policy seriously impacts basic human rights enshrined in international humanitarian law, international human rights law and Israeli constitutional law. Primarily affected is the right of every person to move freely within their country of residence and freely choose where to live there. The violation of this right often leads to violations of the rights to family life, health, education, a livelihood and freedom of occupation.

Read full press release by Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual here (posted September 2021).


August 2021

PA’s Hussein Al Sheikh Tweets Resumption of Family Unification 

Posted 30 August 2021

Flying Abroad Without Knowing if You’ll Be Able to Return Home

Friendly Western countries are silent and paralyzed in the face of Israel’s discriminatory policies against their citizens who are married to Palestinians in the occupied territories.

A letter I received sheds light on yet another dark corner of European collaboration with Jewish-Israeli apartheid. This is what was sent to me…: “I’m a German woman who has been living in the West Bank for about 18 years. These days (namely, during the period of the coronavirus) we (wives of Palestinian residents) have been encountering difficulties whenever we have to travel, to return, to renew our visa … and then we discover that we are not allowed to return … I wonder if you could help us, advise us as to how to continue….

“Whenever we turn to the German representative office in Ramallah and ask them for support or assistance – we’re told that they can’t do anything. It’s very frustrating.”

If she were married to an Israeli citizen, the writer of the above letter would long ago have received residency status, or at least a multiple-entry visa…. But because her partner is a Palestinian from the West Bank, Israel makes sure to discriminate against her. This is how it does that:…

Read full article by Amira Hass  here (published 23 August 2021).

Questions for the Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs

In 2000 Israel unilaterally discontinued the family reunification process, which was supposed to take place by means of coordination between the two sides. In 2008, as a favor and a gesture to Abbas, Israel granted Palestinian residency status in the context of family reunification to 32,000 people – and that was after petitions by Hamoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual, as well as public and media activity by families who were negatively impacted. On what occasions since then did your ministry demand a resumption of the process? Did you submit a written demand to the Israeli side for a resumption of the family reunification process, or was it only conveyed orally?

In response to attorney Adi Lustigman, to a request based on the Freedom of Information Law, the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in December 2020 that since 2000 the Palestinian side has not demanded a resumption of the work of the joint committee to restore residency status to those who had it revoked by Israel from 1967 on. Is that true? …

Why are Palestinians who have been living in the West Bank for 20 or 30 years without residency status forced to receive assistance from Israeli lawyers (Palestinians and Jews) and to pay out of pocket – rather than being entitled to legal representation by the Civil Affairs Ministry?

How many unanswered requests for family reunification can be found in your ministry? When did your ministry receive the first still-unanswered request, and when did you receive the most recent ones?

Is it true that you have stopped transmitting requests for family reunification to the Israeli side, because those were your instructions from your Israeli counterpart (the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), and therefore you also stopped accepting them? If that is not true – when was the last time you transmitted requests for family reunification to the Israeli side, and how many were there?

Read full article by Amira Hass here (published 2 August 2021)


July 2021

Haaretz Editorial: Illegal Residents Live in the Palestinian Territories, Too

Palestinians have a right to a family life and a right to live with their families in the places where they were born – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And Israel has an obligation to uphold this right. With or without any connection to the defense establishment’s concerns that the Palestinian Authority might collapse, there is now an opportunity for the non-rightist parties in the governing coalition to embrace this human issue. The government must immediately restart the family reunification process and quickly clear the entire backlog of applications.

Read Haaretz lead editorial as published in English and Hebrew here (published 30 July 2021).

Haaretz: The Faces of Non-existent People – Palestinians Living Without an Official ID

On Sunday of this week, Hana Sha’aban visited the West Bank city of Ramallah for the first time in her life, even though she lives in Jamaleh, a village in the northern West Bank, just two hours drive away. It was only the prospect of attending a protest vigil in front of the Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry that made Hana and her husband, Mohana, overcome their fear of passing through checkpoints to travel together to Al-Bireh.

Read full article by Amira Hass with profiles of “Non-existent People” here (published 29 July 2021)

Haaretz Opinion: A Short Distance Between the Occupiers and the Occupied

A small group of people marched down Nablus Street in eastern El Bireh this past Sunday afternoon. They met next to the Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry. Their destination was the Israeli Civil Administration, located at the edge of a huge military base on El-Bireh land. The distance between the two buildings is about a kilometer (0.6 mile).

This is the second time since first organizing, some seven months ago, that they are not merely holding a protest vigil in front of the Palestinian ministry, but are marching toward the Israeli center of power…. The first time, in late June, a peeved soldier aimed his rifle and shouted that he would shoot if the marchers approached. This week, soldiers emerged from a military jeep standing at the edge of a field of thorns and calmly observed the demonstrators. Two of the demonstrators approached the concrete fence surrounding the building. Above it, on a staircase, stood two people. A conversation ensued. The two ran back to their friends and reported: “An officer in the Civil Administration asked us to give them a list of everyone here who requested family reunification.

Read full article by Amira Hass here (published 27 July 2021)

Haaretz: The Magic Word That Eases Israelis’ Conscience

Israel does not hide the fact that it has discontinued family reunification, but at the same time it claims that applications (presumably humanitarian ones) that are submitted – are examined. However, sources in the Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry say that in recent years the office of the government coordinator in the territories has forbidden them to pass on such applications. The Palestinian ministry obeys, and furthermore, judging by the experience of many residents and the lawyers who accompany them, it has stopped accepting any new applications altogether.

The logic: “The Israelis don’t handle them in any case.” Therefore, in legal terms there is no “exhausting of procedures,” and the families that are willing to challenge the system cannot appeal to Israel’s High Court of Justice….

So, here: I suggest to the Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry that it immediately accept new or renewed applications for family reunification. We journalists will gladly document the transfer of the copies in binders to the Civil Affairs Ministry, which is about a kilometer away, as well as those sent by email. Let us see then what the justices will have to say.

Read full article by Amira Hass here (published 26 July 2021)

Haaretz: ‘When I Fight With My Husband, I Have Nowhere to Go;’ What It’s Like Living as an ‘Illegal Resident’ in the West Bank

Once every three weeks, for over half a year, dozens of women, men and children gather for protest vigils in the West Bank city of El Bireh, under the slogan “Family reunification: my right.”

…”Israel has put a stop to our lives. We practically do not live,” they say. “We are the walking dead,” is how one woman summed it up.

Read full article by Amira Hass here (published 23 July 2021)

Right to Enter: Spouses of Palestinians Make Public Appeal for End to Forcible Separation of Their Families

Ramallah, 22 July 2021: A public letter, signed by dozens of American, European and other foreign national spouses of Palestinians, was issued last Wednesday protesting Israel’s continued failure to grant entry, renew visas, and issue permanent residency rights to foreign national spouses of Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

Read the full press release here (released 22 July 2021).

Spouses of Palestinians Issue Public Appeal: End Family Separation

We, the undersigned, are international passport holders married to Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem. Some of us reside full-time in Palestine with no residency rights, and some of us reside abroad.

All of us have been subject to discriminatory, cruel, and arbitrary practices by Israeli authorities that have caused us to face immense humanitarian difficulties such as being forcibly separated from our families in Palestine. In some cases, we have even been separated from our spouses and children for months after leaving the country  voluntarily or due to visa expiration.

Read the full letter including individual stories here (released 14 July, 2021).

The Washington Post: Israel Has Denied Certain Married Couples the Right To Live Together. Some Hide. Others Break Up.

EAST JERUSALEM — For two decades, Wafa Issa has lived like a prisoner in her own home on the gritty outskirts of this ancient city. Her world is her kitchen, her six children and the stables out back where the family keeps Arabian horses…..

It’s a sacrifice Issa has made to be with her East Jerusalem-born husband, who is a legal permanent resident of Israel. As a Palestinian born in the occupied territories, she has not been entitled to join him despite their marriage. Even if her husband were a full citizen of Israel, the legal right to live with her family still would be out of reach.

Read the full article here (posted on 17 July, 2021).

Electronic Intifada: Israel’s Apartheid Marriage Law Is the Essence of Zionism

Israel’s parliament failed to renew the so-called citizenship law, an apartheid measure designed to limit the number of indigenous Palestinians in the country. Despite the tie vote of 59-59 in the Knesset on Monday, the law’s failure was not due to any sudden awakening of anti-racism among Israeli leaders. Indeed the racist law is supported both by the new coalition government and the opposition led by Benjamin Netanyahu….

There should be no illusion that the lapsing of the law will offer any reprieve to Palestinian families divided by Israeli apartheid policies.

“Instead of the blanket prohibition on their receiving full residency rights, the families will have the option of applying for residency to the interior ministry, which will have to supply specific grounds if they deny them,” according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. The ministry will almost certainly try to smother them in bureaucracy and find every reason to deny them, but some may get through.”

That’s an optimistic assessment, not least because the interior minister is Ayelet Shaked, a member of Bennett’s Yamina. Shaked, a former justice minister, is notorious for promoting a call for genocide of the Palestinians on the eve of Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza. On Tuesday, Shaked accused the Likud opposition of teaming up with anti-Zionists and Palestinians in the Knesset to overturn “a law that is important for the security of the state and its character.” She claimed this was a “big victory for post-Zionism.”

That’s an admission – even if unintended – that Zionism and racism are inseparable.

Read the full article here (posted on 6 July, 2021).

Haaretz: Will Defeat of Citizenship Law Bring Thousands of Palestinians to Israel?

Will the expiration of the temporary amendment lead to a change in the status of the 15,000 Palestinians who have applied to live in Israel?

No. The expiration of the legislation isn’t retroactive, so it only applies to future requests by Palestinian spouses of Israelis to live in Israel. But Palestinians whose applications have been denied in the past will be able to submit a new one, which will have to be considered again.

With the expiration of the amendment, if Palestinians married to Israelis apply for the right to live in Israel, will their applications be approved automatically?

Not necessarily. As long as the temporary provision remained in force, any application submitted to the Interior Ministry was automatically denied unless the Interior Minister decided otherwise. When Arye Dery was interior minister, he approved the requests of several hundred Palestinians who had lived in Israel for many years. Now the situation is reversed.

Every application will be reviewed by the Shin Bet security service and if no security grounds are found to deny the application, it will be automatically approved – unless the interior minister decides otherwise. In other words, the current minister, Ayelet Shaked, now has the authority to reject applications for Israeli residency on an individual basis, and she is expected to do so.

So as a practical matter, the situation is not expected to change. Any application that can be denied will still be rejected, as was the case when the law was in force.

Read the full article here (posted on 6 July, 2021).

Rabet Docs: Fragmented Families

In this documentary two Palestinian siblings and a couple bravely share their stories of fragmentation and separation due to Israel’s apartheid Citizenship and Entry Law, which has separated them form their loved ones, at times, during the most dire circumstances.  Palestinians’ right to love, unite and be with their family is ruled by this law. It is essentially one rooted in intentional fragmentation, which prevents Palestinians from reuniting with family members or marrying depending on the ID they hold. The same law does not apply to Jewish citizens.  The law prohibits Palestinian citizens of Israel from granting residency or citizenship status to Palestinian spouses from the West Bank and Gaza, which essentially then affects every aspect of their lives including, employment, mobility, social welfare, and the citizenship status of their children. This law was first passed in 2003, by the Israeli Knesset. It was adopted as a “security” measure during the Second Intifada, which ended in 2005 — meaning it is a temporary law that needs to be renewed every year. Even after the Intifada ended, Israel continued to renew the law every year as a way to maintain racist demographic control against Palestinians.

See the film here (posted on 1 July, 2021).

June 2021

Haaretz: Israel’s Cruel Citizenship Law Is Rotten, Racist and Unredeemable

If everything wrong with Israeli politics, policy and democracy could be packaged into a single issue, it would be the Citizenship Law, beginning with its name.

In fact, the law bans citizenship for spouses of specific Israeli citizens. A common nickname, the “Family Reunification Law,” belies the fact that the law restricts residency for spouses of specific Israeli citizens. The “Law to Block Family Reunification,” as some news commentators say, would be better. Calling it the “Racist Family Separation Law” or “Law someone hopes will cause Palestinian couples to leave” would be the most accurate. And gaslighting terminology is just the start of what’s wrong.

The primary argument, that the law is essential for Israel security, holds little water.

Read the full article here (posted on 24 June, 2021).

Haaretz: Ban on Palestinian Family Reunifications: Demographic Warfare on Both Sides of 1967 Border

Nearly 20 years after this temporary law was passed, there is no disputing that it is a weapon in the demographic war Israel is waging to limit population growth among its Palestinian citizens and East Jerusalem residents. But the demographic war and its bureaucratic weapons, do not recognize the Green Line, Israel’s 1967 borders. It’s also being waged against Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip enclaves.

To this day, Israel controls the Palestinian population registry and decides who will receive a Palestinian ID card. Since it controls the borders, it also decides who will enter the West Bank or Gaza Strip, and for how long.

Read the full article here (posted on 21 June, 2021).

Haaretz: Israeli Apartheid? Look No Further Than This Racist Law

Some laws are a blot on Israel’s law books, and until they are removed Israel cannot be considered a democracy. One of the more despicable ones is the law that prevents its Arab citizens from unifying their families.

When a discussion of whether Israel is an apartheid state arises, and its propagandists claim that it isn’t, they cite as proof the absence of any racist laws in the country’s lawbooks. The law that will most likely be reaffirmed this week, for the 18th consecutive time, is definitive proof of the fact that not only are there apartheid practices in this country, there are apartheid laws here as well. “It’s best not to avoid the truth: Its existence in the lawbooks makes Israel an apartheid state,” wrote Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken in 2008. Thirteen years have passed, and this statement is truer than ever.

….To put it briefly: After the Law of Return, this is the law that exemplifies more than any other the domination of Jewish supremacism in this country. A Jew can share his life with whomever he or she chooses, and an Arab can’t. Just like that, despairingly and painfully simple. Any country that treated its Jewish citizens like that would be reviled.

Read the full article here (posted on 20 June, 2021).


April 2021

EU Observer: EU Parliamentarians Demand Israel Grant Permission for EU Observer Mission

The [Palestinian] legislative elections are taking place on 22 May. A presidential election is then also set for 31 July.

The European Union in February asked the Israeli government for permission to send an election observer mission to both. But they have yet to receive a response from Israel, derailing any chance of sending a fully-fledged mission for the 22 May polls.

(…) Meanwhile, some 57 MEPs are piling on the pressure for Israel to grant the EU permission to launch its election observer mission. All signed a letter demanding Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Israel’s ambassador to the EU, green light the observer mission.

“I hope that we will get a response to it, especially since it was representative of the five biggest parties in the parliament,” said Swedish socialist MEP Evin Incirs, who helped draft the letter.

Incirs said a number of MEPs have also demanded “an urgent meeting” with EU Parliament president, David Sassoli. The chair of the European parliament’s delegation to Palestine, Manu Pineda, made similar statements. He pointed out that the Oslo Accords gave the European Union the obligation to coordinate observer delegations.

Read the full report here.

US State Department: 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Israel, West Bank and Gaza

Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondence

Israeli authorities froze family unification proceedings for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in 2000. In 2019 the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected all 18 of HaMoked’s family unification petitions, stating that the petitions had been filed too late because they referred to old family unification cases. According to HaMoked, many of the petitioners were foreign nationals who had been living in the West Bank for 10-15 years with only visitor permits, who applied for family unification when they first arrived, and who never received an answer. …. In 2019, individuals from the West Bank and Gaza submitted 1,048 family unification applications, 584 of which were approved and 201 of which are pending, according to the Israeli government. In 2020, individuals from the West Bank and Gaza submitted 1,191 family unification applications, 340 of which were approved and 740 of which are pending, according to the Israeli government.

HaMoked stated there were likely thousands of foreign spouses living in the West Bank with their Palestinian partners, and often children, with only temporary tourist visas, a living situation that became more complicated under COVID-19 with the frequent closures of Allenby Bridge. HaMoked stated because these individuals used the Allenby Bridge to enter and depart the West Bank, the bridge’s closure left them with the choice of either potentially overstaying their visa or attempting to travel through Ben Gurion airport, which they are not permitted to do. HaMoked claimed the military’s refusal to review requests of foreign citizens for family unification is contrary to Israeli law and to Israeli-Palestinian interim Oslo Accords-era agreements. HaMoked stated the IDF rejected family unification requests based on a broad policy and not on the facts of the individual cases brought before it. As such, HaMoken stated, the practice does not appropriately balance relevant security needs and the right of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza–whom HaMoked stated were protected persons under international humanitarian law–to family life.

Stateless persons

According to NGOs, 40,000 to 50,000 Palestinians in Gaza lacked identification cards recognized by Israel. Some were born in Gaza but never recognized by Israel as residents; some fled Gaza during the 1967 war; and some left Gaza for various reasons after 1967 but later returned. A small number lacking recognized identification cards were born in Gaza and never left but had only Hamas-issued identification cards. Under the Oslo Accords, the PA administers the Palestinian Population Registry, although status changes in the registry require Israeli government approval. The Israeli government has not processed changes to the registry since 2000.

…There was no process for foreign spouses or foreign-born children of Palestinians to obtain permanent legal status in the West Bank. As a result many Palestinian children and young adults, especially those born abroad, are without legal status in the region where they have spent most or all of their lives.

Read the full report here.


March 2021

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor: The Gaza Strip – Undocumented Citizens

“…thousands of Palestinians – specifically in the Gaza Strip – are denied identity documents because they were not included in the Israeli-conducted population census in September 1967. These persons were able to enter Gaza either before 2000 through visitor permits given to them by the Israeli authorities and remain in Gaza, or after 2000 during the periods when the border wall between Egypt and Gaza was breached or smuggled through tunnels between the two sides.”

“Over 5,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip lack identity documents and are thus deprived of their civil and political rights ever since they returned to the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). Many of those, who suffer chronic and serious diseases, died after they had been unable to travel for medical treatment outside the oPt, considering the collapse of the health sector in Gaza, which is incapable of dealing with many difficult diseases that need delicate surgical interventions. They also cannot benefit from medical referrals to Israel, which are usually granted for those who need urgent operations or have serious or chronic diseases.”

Read the full report here.

The New Arab: ‘We’ve Been Locked Down for 15 years’: The Palestinian Women Fighting Israel’s Family Reunification Ban

Hend Almasri hasn’t seen her mother in 10 years. In 2012, the Jordanian native moved to Palestine with her husband and children and applied for family unification. She is still waiting for her request to be approved so she can obtain a Palestinian ID and move freely within Palestine. “People are complaining about being in lockdown for one year,” Hend Almasri said referring to coronavirus restrictions. “But we’ve been locked down for 10 or 15 years.” Without an ID and with her travel documents expired, Almasri is confined to her home in Nablus. She can’t get an education, open a bank account, get a driver’s license, a SIM card or access public health care. When Almasri’s mother became ill two months ago, she finally had enough. So Almasri – along with other women – began protesting on and offline for the right to family reunification.

The ‘Reunification Is My Right‘ campaign launched in 2017. But the upcoming Palestinian elections have reenergised the movement, with the activists hoping the current political climate will draw attention to their cause. On 21 February, the campaign held a sit-in outside of the office of the Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs, the entity responsible for following up on family reunification requests with Israel.

Read the full article here (posted on 8 March, 2021).

Middle East Eye: Thousands of Unregistered Palestinians Fear Deportation, Separation from Families

The fear of being deported constantly haunts 50-year-old Anna Morales. For the 23 years that she has lived in Palestine, the mother of six has been unable to obtain a residency ID.  Anna, an American woman, who met and wed her late husband in the United States lives with her children in the village of Surda, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Her husband passed away in 2015, leaving her worried about her children and their future.  She does not leave the village except on very rare occasions, and she never leaves the Ramallah governorate, for fear of crossing Israeli checkpoints which require identification to pass through. 

‘I live in constant fear. Fear of being deported, fear of being distanced from my children, fear of having to leave them here on their own’

– Anna Morales

Anna is one of the thousands who live in Palestine awaiting ID numbers, which Israel refuses to grant after it froze the process of “family unification” and family visits at the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, or Second Intifada, in 2000. Despite the risks they face for speaking to the media and raising their voices on the issue, a group of women has begun breaking their silence by launching a movement called “Family Reunification is My Right.” They have been active on social media and in organising protests.

Read the full article here (posted on 2 March 2021).


February 2021

Wattan: Stranded in their homeland, families appeal for family unification,  1 February 2021

يعيشون معاناة كبيرة جدا ويحرمون من رؤية عائلاتهم والتنقل بلا خوف داخل وطنهم

عالقون في وطنهم يناشدون الرئيس عبر وطن لتحريك ملف “لم الشمل” وتمكينهم من الحصول على هويات تعترف بوجودهم

Read and watch here.

الوزير حسين الشيخ: في كل جلسة مع الطرف الإسرائيلي نطرح ملف “لم الشمل” لكن التعطيل هو بقرار إسرائيلي وجزء من العقوبات علينا.. ماذا قال أيضًا؟..

Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh:

“In every session with the Israeli side, we raise the file
of ‘family reunification’, but the suspension [of hawiyeh issuance] is based on an Israeli decision and is part of the [Israeli] sanctions against us”.

Watch here.

Right to Enter: Update for third states, 8 February 2021

The Right to Enter Campaign has obtained information from lawyers indicating that the Coordination for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) has automatically extended visas of foreign passport holders in the West Bank valid on 10 January 2021 up until 31 March 2021. Those who have received visas not restricted to the West Bank may not be eligible for this automatic extension. This information has not been published by COGAT on an accessible platform, and has not been made available to the campaign in writing. 

The Right to Enter Campaign therefore recommends consular and representative offices to obtain written confirmation of the above extension from COGAT, prior to informing their citizens.

The Right to Enter Campaign also urges third States to continue advocating for their nationals and for a transparent, consistent and lawful policy — and accompanying procedures — governing the entry into and presence of foreign nationals in the oPt. Timely publication on an accessible platform of all significant updates to visa policies and procedures constitutes an essential part of a transparent, consistent and lawful policy.

Read the full statement here.


December 2020

Haaretz: When Revocation of Palestinians’ Residency Really Means Expulsion

In 1994 Israel revoked the residency status of 25,645 Palestinians born in the West Bank. That is almost one-fifth of the number of Palestinians whose residency status was revoked after the occupation of the territories in 1967: 140,000. …It’s only clear that right before the handling of the population registry was transferred from the Civil Administration to the PA, civilian and military bureaucrats hastened to get rid of as many listed Palestinian residents as possible.

Read the full article here (posted on 21 December 2020).

Haaretz: Living in the West Bank – and in Limbo

Though we are due to relocate to the United States in less than three weeks, we are still waiting, hoping the Israeli military will grant us a permit to fly.

Read the full article here (posted on 18 December 2020).


November 2020

Right to Enter: Update for 3rd States, 29 November 2020

Visa renewals for foreign nationals residing in the oPt’s West Bank have currently been pursued directly via the Civil Administration in Beit El in light of the end of Palestinian coordination. It is not clear yet if the visa procedures in place prior to the end of coordination will be resumed or not.

We are aware that a number of individuals previously denied visas were granted visas without being given any legitimate explanations for the previous denials, which often came at great personal and/or institutional costs. This highlights the arbitrary nature of such denials. Concerns have also continued as to arbitrary time limitations for the visas being issued (some valid for as little as 2 months) without specific justification.

Foreign nationals have also reported conditions that are currently difficult, if not impossible, to meet being attached to the issuance of visas – for example, requiring their exit from the country during the
pandemic, without any guarantee of their re-entry. The Right to Enter Campaign urges third States to advocate for their nationals and demand that Israel put into place a transparent, consistent and lawful policy — and accompanying procedures — governing the entry into and presence of foreign nationals in the oPt.

Read the full article here.


October 2020

HaMoked: Another Story of Coronavirus Border Closures, Restrictive Israeli Policies, and the Families Caught in Between

Originally from the Balkans, Anna (alias) lives in the West Bank with her Palestinian husband and their two young children. When the first Coronavirus lockdown ended in May, Anna decided to take her children for a short visit to her parents.

Anna and her children flew to Europe from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. As they were leaving, the family was told that, because the children are Palestinians, they would not be allowed to return via Israel, but would have to return via Jordan and enter the West Bank through the Allenby Bridge Border Crossing. But here’s the catch: due to Coronavirus, Jordan has closed the Allenby Bridge to regular traffic. It is only allowing pre-coordinated transit for Palestinians. But Anna is not a Palestinian. As a European, she is not currently allowed through Allenby.

Read the full article here (posted on 29 October 2020).

Al-Jazeera: Israel Stops Issuing Visas to UN Human Rights Workers in Palestine

Israel has stopped issuing visas to United Nations human rights workers in Palestine, forcing them to leave, while also banning a Palestinian pop star from returning home. Nine of 12 foreign staff from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – including country director James Heenan – had to leave Israel and the Palestinian territories for fear of being undocumented after Israeli authorities refused to renew their visas.

Read the full article here.

Middle East Eye: Exclusive – Israel Stops Granting Visas to UN Human Rights Workers

The UN Office of the High Commission on Human Rights foreign employees are left in limbo amid Israeli crackdown on human rights monitors.

Read the full article here.

Haaretz: How Evangelicals Working in Settlements Bypassed Israel’s COVID-19 Entry Ban

Despite most non-citizens being refused entry due to the coronavirus, a phone call to a former lawmaker and an application glossing over a key fact allowed 70 evangelical volunteers to receive visas in August… so that they could help out with the grape harvest at several settlements in the West Bank. The decision to grant entry to the evangelical group sparked outrage among Catholic organizations and churches active in Israel, whose requests to bring over volunteers and staffers have repeatedly been rejected since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Read the full article here.

Vice: Tens of Thousands of Palestinian Newborns Blocked from Traveling

A halt in security coordination between Israel and Palestine has left infants off of registration rolls and in limbo.

When Saleh Totah and his wife, Morgan Cooper, had their baby girl Lourice this summer, they couldn’t wait to bring her to California to meet her maternal grandparents. But the couple, based in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, quickly realised they faced an unexpected challenge: according to the Israeli authorities who rule over the Palestinian territory, Lourice did not exist.

Read the full article here.


September 2020

Haaretz: A Palestinian Student Wants a Visa to Europe? Let Him Do Research in Gaza

The Be’er Sheva District Court, sitting as an administrative court, dared to rule that S.O., a Palestinian doctoral student in engineering, must be allowed to leave the Gaza Strip for Tel Aviv in order to receive a visa for the European state in which he is meant to begin his research on October 1. But Israel is determined to block the 28-year-old Gazan man from realizing his dream. To this end, it enlisted its endless supply of time, resources, clerks, officers and jurists. So important was it for Israel to shoot down S.O.’s scholarship and his research that it hastened to appeal the Be’er Sheva court’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court justices did not disappoint.

Read the full article here.

National Public Radio: What Does It Take for a Palestinian American Baby to Travel from Israel to the US?

This summer, California native Morgan Cooper delivered a healthy baby girl at the home she shares with her Palestinian American husband Saleh Totah in the West Bank city of Ramallah. But according to Israel, which occupies the West Bank, their baby Lourice did not officially exist.

Since Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967, Israel has kept track of their population. Now an estimated 70,000 newborns aren’t in Israel’s registry, and Israeli border authorities will not let them leave.

Read the full article here.


August 2020

Right to Enter: Update for 3rd States, 12 August, 2020

We further stress that these latest problems occur in the context of Israel’s continued freeze on family unification for families with foreign nationals, and Israel’s on-going failure to provide a transparent, internationally lawful and consistently applied policy and accompanying procedures for foreign nationals seeking to enter or extend visas in the oPt. This situation continues to cause harm to local institutions, including institutions of higher education, as well
as the break-up or coerced emigration of families.

We therefore urge third States to scrutinise the international lawfulness, the clarity and transparency, and the consistent application of any new policy and accompanying procedures, as well as any temporary measures issued and applied by the GoI/COGAT for the purpose of regulating entry and presence in the oPt, and to formally object to any attempts by the occupying power to regulate entry and presence of foreign nationals in the oPt in a manner contrary to its international obligations.

Read the full letter here.

Journal of Theoretical Inquiries in Law: How the Law of Return Creates One Legal Order in Palestine

A case-law study regarding family life between spouses and their children in Palestine: “Contrary to the legal literature, the Israeli Supreme Court has never recognized the right of family life of the Palestinians as a legal right and the deportation, fragmentation and separation of Palestinian families has been its main policy since 1948.”

“As Justice Cheshin ruled in Adalah that the “key to the gate” belongs to the absolute discretion of the state and is not a matter of insiders’ rights, Justice Shamgar, in 1986, stated:

The State of Israel is not willing to accept a situation in which any resident of the region who so wishes can marry a woman from outside and bring her here, or any [female] resident of the region, or her family, can decide that she will marry someone living abroad and bring him to the region. The decision about who will enter and who will settle in one of the regions (Judea and Samaria, or the Gaza Strip) is a matter for the government’s decision, and no resident is entitled to impose his private decision on the government in this matter.

Read the full article here.


June 2020

Right to Enter: Letter to 3rd States Regarding Visa Situation of Foreign Nationals in the oPt, 22 June 2020

“It would appear, in light of the above facts, that reliable written guarantees are needed from the competent Israeli authorities that, in the absence of coordination and functioning mechanisms for visa extensions, foreign nationals overstaying valid visas will not be penalised. This would be the only way for foreign nationals to currently rest assured that they can stay with their families in the oPt, remain in active employment with their relevant institutions and organisations in the oPt, and /or avoid hazardous travel with no guarantee of an ability to coordinate return at any time in the reasonable future. It would also appear that guarantees would only be reliable if they do not in any way depend on an applicant’s ability to obtain any documentation from the PA in relation to application submissions.”

Read the full letter here.


May 2020

Right to Enter: Letter to American Citizen Services, US Embassy Jerusalem

“We are writing regarding information sent to US citizens on 30 April about the COVID19 extension of Israeli visa validity and in particular the notice that the automatic extension to 30 June does not apply to visitor permits for US citizens in the West Bank. We would like to understand the source of this information as it contradicts information provided by Israel’s Civil Administration and the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)…”

Read the full letter here.


November 2019

Right to Enter: “Birzeit University Continues To Lose International Faculty as Israel Persists in Discriminatory Policy”

“Heightened restrictions on Birzeit University’s right to hire and maintain international faculty persist into the 2019-2020 academic year. Israel has escalated what can only be understood as a policy whose ultimate goal is the elimination of any international faculty presence at Palestinian universities.”

Read the full statement here.

Human Rights Watch: “Israel: Supreme Court Greenlights Deporting Human Rights Watch Official.”

“The Supreme Court has effectively declared that free expression in Israel does not include completely mainstream advocacy for Palestinian rights,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “If the government now deports Human Rights Watch’s researcher for asking businesses to respect rights as we do across the world, there’s no telling whom it will throw out next.”

Read the full statement here.

Washington Post: “Israel Supreme Court Allows Expulsion of Human Rights Activist.”

“The ruling represents the likely culmination of the protracted effort to remove Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen, and marks an escalation in Israel’s determination to prevent critics from operating in the country under new laws that equate support for the boycotts, divestments and sanctions movement (BDS) with challenging Israel’s right to exist.”

Read the full piece here.


October 2019

Right to Enter: New (Illegal) U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Impotent To Serve U.S. Citizens Under Israeli Jurisdiction

“Recent email replies from the U.S. Embassy to affected US citizens reveal volumes regarding a U.S. foreign policy gone astray. While the current U.S. Administration has obliged a fanatic right-wing Israeli government with its most outrageous requests (closing the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and moving the U.S. Embassy are just two of many examples), that same Administration is completely impotent to serve the interests of its own citizens in Israeli-occupied territory. Rather, like prior U.S. Administrations, the Trump administration is not even able to get the Israeli authorities to reply to inquiries on behalf of its own citizens. The U.S. has failed to secure satisfactory resolution to multiple complaints of arbitrary and discriminatory visa procedures and treatment of its citizens at Israeli-controlled borders for well over a decade.”

Read the full statement here.


August 2019

Haaretz: “Israeli University Heads Say Won’t Intervene in Discrimination Against Palestinian Schools.”

“Committee says refusal to grant visas to guest lecturers is not in its purview. Hundreds of academics ask top officials to match guidelines at West Bank institutions to those at Israeli ones.”

Read the full piece here.

Haaretz: “Israel Willing to Let Gazans Who Want to Emigrate to Fly Out via Its Territory, Official Says.”

“Israeli authorities are willing to allow Gaza Strip residents who want to emigrate to fly out via Israel if a country is found to accept them, a senior government official said on Monday. According to the official, Israel would even pay for the flight. The official added that the government had asked a few countries, including some in the Middle East, whether they would be willing to accept Palestinians from Gaza, and was turned down.”

Read the full piece here.

National Public Radio: “Reversing Earlier Ban, Israel Permits Limited Visit For Rep. Rashida Tlaib.”

“Israel said it would allow entry to the Michigan congresswoman to visit her aging grandmother in the West Bank after announcing earlier that it would bar her from visiting.”

Listen to the full piece here.

Truthout: “Israel Systematically Blocks International Scholars From Reaching Palestine.”

“In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, however, Israel routinely blocks international scholars from reaching Palestinian universities and places severe restrictions on their movement, preventing them from fulfilling their scholarly duties and depriving Palestinian students of critical educational opportunities. These actions infringe on Palestinians’ right to education as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Read the full piece here.

LRB Blog: “Concrete Conditions.” 

“Restrictions on what, and who, is allowed into the West Bank aren’t new. But it’s getting harder for foreign academics to teach at universities in Palestine, according to the legal rights groups Adalah and Al-Haq. Haneen Adi is a US citizen and English literature teacher at Birzeit. In November 2017, the Israeli authorities wouldn’t renew her visa. She has not left the West Bank since. She has missed her sister’s wedding and the death of a relative. Her father was denied entry when he tried to visit her.”

Read the full piece here.

Al Fanar Media: “Palestinian Universities Say Israeli Restrictions Force Foreign Professors Out.”

“The Israeli authorities increasingly are refusing to issue work permits for foreign academics who work in Palestinian universities in the occupied West Bank, education officials and human rights organizations say. Some 32 foreign and Palestinian professors and lecturers with foreign passports working at eight Palestinian universities have been subjected to Israeli restrictions on visas to enter or stay in the Palestinian territories, according to a study published last year by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education.”

Read the full piece here.


July 2019

Times Higher Education: “Israel’s restrictions on international academics at Palestinian universities must be opposed.”

“This is more than simple harassment. These actions are intended to show the deep reach of the Israeli state into all aspects of Palestinian life. In this case, it is interference with whatever semblance of normal functioning Palestinian universities might have. It sends the message that Israel does not want international scholars in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and that if one wants to travel there to teach, Israel will make that as hard as possible….
While the denial of visas to international scholars might seem a small inconvenience by comparison, put into the context of the overall weakened conditions of Palestinian schools and universities, as well as the totality of deprivation the Palestinians suffer under, it is a terrible thing indeed. The international community, especially the international academic community, needs to wake up.”
Read the full piece here.

The Italian Society for Middle East Studies (SeSaMO), Statement of Solidarity:

“Our academic society deeply believes in scientific collaboration, and in the need to guarantee the safety of researchers as an indispensable prerequisite for any kind of scientific collaboration. SeSaMO auspicates that the Israeli authorities will ensure full freedom of movement and of work to all the international colleagues teaching in the occupied Palestinian territory.”
.

Inside Higher Ed: “No Passage to Palestinian Universities.”

“Not a single international faculty member, with the exception of those directly employed by foreign government-sponsored programs, was issued a visa for the length of their 2018-2019 academic year contract,” the university said in a July 20 press release. “As of press time, six full-time international faculty members contracted for the 2018-2019 academic year are without valid visas; another five — including a department chair — are overseas with no clear indications of whether they will be able to return and secure visas required for them to stay for the coming academic year. Over 12 departments and programs face losing faculty members in the coming academic year because of the Israeli policy.”

Read the full piece here.

+972 Magazine: “Jordan turns back stateless Palestinian journalist Israel tried to deport.”

“When al-Haruf was 12 years old, his Palestinian father returned from Algeria to Jerusalem with his children, although it took him years to formalize his children’s residency status in the city. By that point, Al-Haruf was over 18 years old — too old to get status along with his siblings….

In 2016, Al-Haruf married an East Jerusalem Palestinian woman with whom he had a daughter. He applied for family unification, which was rejected on security grounds….

In his decision rejecting al-Haruf’s request for an injunction, Supreme Court Justice Hendel wrote that the Interior Ministry admits that al-Haruf’s Jordanian travel document does not constitute evidence of Jordanian citizenship. Nevertheless, Hendel wrote that “the state remains consistent in its claim that the applicant has some status in Jordan and that he can be sent there.” According to his decision, the burden of proof is on al-Huruf and his attorneys to demonstrate that he lacks status in Jordan.”

Read the full piece here.

Latest RTE Situation Update – July 2019

“Reports of maladministration and haphazard issuing of visas on part of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and Israel’s Ministry of Interior continue. Family unification remains officially frozen. There have been reports of a foreign national who received a B2 visitor’s visa, stamped “not permitted to work” on the basis of their employment with a local organization in the West Bank then being subsequently denied a visa extension due to “working” in the West Bank on that same visa. Visa processing times continue to be well over one month, with continued reports that people leaving the country in order to renew their visas are denied re-entry. Reports of other arbitrary entry denials continue, including reports of foreign nationals being refused entry on the basis that they had not secured prior “coordination” for entry into the West Bank from COGAT.”

Download the full update here.

Adalah Press Release: “Israel forcing international lecturers out of West Bank Palestinian universities.”

“Israel is refusing to issue work permits for international academics working at Palestinian universities in the occupied West Bank and is escalating a harsh visa policy that is forcing them to abandon their students and leave the country. Murky and arbitrary Israeli regulations leave international lecturers and their families in constant uncertainty and subject to deportation at any time.

Now, a Palestinian university in the West Bank, together with two Palestinian human rights groups, are taking legal action.”

Read the full piece here.

الغد: إسرائيل ترفض تجديد تأشيرات المحاضرين الأجانب بالضفة

Middle East Studies Association Letter to Israeli Ministers:

“We therefore call upon you to ensure that these professors can renew their visas, and that the academic restrictions, whose sole purpose is to make it exceedingly difficult for foreign nationals to work in academic institutions in Palestine, be abolished immediately. We join the call from Birzeit University, Al-Haq, and Adalah–the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel–for an immediate halt to this policy of targeting Palestinian academic freedom and Palestinian institutions of higher learning. We ask that Israel lift the restrictions preventing international academics from staying and working in the West Bank, refrain from imposing arbitrary restrictions on the duration of stay or extension of stay for international academics, and order the publication of a clear and lawful procedure for issuing entry visas and work permits for international academics in the West Bank, to enable the university to manage and maintain its academic freedom.”

Read the full letter here.

Haaretz: “Israel’s Academy for Indifference.”

“Whether it’s a lot or a little, what’s important is not the individual numbers but the principle. If there were a clear and convenient procedure, similar to that in Israel, we can assume that the number of music teachers and lecturers of sciences or in various interdisciplinary tracks would be even greater, whether filling the currently missing positions or developing new fields. We can also assume that other Palestinian universities – which hire fewer foreigners, or none at all – would also like to expand and enrich their faculty with guests from abroad.”

Read the full piece here.

Haaretz: “As Israel Tightens Entry Rules, Foreign Lecturers at Palestinian Universities Forced to Leave.”

“He found that their visas aren’t extended and they’re required to leave before the end of the academic year, or they’re not allowed to return for the next year. Some decide not to abandon their students in the middle of the year and are left without a valid visa. In fact they’re imprisoned in the Ramallah enclave. They don’t leave for fear that a soldier at a checkpoint will check their passport will order their deportation.”

Read the full article here.

Middle East Monitor: “Israel restricting visas for academics visiting Palestine universities.”

“One university particularly affected is Birzeit, a prominent institution located near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. An affiliate of Birzeit, the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, “reported a 200% increase in visa denials over the past two academic years,” Adalah and Al-Haq noted.

In addition, seven international lecturers working at Birzeit were forced to leave the country because their visas were not renewed, while a further two staff members were denied entry altogether.”

Read the full article here.

University World News: “Israel blocks international academics in West Bank, Gaza.”

“Two NGOs have accused Israel of preventing international academics from working at universities in Occupied Palestinian Territory by preventing them from entering the country and refusing to renew visas for those with teaching contracts in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Read the full article here.

June 2019

Haaretz: “Europeans Seeking to Live With Palestinian Kin Must Face Long Arm of Israeli Bureaucracy.”

“Indeed, as Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told Haaretz on Wednesday: ‘After postponements (not by the Foreign Ministry), a work meeting has been set at the Foreign Ministry next week on the issue with a number of consuls from Europe. Representatives of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories have also been invited, who will consider the issues raised there involving their areas of responsibility.'”

Read the full piece here.


May 2019

Haaretz: “What a Palestinian Woman Has to Do to Visit Her Native West Bank Village.”

“And like tens of thousands of other “mixed” families in which either the husband or wife is not a permanent resident of the West Bank, they live in legal, social and psychological limbo. Over the years, and again last year, Haaretz has reviewed the policy towards these families, whose fate is in Israel’s hands because it controls the Palestinian population registry and decides who is included and who isn’t.”

Read the full piece here.

Haaretz: “Israel Seeks to Block All East Jerusalem Family Reunification Hearings Over ‘Workload.'”

“The protracted delays have caused difficulties for hundreds of families. Hundreds of children living in East Jerusalem don’t have medical coverage because they don’t have Israeli identity cards. Some parents encounter difficulties enrolling them for school, and older children are afraid of being alone on the street for fear of being picked up by police for lack of documentation. Some families are also forced to live apart until they get their answer.”

Read the full article here.

April 2019

Haaretz Editorial: “You Married a Palestinian.” 

“The Zoughbis and those tens of thousands of other families live in the West Bank – not Israel – so the consideration of “illegal immigration” is strange and can only indicate Israel’s obsessive fear of Palestinian population growth. But a family’s right to conduct its life as it chooses, where a couple chooses, is a basic human right. The new policy must be based on full recognition of this right.”

Read the full piece here.

Haaretz: “This American-Palestinian Endangers Israeli Public Security.”

“Zoughbi and I got married in 1990. As soon as we were married, we should have been granted some legal status which would have allowed me to reside in Bethlehem as his spouse. We did everything we were told to do and applied to the Israeli Civil Administration for ‘family reunification status’ … but every single application was denied. This, compared to my American friends married to Israelis who receive legal status and rights within the first few months of being married. The government of Israel has set up both systems, but the system set up for Palestinians was set up to fail. Sure, there is an application process, but when no one is approved, what kind of process is it, really?”

Read the full piece here.

Haaretz: “Hundreds of Gazans Asked to Celebrate Easter in Jerusalem – Israel Let 200 Go to Jordan.”

Christians from the Gaza Strip used to receive a permit to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and to participate in the ceremonies, but this year only 200 Christians over the age of 55 are being allowed to leave the Strip for the holiday – and only to Jordan, via the Allenby border crossing.

Read the full piece here.


March 2019

Haaretz Opinion: “A German Affair, Not Just a Love Story in Palestine.”

“The diplomats did right to attend the hearing, since this individual case is tied to a general matter of principle: Why on earth does Israel forbid citizens of these countries to live peacefully and securely with their Palestinian spouses in Bethlehem, Ramallah or Jenin? Why does Israel discriminate against U.S., South American and European citizens, in comparison to other citizens of those same countries, only because they married Palestinians who are residents of the West Bank (and Jerusalem), and not Jews?”

Read the full piece here.

Press Release: “Israel High Court hearing in PIVOTAL CASE on FAMILY UNITY for Palestinians with foreign spouses in the oPt.”

“On 28 March 2019, the case of Josefin Herbach and Abed Salaymah v. the State of Israel will be heard in Israel’s High Court of Justice. The appellants, a West Bank ID holder and a German citizen, are petitioning for their right to live together in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The Herbach/Salaymah request for a Palestinian ID, which will enable Josefin to permanently reside in the West Bank, was denied on the grounds that being married wasn’t “sufficiently humanitarian” to warrant residency. The hearing is scheduled for 11:30 am, in Hall 3 of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem. The ruling will potentially address the right of Palestinian residents of the oPt to maintain family life with their foreign spouses in the oPt, and the ability of those foreign spouses to obtain a Palestinian ID in the oPt through family unification.”

Read the full release in Arabic here and in English here.

Haaretz: “The Secret Palestinian Doomsday Weapon.”

“Israel prevents Palestinians from living with their foreign partners, one strategy among many to expel them from their land and deny their rights because of ‘political issues'”

Read the full piece here.

Haaretz: “Israel Seeks to Deport East Jerusalem Photographer to Jordan, Where He Can’t Stay.”

“The Interior Ministry has ordered the expulsion of Palestinian press photographer Mustafa al-Kharouf, 31, who was born in Algeria but has lived in Jerusalem with his family since age 12 and is married to a woman from E. Jerusalem.”

Read the full piece here.

Haaretz: “He’s Palestinian, she’s German, but only an Israeli stamp lets them live together in the West Bank.”

“Thousands of spouses of Palestinians are denied permanent resident status and must continually obtain entry visas and visitor permits, or suffer forced separations.”

Read the full piece here.

The Real News Network: “Israeli Policies Force Family Separations.” 

“Al Haq’s director Shawan Jabarin discusses a new report exposing the complex system of restrictions Israeli authorities impose to control access to Palestinian territory and to stop family reunification. The consequences is to slowly force Palestinians out to preserve a Jewish majority in areas controlled by Israel.”

Listen to the full interview here.

Reuters: “Israeli deportation hearing focuses on Human Right Watch official’s tweets”

“The case hinges in part on Shakir’s pro-BDS tweeting before he became Human Rights Watch’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2016, and whether his statements after the appointment also constitute such support.”

Read the full piece here.


February 2019

Press Release: “Petition to Israeli HC demands amendments to flawed policy for entry of foreigners to West Bank”

“A principled petition demanding that COGAT and the Civil Administration amend their “Policy on the Entry of Foreigners into the West Bank” was submitted to Israel’s High Court of Justice on 18 February. The petition addresses numerous flaws in Israeli policy of issuing visas and how these violate both Israeli and international law. Among the amendments demanded were: clearly outlining terms for work and volunteer visas; granting foreign spouses of Palestinians the right to work; treating Jordanians wishing to enter or stay in the West Bank like citizens of other countries with diplomatic relations with Israel; granting foreign nationals multiple-entry visas; and nullifying the current restriction of work to five years and three months.”

Read the full piece here.

972 Magazine: “Israel trying to deport stateless Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem”

“Mustafa al-Haruf has spent the last 20 years living in East Jerusalem, where he has a wife, daughter, and works as a photographer. Now Israel wants to deport him to Jordan, where he has no family or legal status.”

Read the full piece here.

Latest RTE Situation Update – February 2019

“In a nutshell, no significant changes can be reported since our last update in August 2018, except for the deepening and expansion of the harm caused to the Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) resulting from Israel’s continued obstruction of movement and access:

  • 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza remain in “lock down” for well over two decades running.
  • The freezing of family unification applications since 2000 continues – affecting tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. 
  • Foreign nationals wishing to enter the oPt or secure visa renewals for the oPt are still without a clear, consistently-applied policy and accompanying procedures that are in accordance with Israel’s relevant international obligations.
  • Israel continues to control the population registry for the oPt and to use it in a political manner, causing serious harm to the Palestinian population.”

Download the full update here.

Al Haq: Engineering Community: Family Unification, Entry Restrictions and other Israeli Policies of Fragmenting Palestinians

This report broadly examines how Israel has defined belonging to mandate Palestine, and has sought to diminish Palestinian presence through an array of targeted, systematic policies and practices. A special focus will be given to the issue of family unification, as well as the barriers that foreigners, including those of Palestinian descent, face in entering and residing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) due to Israeli policies. While Palestinian citizens of Israel face numerous obstacles under law in regards to family unification, and are part and parcel of Israel’s historic targeting of Palestinians, and although Palestinians in Gaza and foreign national spouses therein face extreme hardships due to Israel’s prolonged closure of the area, the scope of the report has been limited to issues faced by Palestinians and foreigners in the West Bank, including Jerusalem. However, for comparison, and to highlight the discriminatory nature of Israel’s policies, this report first examines entry, naturalization, and citizenship in Israel. Through illustrating some of the policies used in controlling the presence of foreign nationals in the OPT, the report seeks to also underscore Israel’s unjust administration as Occupying Power, which obstructs life in the OPT, creating uncertainty and instability.

Read the full report here.

Al Jazeera: “Love in times of Israeli apartheid”

“Indeed, on Valentine’s Day, there will be many partners and lovers who will suffer, being forcefully separated by racist policies and colonial borders. For Palestinians, this is just another fact of life that Israel enforces upon them.

So many Palestinians are unable to build their lives with their loved ones because they are simply banned from being in the same place.”

Read the full piece here.

The Nation: “Love in the Time of Apartheid”

“Friday morning came; I crossed the checkpoint to get into the city I was born in, Jerusalem, and proceeded to take a bus towards Nazareth to meet my future in-laws and prepare for our engagement. Some of my closest family had been denied permits, but a few of my aunts and uncles as well as my late grandfather’s wife and a handful of cousins were able to attend and loved it. They felt a connection to our new family and celebrated as if it were their own child’s engagement. My fiancée’s parents were the most loving and welcoming people I could hope for.”

Read the full piece here.


January 2019

Haaretz: “Weaponizing medical treatment to keep Palestinians divided.”

“But that’s what Israel habitually does to patients from the Gaza Strip: If they have a relative who has moved out of Gaza to live and work in Ramallah, in the West Bank, for example, Israel prohibits them from leaving Gaza for essential medical care not available in Gaza. It conditions granting them an exit permit for medical treatment on the relative in Ramallah first returning to live in the Strip.”

Read more here.


November 2018

This Week in Palestine: “Family Issues.”

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians are affected by the fact that since 2000, Israel has all but frozen the process of family unification. In theory, it is still granted in exceptional humanitarian circumstances, but in fact, such circumstances are simply not acknowledged.”

Read the full piece here.

Nature, International Journal of Science: “In the Palestinian territories, science struggles against all odds.” 

“Foreigners need a visa from Israel to enter the occupied territories, and Palestinian universities have reported a sudden increase in the number of faculty members who have had visa problems. A survey carried out by the Palestinian Ministry of Education found that in the past two academic years, more than half of the 64 foreign faculty members in Palestinian universities have had visas denied or delayed without explanation. At a press conference in July, Saidam said that the problem is ‘undermining the quality of education and research programmes at our universities’.”

Read the full article here.

Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York (PSC-CUNY) Resolution 

“Resolved that in an act of solidarity, PSC-CUNY demand a halt to the attack on the academic freedom of Birzeit University faculty and students instigated by the Israeli government’s practice of denying access to and presence of international educators and academics contributing to Palestinian’s educational development and

Resolved that PSC-CUNY call on the AFT to convey to the Israeli government to adopt and implement a clearly documented and transparent policy enabling access to foreign nationals who are coming to educate or to promote educational development in Birzeit and other Palestinian universities and

Resolved that all entry denials and visa extension refusals issued to international academics be remedied by relevant Israeli authorities without delay.”

Read the full resolution here.

Scholars at Risk Network, Academic Freedom Monitoring Project:

“Scholars at Risk is concerned about apparently arbitrary restrictions on travel and immigration status of foreign university faculty, which inevitably harm universities by divesting them of long-term faculty and  limit the international exchange of ideas on campus. Restrictions on travel intended to restrict academic freedom, freedom of expression, or related rights may violate applicable international humanitarian law or human rights standards. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party, and which protects the “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers.” Authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom and not to interfere with academic activity, so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, travel restrictions targeting higher education institutions have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.”

Read more here.

Haaretz: “Saved From Deportation, Jewish-American Activist Approved for Israeli Citizenship.”

“Her deportation was averted after two lawmakers from the left-wing Meretz party intervened on her behalf. After undergoing questioning at the airport for two-and-a-half hours, Weinberg-Connors was told that she would be allowed to enter the country on the condition that she not visit the West Bank without a permit from the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories.”

Read more here.


October 2018

Middle East Monitor: “UK urged to stand up for Palestinian education.”

“The UK government has been urged to “stand up for Palestinian students and educators”, in a letter sent yesterday by Friends of Birzeit University (Fobzu) and representatives of major education unions.

The letter, signed by the heads of the University and College Union (UCU), National Education Union (NEU), and Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), as well as the deputy general secretary of NASUWT and national secretary for education at UNISON, expresses ‘concern about the declining access to the occupied Palestinian territory and the impact this is having on Palestinian education’.”

Read the full article here.

Friends of Birzeit University and British Academic Unions: Letter to The Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP

“As a new academic year begins in Palestine, we therefore request that the government respond to the demands of Palestinian students and teachers and:

1. Support international efforts to hold Israel accountable for its violations and ensure its adherence to international law;

2. Stand up for Palestinian higher education and demand an end to Israel’s arbitrary and harmful practice of restricting and denying access of Palestinian universities to international staff contributing to Palestinian educational life;

3. Defend Palestinians’ right to education by taking action to ensure Israel fulfils its international obligations and adopts an entry and residence policy for foreign nationals in the oPt that is clear, documented and transparent.”

Read the full letter here.

British Society for Middle Eastern Studies: “Letter from BRISMES protesting against Israeli violations of Palestinian academic freedom.”

“These measures appear to have been implemented in an arbitrary and opaque manner. They have forced professors and staff to quit their jobs and even to leave the country. They stifle hiring and employment processes. They restrict research and teaching. They disrupt administration. They imply stress and humiliation for the Palestinian academic community in general. These measures clearly violate Palestinian and foreign nationals’ academic freedom and further degrade Palestinian teaching and research.”

Read the full letter here.

Haaretz: “Israel Seeks to Deport to Brazil Man Who Has Lived Almost Entire Life in West Bank.”

“The case highlights problem of tens of thousands of Palestinians under constant threat of deportation, due to Israel’s freeze of family reunification requests.”

Read the full piece here.

Letter to the Editor, The Guardian: “Israel must lift its bar on US student Lara Alqasem.”

Denying entry to foreign students based on political beliefs or ethnic heritage is an attack on academic freedom. As professors who are committed to academic freedom, and as humans who reject all forms of racial profiling, we are calling on the Israeli authorities to permit Lara Alqasem to enter Israel and pursue her studies.

Read the full piece here.

Press Release, PLO Department of Culture and Information: “Dr. Ashrawi meets with diplomatic representatives.”

“In that context, Dr. Ashrawi stressed, ‘Current conditions are unlawful and unsustainable. Families are torn apart, institutional sustainability is undermined, and healthy social and economic development is blocked.  We call on the international community to bring Israel to comply with international law and international humanitarian law and ensure its immediate articulation and implementation of clear and consistent procedures for administering entry into and removing restrictions on movement and longer-term stay in occupied Palestine.'”

Read the full piece here.


September 2018

Times Higher Education: “Israeli restrictions on overseas academics are holding Palestinian universities back.”

“Palestinian students have few options to study abroad, so if they are to acquire a quality education with an international outlook it is vital that local universities be able to tap into international expertise. Yet residency cards have been denied even to some Palestinian-born faculty who have sought to pass on to local students the invaluable knowledge and skills they derived from an education in the US or Europe.”

Read the full piece here.

Academe Blog: “Foreign Scholars Prevented from Teaching at West Bank Universities.”

“Whatever one’s position on the Israel/Palestine conflict, this seems to me a clear case of the exercise of arbitrary and discriminatory power, the violation of the academic freedom of universities (to chose their own faculties) and of faculty members (to teach in positions for which they have been hired).”

Read the full piece here.


August 2018

Latest RTE Situation Update – August 2018

Download the full update here.

972 Magazine: “Israel is making it impossible for foreign nationals to live in the West Bank.”

“Approximately tens of thousands of foreign nationals and their family members who are residents of the West Bank are harmed by this policy. However, the issue rarely receives news coverage, both in Israel and the West…What is especially frustrating is the fact that the countries whose citizens are impacted by this policy completely ignore it.”

Read the full piece here.

Call to Academics: Endorse Birzeit University’s statement by contacting Ghassan Khatib: gkhatib@birzeit.edu

Click here for other recommended actions.

The Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs will now provide receipts for tanseeq applications (for those applying for work-related visas, and to lem shemil (family unification) applicants, including dates of application and transfer of file to Israel.

Call to United States Citizens to submit their case to the United States Consulate in Jerusalem. Learn more here

Middle East Studies Association Letter to Israeli Ministers:

“We therefore call upon you to ensure that these professors can renew their visas, and that the academic restrictions, whose sole purpose is to make it exceedingly difficult for foreign nationals to work in academic institutions in Palestine, be abolished immediately. More specifically, we ask that Israel abolish these random denials of entry to foreign nationals traveling to the West Bank and Gaza, adopt a transparent policy, and provide assurances that academics who have been unjustly denied entry will be allowed to re-enter the West Bank and Gaza. We also ask that the Israeli authorities cancel the policy that restricts foreign academics to the West Bank, and respect their right to freedom of movement.”

Read full letter here.


July 2018

Haaretz Opinion: “Destroying Palestinian Universities”

“As Israeli students are finishing their final exams, Palestinian students in the occupied territories don’t know whether their institutions will be opening for the coming academic year or if their lecturers will continue to teach, as dozens of lecturers with European and American citizenship are being expelled.”

Read full piece here.

RTE Press Release: “Palestinian University professors threatened with expulsion from West Bank”

“On 8th June 2018, seven international faculty members at Birzeit University (BZU) — one-third of the international staff at the university — were refused visa extensions by the Israeli authorities. This development portends a dramatically negative impact on education at BZU, and ultimately for many other Palestinian universities, as it will further extend the isolation of Palestinian universities from the global academic community, reducing their capacity to maintain internationally recognized standards of higher education.”

Read full release here.

Birzeit University Press Release: “Birzeit University condemns breach of academic freedom after academics forced to leave Palestine”

“If this policy continues, Palestinian universities, including Birzeit University, will be further isolated from the global academic environment. Our ability to deliver a world-class education will be further compromised if we lose the international perspectives, diverse professional experiences and high-level skills these faculty members crucially bring to Palestinian academic life and the campus environment as a whole.”

Read full release here.