Israel denying people right to stay or come home, in land it illegally occupies
WHILE some of us argue over the use of immigration controls by countries like Britain, the Israeli government has gone one better. Not only does it deny the right of return to Palestinians whose country was taken for the State of Israel; but it is applying its controls over the Occupied Territories to exclude visitors it does not want, such as a highly dangerous delegation from Birmingham libraries bringing books for children (see my blog in July, http://randompottins.blogspot.com/2006/07/israel-prison-screw-keeps-out-visitors.html )
and to keep married couples apart (see previous blog, "Let no man put asunder"). It is also preventing Palestinians who have lived abroad from returning home.
How this squares with Prime Minister Olmert's claims to be willing to relinquish occupation for peace, or Israel's supporters asserting they favour a "two state solution" is for them to say.
I of course, thanks to an accident of birth, can emigrate to Israel under its "Law of Return", although I have never lived there, as can anyone from around the world whom the Jewish Agency deems "Jewish", including some very "Aryan" (in appearance and spirit) Russians, and remote tribes from east Asia and South America "discovered" by either the Agency's emissaries or Christian missionaries. Not only does the Agency (essentially a wing of the State) encourage us to come (though in my case it might make an exception!), but if we are willing to fill settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands we will get extra inducements.
The "little" State also finds room for thousands of migrant workers brought in to replace Arab labour, since they are easily exploited and can be cheated of wages. Having no rights of residence or citizenship, they won't affect the "Jewish character of the state" and can be shoved on the plane out as soon as the employers have finished with them.
Palestinians, and people who marry Palestinians, are another thing; and though Israel may not be unique in its racial controls, it is certainly outstanding in its application of them to people whose roots are in the country and to territory it illegally occupies.
Happily, this is being challenged, both by Palestinians and some Israelis, as we see in the following statement:
Israeli Committee for Right of Residency
In March 2006, the Israeli government initiated a policy of visa denial to individuals of Palestinian descent having foreign passports, many of whom Israel has arbitrarily denied residency rights to in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Many of these persons have lived in the OPT for years without succeeding to obtain residency rights even though they made Palestine their primary residence and place of employment/business, married local Palestinians, and had children who were born in Palestine.
These people have managed to stay in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by means of tourist visas issued by the Israeli government. Such visas are valid for three months. Their holders are obliged to go abroad to renew them. Those who cannot afford to travel abroad become illegal sojourners and live in perpetual fear of being deported, which confines them to their homes. Those who go abroad have no assurance that they will be allowed to return, and in recent years the number of people denied re-entry has increased significantly. Indeed, at this time, most persons of Palestinian origin attempting to transit via Israel in order to return to their families and occupations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have been denied entry.
Additionally, just recently 105 passports that had been submitted for visa extension were returned by the Israeli authorities with no extension beyond the end of 2006, and all stamped “last visa,” meaning that there would be no further visa extensions and that the holders of these passports would be forced to leave. And only today, December 5, 2006, we learn from the Palestinian campaign for entry rights, of an escalation in Israeli policy. The Ministry of Interior now refuses to process visa extensions at all (see Press Release below). As a result of this ‘entry-denied’ policy, families are torn apart, schooling for the children is disrupted, and economic disasters follow.
Among the entry-denied individuals are professionals from foreign countries who are not necessarily Palestinian. This group includes physicians, teachers, professors, students, social workers, and professionals in a variety of fields filling critically important positions in hospitals, schools, universities, and social institutions. Those being forced to leave by being denied entry or re-entry leave a vacuum in institutions unable to find replacements. This is devastating for all concerned, and has life-threatening implications particularly in the field of medical care. On the one hand, the ability of hospitals in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to treat Palestinians is constantly diminishing while on the other hand Israel’s General Security Services (‘Shabak’) often denies access to Israeli hospitals for treatment.
A group of concerned Israeli citizens has organized to protest this injustice which stands in gross contradiction to Israel’s self-declared image as a democratic state supportive of human rights and aspiring to a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinian people. We, the members of the Israel Committee for the Right of Residency, have been calling upon the Israeli public to join us in demanding that our government desist from denying residency rights in the Occupied Territories to Palestinians or persons of Palestinian descent with foreign passports, as well as to foreign professionals contributing to the welfare of the Palestinian population. We have been meeting with staffs of foreign embassies in Israel and have called upon them to use their good offices to intercede with the Israeli authorities to change the imposed restrictions. However, embassies do not make policy. They carry out the policies of their governments.
We therefore call upon you, people of conscience living abroad, to organize campaigns to inform your officials in your countries about Israel’s policy of ‘entry-denied.’ We ask you to write letters requesting them to demand that Israel change its policy. We also ask Israelis and citizens of other countries to write letters of protest to the Israeli Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, and for those of you who are academics or are in the medical profession to additionally write to the Minister of Education and Minister of Health. A statement of your professional concern in your protests should give your letters additional weight (see the two requests below). This is not intended to be a restriction. Everyone may write to all four Ministers, as well as to anyone else whom you think might influence policy.
An appeal to Academics
As an academic and a member of ICRR, I am particularly concerned about the damage this policy is inflicting on the education system of Palestinians in the OPT. I am therefore writing to ask you to also write letters to the Israeli Minister of Education, Prof. Yuli Tamir, in order to protest the effects this policy has on quenching academic life and education for Palestinians in Palestine.
Thanks, Rachel Giora
and all other members of ICRR who are academics
An appeal to members of the Medical Profession
As a member of ICRR and the President and Founder of Physicians for Human Rights Israel, I am very concerned about the damage this policy is inflicting on the health and medical system in the OPT. I wish to add my request to you to write also to the Minister of Health, Mr. J .Ben Yizry and to your minister of Health in your place. Your protest might help to save life and health of Palestinians under the Israeli occupation.
Thanks, Ruchama Marton, MD, and other members of ICRR who are in the medical profession.
PS Below is the Press Release about the new escalation in Israeli policy, followed by links to additional information about the issue, contact information for the Israeli Prime Minister, Minister Of Interior, Minister of Education, and Minister of Health, and contact information also for members of the US congress. These are followed by a draft letter that you can use or modify as needed to send to officials. You are, of course, welcome to write your own, if you prefer. But please do write!-
Thank you for helping to Stop the Israeli Government from Denying Individuals of Palestinian Descent and others from entering and residing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,
The Israeli Committee for Residency Rights
C a m p a i g n f o r t h e R i g h t o f E n t r y /
R e - E n t r y to t h e
O c c u p i e d P a l e s t i n i a n T e r r i t o r y
A Grassroots Campaign for the Protection of Foreign Passport Holders Residing in and/or visiting the oPt
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 5, 2006
Contact: Basil Ayish Coordinator, Media Committee(c) +970-(0)59-817-3953 (email) email@example.com
In a new escalation of Israel’s policy of denying Palestinians and their families access to the Israeli occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the Israeli Civil Administration at Beit El is refusing to accept at least 140 passports for visa extensions. The passport holders are mostly spouses and children of Palestinian I.D.-holders and are residing in the oPt. Many of them have been forced to become “illegal” since their visitor visas have expired while waiting to be renewed by Israel. Twenty-seven year old Subha G is one of these cases. Her mother, brothers and her husband all have Palestinian ID’s, but her request for family reunification has been frozen since 1997.
“I am seven months pregnant and I am afraid of leaving to renew my visa and becoming stranded outside the country. My whole family is here.” Subha said. Palestinian I.D.s can only be issued by Israel. Since Israel is refusing to process an estimated 120,000 family unification residency applications of spouses and children of Palestinians, foreign family members must renew their visa every three months. All foreign spouses and children of Palestinians who requested visa extensions in October had their passports returned from Beit El on November 19th stamped “Last permit.”
The passport holders are required to leave the country before their visas expire, which in some cases occurred during Israel’s processing of the visa extension application. Israeli authorities are regularly denying entry to family members of Palestinians when they attempt to cross the Israeli controlled borders to the Israeli oPt.
Soha N., French citizen, lives in Beit Jala with her Palestinian husband and their two children, ages six and eight years old. The Israeli authorities refuse to issue residency to Soha and her children. Therefore, they have been renewing their visas every three months. After applying in October for another visa extension, they received their passports back marked “last permit.” Soha’s final extension lasts until December 25th. Israeli authorities required her two children to leave by December 4th. The family may now be forced to relocate abroad, as their children are now considered “illegal” after overstaying their visas. Shlomo Dror, spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration states that those foreign passport holders with family in the oPt who stay illegally in the country, should expect “tough consequences.”
“Israel is working overtime to create a demographic change in the oPt by targeting the most vulnerable segment of Palestinian society, denying them residency and forcing them to leave,” said Basil Ayish, a spokesperson from the Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the oPt. “Palestinian residency holders are likely to follow their spouses and children to another country in order to stay together,” Ayish explained.
For a full report on the subject, see http://www.btselem.org/Download/200607_Perpetual_Limbo_Eng.doc
For supplementary information about the present situation seehttp://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0611120452nov12,1,6508718.story?page=2&coll=chi-news-hed http://www.haaretz.com/ http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/art.php?aid=41413---------------------------------------------
Addresses of Israeli Officials to whom protest letters should be sent: Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert: Telephone numbers: 972-2-67 53227; 972-2-67 53547; fax 972-2-566 4838; email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Minister of Interior, Ronnie Bar-on: fax 972-2-566 6376; email: firstname.lastname@example.org or, if faxing and Minister is not enabled, ask for Sabine (972-2-6294722 or fax: 972-2-6701628) Minister of Education, Prof. Yuli Tamir, Tel 972-2-675 3437 Fax 972-2-675 3976email: email@example.comMinister of Health, Yakov Ben YizryTel 972 2 675 3728Fax 972 2 678 7662email: firstname.lastname@example.org;or email@example.com
For the US You can find your Representative http://www.house.gov/writerep/and your Senators http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
The State Department can be contacted at or by ringing 202-647-4000 ================================= Sample Letter:Dear _______________________,Israel prides itself on being a democratic country. Yet Israeli policy denies family unification in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and since March 2006 also denies entry to the OPT for individuals of Palestinian descent, whom Israel refuses to register as residents as well as also for other foreigners who wish to visit, work, or study in the OPT. This is not in keeping with democratic values. Nor is this policy consistent with Israel’s stated intention to abide by the Road Map, an intention reiterated by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his speech on November 27 at a memorial ceremony for Paula and David Ben Gurion. On that occasion Prime Minister Olmert expressed the intention (given certain conditions) “[http://www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/PMSpeaks/speechdavid271106.htm ]But if indeed there is to be a Palestinian State in the future, then why drive Palestinians out?