Caged in, Locked Out
Entry to the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) through the only available route, via Israel, has always been a nerve-racking,tire some and extremely invasive affair. Unbearable delays, grueling interrogations, strip searches and other forms of humiliation are amongst the best case scenarios. For internationals attempting to enter Palestinian territories, the ever increasing threat of deportation is always looming overhead.
These policies are part of the demographic strategies which are carried out quietly, implemented slowly, over time and aregradually cemented into place. Israel’s complete restriction of movement in/to the oPt is the most subtle, yet devastating aspect of the occupation to impact Palestinian lives.
With no way of obtaining residency in the oPt, the only [‘legal’] way for foreign passport holders to stay in the oPt for an extended period of time is to renew the 3-month Israeli visitor (or B-1) visa. Though deportation practices have always existed, beginning in early 2006, a stepped up attack on foreign nationals has prevented countless thousands from entering or re-entering after leaving the country for their required visa renewal. To date there is no official written Israeli legislation to back up these practices, making it therefore impossible toascertain a clear number of those affected. Typically those who fit the profile are: of Palestinian heritage, married to someone with “Palestinian ID” (issued by the Government of Israel), the elderly, the sick (or those caring for them), human rights defenders, academics, artists, the business community and investors. In essence, those who have an interest in developing Palestinian society, and by no standard pose a security risk. According to a representative of the US Consulate, in, “each day up to a dozen American citizens trying to reach the Palestinian territories are being barred from entering.
The government had been pressing on the subject but it had yet to be resolved.Of those most devastated by this policy are families of foreign nationals married to Palestinian ID holders. On June 27, 2005, contrary to international law(1)
Ida Audeh: Just hungry to be home
Walid was called in alone and gone for a very long time. Walid
and the Israeli came out of the room.
I called my mother, who we were going to care for, to explain
what happened, and her voice was barely audible – but her
devastation was loud and clear. Walid and I arrived in Amman too
dazed to speak. We checked into a hotel and fell asleep around 3
am. A few hours later, I woke up and had my first thought of the
day: we are homeless. My mother-in-law would take us in, of course,
but for the first time in my life, I tried to think of what the
future holds or what our next move should be, and I had no
We live in the hope that my return is just a matter of time. Eventually, we reason, the Israelis have to relent and issue my hawiya (Palestinian ID). And then I will petition for my husband to join me. We both feel strongly that I must return the first chance I get, if only to exercise my right to return and my right to be home at a time of my choosing, not at the whim of some Israeli policy designed to control the indigenous population and punish it for democratically electing Hamas to office. But we also realize that Walid’s chances of entry any time soon are less than 50-50 and that there is a good chance that we would be separated. We have not been able to think clearly about how to handle that.
Ida was denied entry a second time 9 October, at the
Allenby bridge. My mother has been trying to renew an old
hawiya after having been assured by someone at the Ministry of
Interior that I could enter on the old one with my application to
renew it, so she brought both documents to Jordan and we attempted
to cross. Walid did not join us because we were told that it would
be better for him to wait a week and then enter to rejoin his wife,
who has an ID number (and give it). Well, I was told that the
Israeli ID was no longer valid, and it was confiscated from me as
the property of Israel, so I could no longer keep it. At one point
I had an unreal exchange with the official, who was telling me that
I was not Palestinian, and me saying I was, and that it wasn’t for
him to decide. Again, I tried to argue that I wanted to get my
belongings and make arrangements to leave, but that was not
Shortly after Israel’s ban on family unification was put into effect, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists sent a joint letter to the Israeli Knesset urging “Israel that the discriminatory family reunification law must not be extended.”(3) The report goes on to underline the real intent of the policy, which Israeli government officials have traditionally justified the law as being “necessary for security reasons”, saying “the real intent of the law appears to be demographic in nature, as then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated in an interview on the matter: “There is no need to hide behind security arguments. There is a need for the existence of a Jewish state.” It has become increasingly apparent that the need for the existence of a Jewish state, means the denial of even the most basic human rights for Palestinians.
Methods of Control
The mechanism that enables Israel to effectively oversee and exercise complete control of the Palestinian people is through its population registry. Israel’s control “derives first and foremost from controlling the Palestinian population registration.
Identity numbers, births, deaths, marriages,changing addresses - if these details have not been updated in Israel’s Interior Ministry computers, they don’t exist. If Israel does not approve a registration act of any kind, Palestinian Interior Ministry officials cannot do a thing about it.”(4) Israeli control, discrimination and arbitrary practices restricting freedom of movement and the diverse methods of displacement, exile and deportation are upheld through every fiber of the system.
At Birzeit University, since March 2006 faculty, staff and students with foreign passports have also become targets of Israel’s control of people and movement inside the occupied Palestinian territories. Birzeit University “has seen a 50% drop in its employees with foreign passports and the recent immigration barriers have significantly contributed to this decline. The University also hosts about 400 students with foreign passports, the majority of whom face not being allowed to conclude their studies.”(6) Yet, on the other side of the Wall a law for those coming to study at Israeli universities allows foreigners to “automatically receive a B2 Tourist Visa”upon entering; then they can “sign up for “A4 Student Family Visa which faculty and students can apply for their family members, valid for up to a year.”(7)
Discriminatory Policies and U.S. Acquiescence
The Israeli system is largely built on illegal occupation practices which are not only illogical and inconsistent, they are inherently racist in nature. Still, over-arching, discriminatory restrictions and complete control of movement go unchallenged by governments around the world. The United States actually issues a travel warning that states: “Any American Citizen who intends to travel to Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza should carefully review the Consular Information Sheet. Palestinian-Americans face many additional obstacles.”(8) There seems to be an understanding that it is acceptable for Israel to target Palestinian- American citizens based on nationality; direct evidence that racially discriminatory behavior is condoned by the US. Indeed, the US justification lies within the context of non-interference in the jurisdiction of a sovereign state. Thus complete Israeli abuse of control is normalized, and Israel appears as if acting within the bounds of normal state jurisdiction, instead of the occupying power that it is. Condoleeza Rice recently raised the issue with the Israeli Embassy in Washington but is yet to put any pressure on Israel, and one senior official went so far to say, “They are being treated as Arabs and not Americans.” (9)
The ‘Gaza Model’
In order to envision the projected plan for the West Bank, one
only need look at the evolution of Gaza where growing restrictions
and control of movement in the West Bank are parallel.
Before 1991, travel to and from Gaza was made with relative ease and freedom. Later on, Israel “required Palestinians seeking to leave Gaza to obtain individual permits from the military and “travel between the West Bank and Gaza became highly restricted.”(10) In 1996, Israel built the wall/fence and slowly over time, it was increasingly difficult to obtain a permit to go there. Eventually they closed (what is now) the Erez crossing and made it a state of the art check point. In its current state it is nearly impossible to gain permission to enter the Gaza Strip. The people of Gaza are now truly living in the world’s largest prison which is hermetically sealed, giving Israel full impunity to destroy the beautiful land and people who live there.
Carried out openly and publicly with state and public acquiescence, since its founding, the underlying Israeli demographic goals destroy any hope for a viable Palestinian state, or future. Cases of abuse are so complex that they are nearly impossible to fight on an individual level, allowing them to continue unabated. Only collectively do we have the power to overcome invasive Israeli practices that control every aspect of Palestinian lives, and are now being imposed onto international passport holders. It is not only the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to control their own borders and travel freely within their land; it is an essential condition for peace.
|Jordan: The Waiting Room
Nadia Hassan is a Palestinian woman, born in Chile and was living and working as a volunteer in Nablus When I was in Palestine last year I saw the discrimination against Palestinians so many times. Between all the injustice and daily racism I used to feel lucky to have a Chilean passport. Until September 6.
Like so many Palestinians around the world I was born outside of our homeland because my parents were expelled after 1967. I arrived in Palestine January 5 of 2005, and was there until September 2005, before I was deported. For eight months I was living in Nablus, working as a volunteer for An-Najah National
University, Balata Refugee Camp and New Askar Refugee Camp, until I went to Jordan for one day to renew my visa, and the Israelis refused to let me in. After 10 long hours of interrogation, waiting and humiliation the Israelis refused to allow me to enter. They denied me entry, stamped my passport, sent me back to Jordan and did not give me any reason at all as to why.
When they sent me back to Jordan - they started a war with me. They forced me to fight - with energy I didn’t know I had inside me. When I walked away with tears in my eyes, so full of emotion, all of my memories from Palestine came flooding back to me, in my head, in my heart. Every few minutes I would remember nother person that I met in Nablus, how much I missed them, how much I wanted to come back, how near I was.
As I returned to the Jordanian border again, I took my bags and I started to walk.
This time, I felt my bags were lighter, not as heavy as before. The tears were still in my eyes, but my legs were stronger. I am stronger, they made me feel this way. They don’t understand that every time they refuse a Palestinian entry, they must use the guns to keep something that they know doesn’t belong to them.
They are afraid to see us. Yet they know that we are here, that we are near, and always will be near – waiting, until the day we shall return. I am living here in Jordan now, so close to Palestine. I decided to fight and not give up, even if the oppressors have forbidden me to come back to my land, just on the other side
of the river. All of my belongings are still in Nablus, and that is where I will keep them, until the day I return. I do not know th e legal ways to follow, nor do I know when I will be able to come
back to my life. But for the time being I will stay in Jordan, sharing my life with the millions of Palestinians like me, who are banned from their country. For me this place is only a waiting room, and that is what it will always be, nothing else
While human rights organizations nternationally have repeatedly documented and condemned Israel’s human rights violations, Western governments are complacent with Israel’s Apartheid demographic agenda. More than ever, it is critical that foreigners are allowed to enter and witness the horror of the reality in the occupied Palestinian territories first hand, and that we actively raise the issue within our respective governments. Only then can the cement wall of injustice be seen clear as day, surrounding, imprisoning and denying Palestinians from their most asic freedoms. Could this perhaps be what they don’t want the world to see?.
The ‘Right to Enter’ campaign is organized by civil society to
fight discriminatory deportation practices from a comprehensive
strategic approach. The campaign website can be accessed at:
ps If you would like to volunteer, or know anyone who has been denied entry into occupied Palestinian territories, please email: [email protected]
(1) Family unification is meant to be a right protected from governmental interference and was “enshrined
in international human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(articles 17 and 23), the International Convention on Human Rights (article 8). Domestic laws in almost
all countries recognize the right of the citizen to be united with his or her immediate family.”
(2) B’Tselem joint report with Hamoked, Perpetual Limbo: Israel’s Freeze on Unification of Palestinian
Families in the Occupied Territories, August 15, 2006.
(3) “Joint Letter to Israeli Knesset: Do Not Extend Discriminatory Law”, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty
International, International Commission of Jurists, May 22, 2005.
(4) Amira Hass, “You exist if the Israeli computer says so”, Ha’aretz, September 28, 2005.
(5) The term Apartheid signifies “Separateness,” (Afrikaans, Dutch); policy implemented by National Party
government (1948-94) to maintain separate development of government-demarcated racial groups; also
referred to as “separate development,” and later “multinational development”; abolished by Constitution
of Republic of South Africa of 1993.
(6) Birzeit University, Right to Education Campaign website: http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/news/
(7) Tel Aviv University website, section on visitor visas: http://www.tau.ac.il/visitors/visas.html
United States Department of State – Travel Warning to Israel, Gaza and the West Bank: http://travel.state.
(9) Article: U.S. to Israel: Ease up on Arab-Americans, CNN World, October 19, 2006
(10) Order Regarding Suspension of the General Exit Permit (No.5) (Temporary Order) (Judea and Samaria),
1991 [West Bank]; Corresponding order for the Gaza Strip.