I received the following letter from my friend and teacher Dr. Aryeh Cohen, associate professor of Rabbinic Literature at the University of Judaism. It was forwarded from an organization of Israeli academics concerned about visa denial to individuals of Palestinian having foreign passports descent by Israel. Many of these individuals have lived inthe terroitories many years without being able to acquire residency rights, and in addition there have been a growing number of these individuals denied reentry into the country on the tourist visas that they have managed to acquire. Among the individuals denied reentry are persons on whom the Palestinian community depends heavily – such as teachers and doctors and other important hospital workers.
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 have been arbitrarily denied residency rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). Many of these persons have lived here for years without succeeding in obtaining 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 acquiring 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 reentry 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. As a result, families are torn apart, schooling for the children is disrupted, and economic disasters follow.
Among the entry-denied individuals are professionals from foreign countries. 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.
We, members of the Israel Committee for the Right of Residency (ICRR), have been calling upon the Israeli public to join us in demanding that our government desist from denying residency rights in the occupied Palestinian territory 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 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.
As academics and members of ICRR, we are particularly concerned about the damage this policy is inflicting on the education system of Palestinians in the OPT. We are 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.
Prof. Daniel Amit, The Hebrew University
Prof. Rachel Giora, Tel Aviv University
Dr. Snait Gissis, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Emeritus Aharon Eviatar, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, The Hebrew University
Dr. Anat Matar, Tel Aviv University
PS Below are links to additional information about the issue, contact information for the Israeli PM and MOI and also for members of the US congress. There is also a draft letter that you can use or modify as needed to send to officials. Needless to say you are welcome to write your own.
———— ——— –
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 see
http://www.chicagot ribune.com/ news/nationworld /chi-0611120452n ov12,1,6508718. story?page= 2&coll=chi-news- hed
http://www.haaretz. com/hasen/ pages/ShArt. jhtml?itemNo= 778942&contrassID=2&subContrassID= 4&sbSubContrassID= 0&listSrc=Y
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 [email protected] gov.il or [email protected] il
Minister of Interior, Ronnie Bar-on: fax 972-2-566 6376; email: [email protected] gov.il or, if faxing and Minister is not enabled, ask for Sabine (972-2-6294722 or fax: 972-2-6701628)
Prof. Yuli Tamir, Minister of Education
Tel 972-2-675 3437
Fax 972-2-675 3976
email: [email protected] gov.il
———— ——— —–
For the US You can find your Representative http://www.house. gov/writerep/
and your Senators http://www.senate. gov/general/ contact_informat ion/senators_ cfm.cfm
The State Department can be contacted at http://contact- us.state. gov/cgi-bin/ state.cfg/ php/enduser/ ask.php?p_ sid=cL1kRPni&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPSZwX3 NvcnRfYnk9JnBfZ3 JpZHNvcnQ9JnBfcm 93X2NudD0xMTEmcF 9wcm9kcz0mcF9jYX RzPSZwX3B2PSZwX2 N2PSZwX3NlYXJjaF 90eXBlPWFuc3dlcn Muc2VhcmNoX25sJn BfcGFnZT0x
or by ringing 202-647-4000
============ ========= ========= ========= ====
Dear ____________ _________ __,
Israel claims to be 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, who 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) “to establish an independent and viable Palestinian State, with territorial contiguity in Judea and Samaria – a State with full sovereignty and defined borders”.
(http://www.pmo. gov.il/PMOEng/ Communication/ PMSpeaks/ speechdavid27110 6.htm )
By denying entry into the oPt to individuals of Palestinian descent who have been refused residency rights even though many have lived in the oPt for years and even though they have families, occupations, and own property, Israel is forcing these people to leave. But if indeed there is to be a Palestinian State in the future, then why drive Palestinians out?
If Israeli officials truly intend to work towards accomplishing the Road Map by the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with internationally recognized borders, then Israel must immediately cease its policy of refusing entry to people – of Palestinian or any other descent – desiring to visit, work, study, or live in that future state.