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Israel's new rules for visitors to the occupied West Bank reveal an oppressive regime

Palestinians and foreigners take part in a demonstration against Israel's controversial Israeli barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah on November 27, 2009 [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]
Palestinians and foreigners take part in a demonstration against Israel's controversial Israeli barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah on November 27, 2009 [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]

The Israeli occupation authorities are set to impose new rules next week on Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, and foreign citizens who wish to visit the territory; the rules violate the basic human right to privacy. This is defined by jurists as the right to have personal information protected from public scrutiny. This right is recognised internationally and applies to everyone, apart from Palestinians and those wishing to go to the occupied West Bank.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the authority responsible for implementing Israeli government policy within the occupied Palestinian territories, has drafted a new rulebook that regulates visa requirements for foreign citizens who plan to visit the occupied West Bank. According to the new rules, they must report to the Israeli occupation authorities whether they are married to a Palestinian, planning to marry a Palestinian or planning to enter a relationship with a Palestinian. If such a visitor had no such relationship with a Palestinian, but enters one during the visit to the occupied territories, it must be reported to the Israeli occupation authorities within 30 days. An application must then be made to the Palestinian Authority to formalise the new relationship, otherwise the visa will expire after 90 days and the holder must leave the country immediately.

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The new rulebook includes several restrictions imposed on the Palestinians and their movement within the occupied territories, as well as those who live in the diaspora and visit their relatives in their homeland. It also imposes severe restrictions on foreigner citizens, whether they are of Palestinian origin or not, who want to study in Palestinian universities in the occupied West Bank, volunteer or work at any institution in the occupied territories. The rules will have a negative effect on student exchange programmes, mainly Erasmus+, which is operated by the European Union.

Thus the Palestinians within the occupied territories face even tighter restrictions on their freedom of movement, as do those moving to the territories from abroad. This is yet another example of Israel's flagrant contempt for international laws and conventions. It is also an example of the apartheid imposed by Israel on the Palestinians, because the new rules do not apply to illegal Jewish settlers living in the same occupied territories. Israeli apartheid has been called out by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B'Tselem.

Every human being is entitled under international law to have his or her privacy and family life respected. Israel is removing that right from the people of occupied Palestine and their visitors. This is yet another restriction imposed by Israel to be added its deprivation of the Palestinians of the right to life, liberty, security, protection from torture or degrading treatment or punishment, and protection from arbitrary detention and deportation. All of these are guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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The COGAT rulebook is clearly set up to undermine the reunion of Palestinian families, which counter the Zionist aim to reduce the Palestinian population rather than allow it to expand. Jessica Montell, the director Israeli rights group HaMoked, confirmed this by pointing out that the goal of the Israeli occupation government is to "restrict the growth of the Palestinian population through family reunification." The demographic balance in favour of Jews must be maintained at all costs, even if this means violating international laws and conventions.

Indeed, according to the rights group — which led an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court to prevent the imposition of the new rulebook — the new rules will deprive "thousands of Palestinian families of the right to live together without interruption and to live a normal family life."

Israel is supposed to be a democracy — "the only democracy in the Middle East" — and yet it is imposing a degree of interference in the personal life of the Palestinians that is the hallmark of an oppressive regime. That speaks volumes about the real nature of Zionism and the apartheid state it has created.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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Amnesty InternationalArticleEUHRWInternational OrganisationsIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestine
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