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 Territories. Many of these persons have lived here for years without having succeeded in obtaining residency rights until now. Even the fact that they have married Palestinians in Palestine, have children who were born here, and that their primary residence and place of employment/business is in the Occupied Territories has not helped.
These people have managed to stay in the Occupied Territories 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 Territories have been denied entry. Thus families are torn apart, schooling for the children is disrupted, these cases often end in economic disaster and cause immense suffering.
In addition to these people, of whom there are many, a smaller group of professionals from foreign countries are also being denied either entry or extensions of their visas. This group includes physicians, teachers, professors, 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 one hand the ability of hospitals in the Occupied Palestinian Territories 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.
While it is true that on December 28, 2006 Maj. Gen. Yossef Mishlav advised Dr. Saeb Erakat of new arrangements to be made to improve the situation, during the more than 2 weeks since the letter was written, nothing has changed. Individuals wishing to enter the OPT are still being denied entry, a number of whom have been deported.
A group of concerned Israeli citizens has determined to protest this injustice which stands in gross contradiction to Israel’s self-declared image of 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, call 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 also call upon all foreign embassies to use their good offices to intercede with the Israeli authorities to change the imposed restrictions.
We ask you, Your Excellency, for an opportunity to meet with you at your earliest possible convenience to provide you more details of the situation and to seek your intervention towards a just solution to this problem.
On behalf of the Committee:
Dr. Hannah Safran
16A Margalit St.,