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Technion's Jacob Katriel (emitus, chemistry) upset that Palestinians without security clearance being stopped by Israel

Professor Emeritus, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa
Member of the Israeli Committee for the Right of Residency

Presented at the session on ''Human Rights and Social Responsibilities of Scientists'', at the 96th Statistical Mechanics Conference, Rutgers University, New Jersey, December 17-19, 2006.

I am speaking as a member of the Israeli Committee for the Right of Residency, which was recently established by a group of Israeli academics and other human rights and peace activists to campaign against a draconic change in the Israeli government's policy regarding residency and visitation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory [1]. This policy change is addressed in a statement signed by the Presidents of eleven Palestinian Universities, who describe it as '' ... an alarming yet unannounced Israeli policy that affects our society in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at large, and education in particular: the denial of entry, re-entry, and continuous residence to foreign passport holding Palestinians and non-Palestinian family members, lecturers, NGO workers, and international development experts. ... Since the beginning of 2006 ... many thousands of foreign passport holders of Palestinian and non-Palestinian origin living and/or working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have suddenly been denied entry or even threatened with deportation. ... Most of these are Palestinian-born and currently hold foreign passports because their IDs have either been revoked while studying or working abroad, or their applications for family reunion rejected by the Israeli occupation authorities under various pretexts ... Yet they are citizens who have built their lives in Palestine, paying local taxes and voting in regional and national elections in their embryonic State. The majority of foreign passport holders who are denied entry have family connections in Palestine and are entitled to family integrity by international conventions and recognized norms. ...The business community has also been severely affected. Several successful diaspora businessmen, who have invested heavily in building their community for over a decade, are now being refused entry or deported with barely a month's warning. Diaspora Palestinians and foreigners have withstood humiliating interrogation at entry points, continuously threatened with the insecurity of not having their tourist visas or visitors permits renewed every three months. Most of them are a part of the local educated class whose contributions to civil society, educational institutions and the private sector have been invaluable for the construction of a viable pluralistic country and laying the foundations for a future Palestinian state ...'' [2].

A statement issued by our Palestinian counterpart committee, the ''Campaign for the Right to Enter' [3], further specifies the meaning of this new policy: ''Israel no longer issues visa extensions for spouses and children of Palestinian ID-holders after 2006. All applications submitted since October were either rejected or given an extension not exceeding December 2006, with the remark 'LAST PERMIT'... This is a last wakeup call for all of us about the real aim of Israel's entry denial policy to foreign passport holders. It is the separation of families, which will be followed by a massive 'voluntary' exodus of entire extended families.''

These are not mere consular matters. They come on top of notorious regulations under which many Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem [4] have lost their residency rights [5]; the devastating impact of massive land confiscations [6]; the establishment of settlements in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention [7]; the route of the ''security'' wall that on July 9, 2004 the International Court of Justice pronounced as illegal [8]. Finally, this visa denial policy is in blatant disregard of the fact that the Occupied Palestinian Territory does not fall under Israeli sovereignty, and should be managed in accordance with the responsibilities specified by the applicable international law.

Most Israelis and many in the international community turn a blind eye to the contradiction between the actual policies implemented and Israeli leaders' proclamations about ending the occupation. The Israeli leadership has long cultivated the art of maintaining a sharp dissonance between words and deeds. Even steps that appear to be conciliatory, such as the ''disengagement'' from the Gaza strip and the recently declared ceasefire, are conducted in a unilateral spirit, avoiding a sincere dialogue between equals, one that could create a momentum for peace.

The number of US passport holders now residing within the Occupied Palestinian Territory is estimated by the ''Campaign for the Right to Enter'' to be about 45,000. In addition, an unknown number of holders of European, Canadian and South American passports are equally affected by these visa denial measures. Many of these people have immediate families whose residency in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is not revoked by the current policy, but who have no other citizenship. The number of applications for residence on grounds of family reunification, submitted but not processed since the year 2000 is, according to a report by the highly regarded human rights NGO B'tselem, about 120,000. The backlog of earlier unprocessed applications for family reunion makes the total number considerably higher. These estimates suggest that several hundred thousands Palestinians will be forced to leave the Occupied Territory if they wish to maintain family integrity. Where will these families go?

The people affected are, for the most part, the more educated, affluent and productive members of the Palestinian civil society, those who make it vibrabt and pluralistic. Their expulsion will deal a harsh blow to the already depleted systems of education and health, as well as to the barely surviving Palestinian business community. The Israeli officials who are responsible for this new policy cannot possibly be unaware of these devastating consequences. This policy cannot but destroy the prospect for peace, and no peace proclamations can counteract it.

Several European diplomatic missions in Israel, as well as the Secretary of State of the USA, have criticized these measures. A handful of ''high profile'' individuals had their stay extended by three months, but the large scale visa denials, as well as the uncertain future of even these sel'ect few, are still the reality on the ground.

The statement signed by the Presidents of the Palestinian Universities concludes by saying: ''We call on you to support appropriate collective action against this dangerous policy of denial of entry- and re-entry to Palestinians and other nationals that threatens to empty the Occupied Palestinian Territory of its educated classes''.

This appeal has been completely ignored by the Presidents of the Israeli Universities, in spite of several attempts by faculty members who urged them to summon enough civil courage to issue a statement of solidarity with their Palestinian counterparts. We believe that such an Israeli statement, followed by a public demand to reverse this destructive policy, can still make a significant difference.
In the absence of such an expression of social responsibility within Israel, the only effective measure that the international academic community can apply is a strong and clear denunciation of the Israeli policy of denial of residence to people who, according to internationally acceptable standards, have valid claims to be granted such residency rights.

The present session is a manifestation of the ongoing commitment of the organizers to the protection of academics and others whose human rights are violated. Similar commitment has given rise to the establishment of committees and task forces concerned with human rights by the American Mathematical Society, The American Physical Society, The American Chemical Society, The National Academy of Sciences, The New York Academy of Sciences, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, and many other organizations.

I urge you, as members of possibly more than one of these distinguished associations, and as citizens with access to congressmen, senators, and the media, to join the struggle against this violation of the human rights of so many of our fellow humans. I believe this is one struggle we can win.

[1] For a full report on the subject, see
For supplementary information about the present situation see

[2] http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/news/article425 

[3] http://www.righttoenter.ps 

[4] Occupied by Israel, along with the rest of the West Bank, in 1967, and later unilaterally annexed to Israel in violation of the applicable international law and UN resolutions.

[5] cf., http://www.btselem.org/English/Jerusalem/Revocation_of_Residency.asp 

[6] I. Zertal and A. Eldar, Lords of the Land, Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan, Dvir, 2004 (in Hebrew), reviewed (in English) in

[7] cf., http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Human_Rights/geneva1.html 

[8]  http://stopthewall.org/internationallaw/639.shtml

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