MAAN NEWS AGENCY
Date: 19 / 03 / 2007 Time: 20:56
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The Israeli Committee for Right of Residency has sent Ma'an a copy of their open letter to civil society around the world, in which the committee exposes the 'silent' expulsion of Palestinians holding foreign passports from the occupied Palestinian territories.
The letter reads:
A Draconian change in the policy of the Israeli government with respect to residency and visitation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) has been implemented, since sometime in early 2006, by means of a change in practices at the border entry points.
People of Palestinian ethnicity holding foreign passports are subjected to denial of permission to enter or reenter or to prolong their stay even if they have lived in the OPT for many years, and established family, business, or employment. This intolerable situation would never have arisen if the Oslo accords which determine the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority had assigned responsibility for entry and residency in the OPT to the Palestinian Authority.
The present policy is, in itself, a violation of the existing Oslo accords in that the interim agreement states clearly that entry to the OPT via Israel for citizens of countries with which Israel has a visa agreement requires only a valid passport of the specific country. Subsequent Israeli court decisions have validated this position.
It is also unacceptable that no procedure exists for the acquisition of permanent residency on the basis of marriage or employment that would be compatible with international standards. One is driven to the conclusion that denial of foreign passport-holding members of Palestinian society from entering or remaining in the OPT, even though that required periodic renewal of temporary visas, which had been in place for many years, is indicative of a subtle policy of ethnic cleansing aimed at a vital component of Palestinian society whose contribution to public welfare is essential. Those subject to this discrimination include business persons, professionals and academics whose role in the economy, medicine, public health, education and general well-being of society is most significant.
To appreciate the devastating scope of the severe measures that are now being applied, please examine the Statement of the Presidents of the Palestinian Universities, http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/news/article425, the study by the highly respected Israeli human-rights NGO B'tselem, http://www.btselem.org/Download/200607_Perpetual_Limbo_Eng.doc
, the statement by the Palestinian ad hoc committee addressing this issue, the "Campaign for the Right to Enter" http://www.righttoenter.ps, as well as many media reports, of which we will only mention one recently published in the prestigious science weekly Nature, Vol. 445, p. 136 (11 January 2007). You may also read this article, as well as a more detailed
presentation of the subject matter, in
An ad hoc committee of concerned Israeli citizens (academics, physicians, human-rights activists), the Israeli Committee for the Right of Residency (ICRR), has been formed to try to reverse this plight of the Palestinian People. It is the Committee's firm belief that this officially unannounced , but cruelly implemented, policy is designed to destroy the establishment of a viable Palestinian civil society with a functional economy and active cultural, academic and health sectors. The aim appears to reduce the quality of life in the OPT so as to induce people to leave.
In the wake of repeated protests by the diplomatic corps, to which the ICRR has turned for support, of Israel's treatment of their citizens, the military Coordinator of Government Activities in the (Palestinian) Territories [CoGAT] recently issued a directive creating an impression that the harsh entry and residency restrictions have been relaxed. Not only haven't these quite inadequate directives been implemented yet, but the ICRR has questioned the legality of the directives. A more recent letter addressed to the foreign diplomatic missions in Israel by the head of the consular department of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs is not only inconsistent with CoGAT's directive; It further restricts the kinds of people whose entry applications will be considered.
We are highly concerned that unless institutions and peoples of the European Union (we would hope along with the rest of the international community) intervene, tens of thousands of highly productive foreign passport-holders, and hundreds of thousands of their immediate family members would be expelled from the OPT. Their banishment would leave behind an even more impoverished society and economy, as well as depleted academic and medical institutions.
Having addressed leading Israeli politicians (who ignored our repeated appeals), as well as leaders of Israeli academia (to whose response we are still waiting) and diplomatic missions in Israel, we are now appealing to you, women and men of good will in the international academic and civil community, to express your concern to the government of Israel. The issue we address is at the heart of any future hope for a peaceful solution of the Middle East crisis. Its adequate resolution will not require Israel to sacrifice any legitimate security interests, but would put an end to the ongoing policy of destroying Palestinian aspirations to a better future in their land.
We would greatly appreciate your contacting us if you would need more details or if you wish to offer us any advice that you believe could be helpful in confronting this issue.
Prof. Aharon Eviatar
Prof. Rachel Giora
Prof. Emeritus Jacob Katriel
Prof. Yehuda Kupferman
Dr. Ruchama Marton
Dr. Hannah Safran
Dr. Anne J. Sartiel
On behalf of ICRR