In a move to further complicate and discourage travel into the Occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli authorities have published a new set of rules to restrict foreigners’ access to the West-Bank. Recently, after continued scrutiny the most controversial new rules were taken out of the document, but the access to the territories is still complex.
The COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories), part of the Israeli Defence Ministry oversees and decides who gets to go in and out of the Occupied West-Bank, a region which the 90-page document refers to as the “Judea and Samaria Area, ” the biblical name of the West-Bank, disregarding the existence of Palestine altogether.
The document’s updated version that enters into force today, October 20th does forthwith not have a quota for foreign professors and students that want to work and study in Palestine. This restriction would have further limited the income and knowledge coming into Palestine.
The rule forcing foreigners to inform Israel within 30 days of a relationship with a Palestinian in the West-Bank was also omitted.
Sarah (22), a Palestinian who is in a relationship with an Englishman she met studying abroad sees the current and upcoming restrictions as having an ulterior motive, namely “to make life in Palestine even more unbearable,” which is part of Israel’s plan to ”decrease the number of Palestinians residing in the West-Bank, Gaza and historic Palestine”
Despite the updates made to the document COGAT can still deny entry to anyone that wants to get into the West-Bank, and they do.
Jasmine (23) a diaspora Palestinian with a Jordanian passport is in a relationship with Aisha (22), a Palestine and US passport holder, that lives in the West-Bank. Due to the restrictions Jasmine has never been allowed to visit Palestine and therefore sees Aisha only in Jordan.
She also says it is a good thing the obligation to tell Israel about your relationship with a Palestinian because “if Aisha’s family finds out she’s a lesbian she will be outcast or killed”
Jasmine the current restrictions and the updated regulations show a level of “racism and apartheid between Israeli and Palestinians” that “cannot be put into words.”
Jasmine and other Palestinians whose family fled the country don’t have, nor can obtain an Israeli or Palestinian ID. In this case “unless you have a strong Western passport, it is impossible to legally enter Palestine.” The only option for them is to get smuggled over the Jordanian border which is very dangerous.
The Israeli government has stated the restrictions are there for security reasons. Multiple Israeli were asked about the restrictions but all said they “have never heard of these regulations,” and were not interested in doing so, showing Israeli indifference to the Palestinians and lack of interest in what their government does to restrict foreigners, and diaspora Palestinians to visit Palestine.
Jasmine and Aisha are aliased used to protect them from danger from both the Israeli government and their families who are unaware they are lesbian. Sarah has chosen to go only by her first name for privacy and cultural reasons.