At a press conference on Wednesday, foreign passport holders, human
rights organizations, and representatives of the U.S. Consulate in
Jerusalem charged Israel with separating families that have long lived
together in the West Bank and Gaza by expelling and refusing entry to
foreign passport holders.
"This is one of the more blatantly unjust and blatantly stupid things the government has ever done," said Gershon Baskin, an Israeli who co-directs the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI). "This is a policy that cannot be sustained or continue."
According to a report in today's Jerusalem Post newspaper, "The Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, which organized the event, charged that the policy has effectively separated foreign spouses from their families in the West Bank and Gaza, trapped others who fear they won't be able to return should they leave, and hurt businesses that rely on Palestinian expatriates coming from abroad.
The B'Tselem human rights organization presented a report at Wednesday's event which estimated that since the year 2000, Israel has refused 120,000 family reunification requests of Palestinians who want their foreign spouses to reside with them in the West Bank or Gaza.
In the past, most Western spouses could get in anyway by entering on tourist visas. But B'Tselem and IPCRI said that since March, those visas have routinely been refused.
The move also affects Palestinian dual citizens who don't have Palestinian ID cards – which would automatically grant them entry rights – as well as foreign students, human rights workers and businessmen, according to IPCRI."
A press release by the newly-formed Committee for the Protection of Foreign Passport Holders stated, "Families are being separated, investors are exiting the country, educators are unable to reach their schools and universities, students' education is being disrupted, and elderly are being left without caretakers, just to state some of the ramifications of such a policy. This undeclared Israeli policy of 'denying entry' is currently in effect and can only be attributed to the Israeli Government's continued actions of unilateralism which defies International and Humanitarian Law, agreements previously signed and witnessed by international parties, Israel's own legal system's decisions, as well as sheer common sense. "
The press release continues, "Until such a time that Israel's military occupation of Palestine ends, it is imperative under International and Humanitarian Law that Israel respects basic human needs of the occupied population. Therefore, we declare our insistence on the most basic human rights:
-The protection of the right of Palestinian ID holders to have their non-ID spouses/children/parents/caretakers reside with them in the occupied Palestinian territory.
-Guaranteed permanent 'visitation' rights of spouses and family members of Palestinian I.D. holders to the occupied Palestinian territory.
-Guaranteed visitation rights by foreign nationals, including professionals, foreign eyewitnesses and peace activists who are in solidarity with the Palestinian people, to the occupied Palestinian territory without discriminating against their ethnic origin or religious affiliation.
-The immediate cessation of Israeli interference in the development of the Palestinian economy, education and health systems, and civil society through the occupier's denial of entry of those seeking to contribute to Palestinian development."