The Israeli government has decided to refuse visas and deny entry to the newly appointed personnel of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Occupied Territories.
The United Nations said it is aware of the Israeli decision and expressed concerns that this refusal to grant visas to UN personnel could impact the humanitarian work in occupied Palestine.
Stephane Durjarric, a UN spokesperson, said this decision could seriously impact the humanitarian community’s support to Palestinians needing this aid.
Stephane added that the UN would continue to hold talks with Israeli officials on the matter and expressed hopes for resolving this issue.
Israeli Foreign Ministry officials have decided to refuse to issue entry visas to officials from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) after accusing employees from the humanitarian agency of “undercounting” the number of Israelis who are killed or injured in attacks by Palestinians.
Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, said his government placed sanctions against UN employees who criticize Israel and speak out against Israeli policies.
Erdan even accused OCHA personnel and officials of what he called “running a policy of lies against Israel” and “distorting reality.”
In August, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet criticized Israel’s failure to process visa applications for United Nations Human Rights employees.
“In 2020, the 15 international staff of my Office in Palestine – which has been operating in the country for 26 years – had no choice but to leave,” said Bachelet. “Subsequent requests for visas and visa renewals have gone unanswered for two years. During this time, I have tried to find a solution to this situation, but Israel continues to refuse to engage.”
As a Member State, Israel must cooperate in good faith with the UN and grant its officials the privileges and immunities necessary for them to independently exercise their functions. This includes an obligation to exempt UN officials from immigration restrictions and to deal with applications for visas for UN officials as speedily as possible.
“Israel’s failure to process visa applications that are necessary for my staff’s access is inconsistent with these standards, and I call on the Government to meet its international obligations in this regard,” the UN Human Rights chief said.
Bachelet said that barring the UN Human Rights Office’s international staff occurred in a context where Israeli authorities are increasingly limiting human rights “eyes and ears on the ground”. There is a growing roll call of UN staff and mechanisms, non-governmental organizations, and others being expelled or refused entry.
“Israel’s treatment of our staff is part of a wider and worrying trend to block human rights access to the occupied Palestinian territory,” Bachelet said.
“This raises the question of what exactly the Israeli authorities are trying to hide.”