Herding non-Jews around like cattle

Israel’s increasingly draconian restrictions on Palestinians (and others) entering Israel and the occupied territories receives coverage in Time magazine:

When Canadian businessman Sam Ismail brought his wife and five children to visit his brother’s family in Ramallah last week, he planned to stay for 10 days and tour both Israel and the Palestinian territories. They had flown into Amman, crossed over to the West Bank. Knowing that Palestinian Authority license plates are banned in Israel, Ismail reserved a car at an Israeli rental company. But, when he got to Israeli border control, he was shocked to discover that his Canadian passport was stamped “Palestinian Authority Only.” “Last time they came, they visited Acre, Haifa, Jerusalem — the whole country,” Ismail’s brother Nedal, who lives in the West Bank, told TIME. “This time they packed up after 96 hours and spent the extra week in Jordan instead.”

Ismail had fallen afoul of an Israeli border policy, quietly begun in June, that bars foreigners who say they are visiting the Palestinian Authority from entering Israel. Israel says the visa helps to exclude visitors who threaten security. According to Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad, the procedure is based on an unpublished 2006 decision by the Israeli interior and defense ministers that “any foreign national who wants to enter the Palestinian Authority must have a permit issued by the army, and entry is permitted only into PA territory.” (Read a story about Mike Huckabee’s visit to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.)

Palestinians say it violates international law and the promise of unhindered movement for foreign travelers under the 1995 Oslo II Accords. “Israel wishes to strictly regulate travel of visitors who come to the country, especially those curious to see the West Bank,” says Toufic Haddad, a Palestinian-American activist. (Read about Ezra Nawi, the Israeli activist jailed for aiding Arabs.)

The policy has affected U.S. citizens. This week, Betty Najjab, an American from Centreville, Virginia and the widow of a Palestinian, was given one of the new visa stamps after visiting in-laws in Jordan. She told TIME she didn’t know if she would be able to fly home: the return leg of her ticket departs from Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport. “We have made it quite known to the Israeli Government… that we expect all American citizens to be treated the same regardless of their national origin,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters this week. “These kinds of restrictions we consider unacceptable.”

At what point will Israel realise that such issues are simply turning it even further into an international pariah?

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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