For years now, human rights organizations have decried Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement inside the Occupied Territories (called “unprecedented…in their scope, time, and severity of damage they cause to the three and a half million Palestinians” by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem).
Now Haaretz, the liberal Israeli daily, has reported that the noose has been tightened even further in recent months: Palestinians with foreign citizenship, including Palestinian-Americans, are being denied entry into Israel (and, by extension, the Territories) altogether. According to the report, most of those denied are residents of the Occupied Territories, traveling on foreign passports because Israel has revoked their citizenship.
By various estimates, the ban has so far affected several thousand American and European nationals, whom Israel has kept from returning to their homes and jobs, or from visiting their families in the West Bank. This could potentially impact many more thousands who live in the territories—including university instructors and researchers, employees working in various vital development programs and business owners—as well as thousands of foreign citizens who pay annual visits to relatives there. The policy also applies to foreigners who are not Palestinian but are married to Palestinians, and to visiting academics.
The Israeli Interior Ministry has not actually acknowledged the ban, making its motivations hard to gauge. But according to Electronic Intifada, the conservative Israeli daily Maariv has explained, “According to the plan, the IDF will declare Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] closed to foreign nationals. Denying entry to… activists has been defined as prevention of political subversion and involvement of members of the movement in acts of terrorism, and limitation of friction with Jewish settlers.”
The rationale appears to be that Jewish settlers in the Occupied Territories have more right to be there than Palestinian-born professors and aid workers. If history is any guide, the chance to blame Palestinians for the lack of civil society and infrastructure that results will just be the icing on the cake.