People of the Book…Snatchers

October 16, 2006

In News

From: PLO Mission, Washington, DC

To Members of Global Civil Society and Academia
We, Presidents of Palestinian institutions of higher education, wish to
bring to your attention an alarming yet unannounced Israeli policy that
affects our society in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at large, and education
in particular: the denial of entry, re-entry, and continuous residence to
foreign passport holding Palestinians and non-Palestinian family members,
lecturers, NGO workers, and international development experts.

Since the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967,
Israel has unilaterally controlled the civil register of the Palestinian
population, and has restricted movement in and out of the Occupied
Palestinian Territory for Palestinians and other non-Israelis, thus
depriving the Palestinians of their basic right to freedom of movement and

Since the beginning of 2006, and especially after the parliamentary
elections, many thousands of foreign passport holders of Palestinian and
non-Palestinian origin living and/or working in the Occupied Palestinian
Territory have suddenly been denied entry or even threatened with
deportation. Israel has arrogated to itself the prerogative of allowing or
refusing work permits to foreigners in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Most of these are Palestinian-born and currently hold foreign passports
because their IDs have either been revoked while studying or working abroad,
or their applications for family reunion rejected by the Israeli occupation
authorities under various pretexts since October 2000. Yet they are citizens
who have built their lives in Palestine, paying local taxes and voting in
regional and national elections in their embryonic State.

The majority of foreign passport holders who are denied entry have family
connections in Palestine and are entitled to family integrity by
international conventions and recognized norms. Israel has also signed
agreements of reciprocity in diplomacy and immigration rules with other
countries, which it is now violating while consistently failing to provide a
proper reason for its behavior, depriving threatened persons of their basic
rights of access to justice, transparency and state accountability. Israeli
citizens, meanwhile, enjoy unfettered entry into most countries around the
world, while citizens of these countries are being denied similar treatment
when they cross Israeli borders.

The business community has also been severely affected. Several successful
diaspora businessmen, who have invested heavily in building their community
for over a decade, are now being refused entry or deported with barely a
monthâ?Ts warning.

Diaspora Palestinians and foreigners have withstood humiliating
interrogation at entry points, continuously threatened with the insecurity
of not having their tourist visas or visitorâ?Ts permits renewed every three
months. Most of them are a part of the local educated class whose
contributions to civil society, educational institutions and the private
sector have been invaluable for the construction of a viable pluralistic
country and laying the foundations for a future Palestinian state. There
have been at least five cases of academics and university staff being denied
entry to the West Bank, the most recent in July 2006. Numerous
international students were turned away at the borders and unable to
register or continue their studies in Palestine. Even Trustees of various
university boards have been issued final permits and are being told to exit
the country. We call on you to support appropriate collective action
against this dangerous policy of denial of entry- and re-entry to
Palestinians and other nationals that threatens to empty the Occupied
Palestinian Territory of its educated classes:

1. To achieve the reversal of this illegitimate, discriminatory and immoral
form of population control

2. To secure the total freedom of access to education and other activities
in Palestine.

Presidents of Palestinian Universities

Dr. Ali Zedan
Al-Aqsa University/Gaza

Brother Daniel Casey
Bethlehem University

Dr. Daoud Zatari
Palestine Polytechnic University

Dr. Fakhri Hasan
Hebron University

Dr. Jawad Wadi
Al-Azhar University/Gaza

Dr. Kamalain Shaath
Islamic University of Gaza

Dr. Munther Salah
Arab American University of Jenin

Dr. Nabeel Kassis
Birzeit University

Dr. Rami Hamdallah
An-Najah University

Dr. Sari Nuseibeh
Al Quds University

Dr. Younis Amro
Al Quds Open University