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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls for action against Israeli practice of separating families


by The Campaign for the Right of Entry, November 26th

Concluding her visit to the Israeli occupied Palestinian territory, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called on UN member states to take action against Israel’s practice of denying foreign passport holders access to and residency in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel’s barring of foreigners is forcing the separation of spouses from their families, educators and students from their schools, and healthcare providers from their patients.

Arbour, who is the UN’s highest authority on human rights, stated “In recent months there has been an increase in obstacles imposed on foreign passport holders, including many of Palestinian origin, effectively preventing them from entering and staying in the (Israeli) Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) with their families or for humanitarian activities. I call on the authorities to take remedial measures to remove such obstacles.”

In order to legally reside in the Israeli (oPt), foreigners must resort to Israeli-issued visitors’ visas which expire 3 months after issuance, Enayah Samara, for example, has had to renew her visa 120 times in order to remain with her spouse and children despite repeated submission of family unification requests. The Hamoked-B’Tselem report “Perpetual Limbo” documents Israeli policy which contends that family unification for Palestinians is not a vested right, but a “special benevolent act of the Israeli authorities.”

Mrs. Samara was denied re-entry by Israel in May and continues to be separated from her family after have lived in the Israeli oPt for 30 years. Israel is refusing to process 120,000 such requests for Palestinian family unification and has recently begun marking visa renewal requests with “last permit” thus forcing the passport holders to exit to another country. Many, like Mrs. Samara, are then denied re-entry by Israeli border officials.

The academic, economic, tourist, and humanitarian sectors have been especially hard hit by Israel’s denial-of-entry practice, Birzeit University reports a 50% decline in foreign faculty and staff and, along with 10 other Palestinian universities, recently called on the international community to intervene and put an end to Israel’s attack on Palestinian academic development.

Families and other tourists coming from abroad for summer vacation were routinely denied entry by the Israelis. Combined with the international embargo on Palestinians, Israel’s actions further exacerbate its efforts to undermine Palestinian economic and social development.

Article 17 paragraph 1 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his…family,” while Article 23 paragraph 1 adds that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” The above rights are to be enjoyed by all individuals “without distinction of any kind.”

The Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the oPt calls on the international community to live up to its legal and moral obligations to protect rights afforded to Palestinians under international law. We call on the United States, in particular, to leverage its historic relationship with Israel in order to protect its own citizens wishing to reside, visit and invest in the oPt, as well as to create the conditions where citizens of other countries will also be protected from Israeli denial of entry.

Contact: Basil Ayish, Coordinator, Media Committee: