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Diplomatic Mission intervention unites foreign passport holders with their families;

the Campaign for the Right to Enter/Re-enter
April 26, 2007

(April 26, 2007 – Ramallah) –Israeli border control authorities continue arbitrarily denying entry to foreigners traveling to the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The pattern was first identified by the Campaign for the Right to Enter/Re-Enter the oPt in early 2006 when long-time residents returning from visa renewal excursions were being barred from reentry, separating them from their family and livelihood and forcing relocation to another country. Disturbingly, there are reports of Israeli border agents physically abusing foreigners; one US citizen was forced to return to Jordan at knifepoint. In a positive development, some foreign missions have intervened on behalf of their citizens resulting in those previously barred to finally pass Israeli-controlled entry points.

Those who are ‘allowed’ to enter the country are increasingly given visitor permits for as little as a few days without clear instructions whether and for how long they can extend their stay. Those denied entry are arbitrarily subjected to humiliating body searches, detention and verbal abuse before being deported.

Some recent examples illustrate the chaotic welcome scenarios for visitors to the Holy Land:

April 7 – Fares Abdullah, 28, Swiss IT-engineer whose father holds a Palestinian ID. He had pre-notified the Israeli Embassy in Bern and the Swiss Embassy in Israel about his plan to visit his parents and family for Easter. He was assured that everything was ‘ok.’ When he arrived at Allenby Bridge on the morning of April 7, he was made to wait for many hours until all other passengers had been processed. At the end of the day he was suddenly ordered at gunpoint into a private taxi back to the Jordanian border without any explanation. He tried again the next day and got through eventually, thanks to continuous and vigorous intervention by the Swiss Embassy official. Mr. Abdullah was granted a one week tourist visa.

April 14 – Hassan Newash, US passport holder and retired engineer from Grosse Pointe Michigan, was flashed a switchblade by an Israeli official at Allenby Bridge to force him back on the bus to Amman. Fearing for his life, Mr. Newash complied. Insisting on knowing the reasons for Israel’s denial of his planned entry to visit his family in Bethlehem, Mr. Newash was physically abused. Halfway to the Jordanian border it turned out that Mr. Newash’s passport was mixed up by the Israelis with those of two other travelers carrying the same first name. They were not on the bus to Amman. Mr. Newash was eventually driven back to the Israeli border to collect his passport and then was suddenly allowed to enter. He got a 3-month visa.

April 19 – Elisa Abedrapo, Chilean citizen of Palestinian origin entered her family’s home town Bethlehem for the first time in her life. Before that she had been denied entry twice last February at Allenby Bridge. As a result of persistent protests by Chilean nationals, who had been denied entry by Israel, with Chilean government institutions, the Israeli authorities apparently obliged and assured Mrs. Abedrapo clearance for entry. On April 19 she was allowed to enter on a regular 3-month visa.

April 21 – Hanna Quffa, US passport holder of Palestinian origin, has been working as independent auditor for USAID and other US government projects. He has been traveling back and forth many times from Europe where his office is based. To his surprise he was deported for the first time from Tel Aviv airport back to Milan on April 21, after being kept in detention for 12 hours. Border authorities explained Mr. Quffa’s detention and deportation by stating that ‘he did not have a work permit.’

April 23 – Dr. Ata Kasem, US passport holder and professor in mathematics, returned from California after 9 months of forced separation from his family and his home village Turmos Ayya in the West Bank where he was born in 1939. Dr. Kasem had lived and worked in the USA and in 1998 returned with his wife and 7 children, all holding Palestinian ID cards except him. For 8 years he kept ‘visiting’ his family by traveling in and out of the country to renew his 3-month visa, which he never overstayed. Last summer, after a vacation in Jordan, mother and children were allowed to return home through Allenby Bridge, while the father was denied and later had to leave from Jordan to the USA. He finally decided to try to return to his home and family on April 23. This time he was allowed to visit home with a 3-month visa. No explanations or apologies were given.

Since early in 2006, Israel has been repeatedly requested by third states to announce a consistent, comprehensive, transparent and internationally lawful policy towards foreign passport holders intending to reside with family, visit, work, or study in the oPt. It continues to dismiss those demands. In violation of its obligations as an occupying power to comply with international humanitarian law, Israel continues to abuse its control over entry, presence and residency in the oPt in a manner that causes unjustifiable harm to the protected civilian population, their family life, businesses and the institutions that serve them. It continues to expose foreign passport holders to arbitrary abuse and arbitrary denial of entry at the borders it controls, threatening and often causing them considerable pain and hardship in disrespect of their fundamental human rights and the elementary principles of humanity common to civilized nations.