We wish to bring to your attention an alarming yet unannounced Israeli policy that affects our society and education in the West Bank and Gaza Strip: the denial of entry, re-entry and continuous residence to foreign passport-holding Palestinians and non-Palestinian family members, lecturers, non-governmental organisation workers and international development experts.
Since the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, Israel has 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, depriving them of their basic right to freedom of movement and residence.
Since the beginning of 2006, 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 been denied entry or have even been threatened with deportation. Most of these are Palestinian-born and hold foreign passports because their IDs have been revoked while studying or working abroad, or their applications for family reunion rejected by the Israeli occupation authorities under various pretexts since October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.
Israel has 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 behaviour, 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.
The business community has been severely affected. Several successful diaspora businessmen who have invested heavily in building the community for more than a decade are being refused entry or have been deported with barely a month's warning. 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 have been 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 that threatens to empty the Occupied Palestinian Territory of its educated classes.
Ali Zedan, Daniel Casey, Daoud Zatari, Fakhri Hasan, Jawad Wadi, Kamalain Shaath, Munther Salah, Nabeel Kassis, Rami Hamdallah, Sari Nuseibeh and Younis Amro
Presidents of Palestinian universities