New Israeli rules will require foreign passport holders to declare romantic relations with Palestinians

Suspension

TEL AVIV – Foreign passport holders in the West Bank will be required to report their romantic relationships with Palestinians to Israeli authorities, according to controversial new rules set to take effect on Monday.

Palestinian legal experts and human rights advocates say the move, which will also restrict Palestinians from visiting family members and severely limit Palestinian academic exchange with foreign universities, is an escalation of an already entrenched system of discrimination against Palestinians in the West Bank, which Israel seized in 1967.

The 97-page Israeli order detailing the new restrictions requires foreign passport holders, including, in some cases, dual Palestinian-American citizens, in a romantic relationship with a Palestinian resident in the West Bank, to “report” in writing to the Israeli security authorities ( to a private email address) within 30 days of starting the relationship.”

“The ‘relationship commencement date’ is considered the day of the engagement ceremony, or the day of the wedding, or the day of the commencement of cohabitation—whichever occurs first,” He said.

The new restrictions – which also require applicants to declare whether they own or inherit land in the West Bank – will not apply to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The area’s two-tier legal structure treats Israeli Jews as citizens living under civilian rule while Palestinians are treated as combatants under military rule, subject to nighttime military raids, and the confinement and prohibition of visiting their ancestral lands or accessing certain roads.

Palestinian rights advocates have condemned the updated and stricter measures on social media as yet another example of Israel stripping the rights of Palestinians living under its 55-year occupation.

“One aspect of this has to do with control and isolation,” said Salem Brahma, Executive Director of Rabet, the digital platform of the Palestine Institute of Public Diplomacy, Posted on Twitter Saturday. “The other is: If you cannot be together in Palestine, you will have [to] Leave and do it somewhere else. It’s about getting as many people out of Palestine as possible to maintain sovereignty.”

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Fadi Quran, campaign manager for the activist group Avaaz. chirp The new rules indicate that “love is dangerous” in the occupied West Bank.

Foreigners visiting the West Bank already face extensive vetting. A Palestinian woman living in Germany and married to a German man said she feared the rules would make it more difficult for her and her husband – and their future children – to visit her relatives in the West Bank. The woman spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid bringing her case to the attention of the Israeli authorities.

After learning about the new rules, the woman decided to bring her new husband to the West Bank to meet her family in May, before they took effect.

Until then, she said, Jordanian authorities at the border crossing advised the couple not to cross together and to remove any evidence of their relationship from their phones, because Israeli officials were returning Palestinian foreign husbands.

The couple took off their wedding rings, unlinked their Airbnb reservations and deleted their WhatsApp chats and photos together. Her husband told the border guards that he was visiting the West Bank for tourism. However, he faced intense questioning by the Israeli police.

A spokeswoman for COGAT, the Israeli military agency responsible for coordinating with Palestinians in civil affairs, declined to comment on the new restrictionsAnd the But he said a new version of the regulations is likely to be published on Sunday.

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The decree describes the “purpose of the measure” as a way of codifying rules that have already been in place for years for foreign passport holders entering occupied territories. The goal is to “determine the levels of authority and the manner of processing requests from foreigners who wish to enter the Judea and Samaria area through international crossings, in accordance with policy and in coordination with the appropriate offices,” the document said, referring to the biblical name Israel uses for the West Bank.

Since it was first announced in February, implementation of the new restrictions has been repeatedly delayed by the Israeli Supreme Court.

In June, HaMoked, an Israeli human rights organization, along with 19 individuals, petitioned the Supreme Court to block the new rules, arguing that they had placed “severe restrictions on the duration of visas and visa extensions” that would impede foreigners’ ability to work. or volunteering in Palestinian institutions for more than a few months, preventing them from leaving the West Bank and returning during the visa period, and in some cases requiring people to stay abroad for a year after their visa expires before they can apply for another visa.

The rules also “deprive thousands of Palestinian families of the ability to live together without interruption and lead a normal family life,” HaMoked He said In a statement issued in June, in addition to making it more difficult for foreign academics to work in Palestinian universities.

The new rules allow 100 professors and 150 students with foreign passports to remain in the West Bank – a major blow to Palestinian higher education institutions. They rely on academic cooperation and recruit hundreds of foreign students with passports each year. More than 350 European university students and staff have studied or worked in Palestinian universities under the Erasmus programme.And the EU student exchange programme, in 2020, up from 51 just five years ago.

Maria Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Proposed in July The development could also harm academic relations between Israel and Europe.

“With Israel itself benefiting greatly from the Erasmus+ programme, the committee is of the view that it should facilitate, not impede, students’ access to Palestinian universities,” Gabriel said. She added that EU officials had expressed their concerns to the Israeli authorities, “including at the highest levels”.

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American economist, cited Israeli Supreme Court rulings delaying implementation of the new rules as evidence of their illegality.

He said he is making daily phone calls from Palestinian immigrants around the world concerned that the new measures may make future visits difficult or impossible. He said the new protocols would be “ridiculous” as “impossible to implement”.

But he said they delivered a decades-old message from Israel to the Palestinians: “Go away.”

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