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Israel Attempts to Purge International Presence from Palestinian Territories

January 22, 2010

It started with the Czech girl whose flat in Ramallah was invaded at night by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) even though they technically shouldn’t be in Palestinian territory. She was summarily deported, for her affiliation with the International Solidarity Movement and overstaying her visa. Then a couple of Americans trying to go on a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation trip around Israel and the West Bank were denied entry at the Tel Aviv airport and deported back home. Most recently, my friend Faith who has been working with the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem was detained and deported when trying to get a tourist visa (the only real way for most people to get access to the Palestinian Territories). Her boyfriend Jared, the English editor for Ma’an News, a Palestinian news agency, was detained for over a week inside the airport while seeking a legal hearing before he was eventually deported yesterday.

The news this week has been especially grim. Israel has stopped giving work visas to groups who work in the Palestinian territories, such as Oxfam and the Quakers, which will severely restrict the ability of international staff to conduct relief/development/peace/capacity-building projects in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. There has been an additional crackdown on activists and protesters inside Israel. This coordinated effort by Israel to get rid of the irritating internationals who question the politics and policies of occupation either by raising humanitarian concerns, social or political awareness, or religious consciousness is not new but it is alarming.

It is impossible to get into the Palestinian territories without Israeli permission. If restrictions on foreign organizations and individuals continue to rapidly increase, with no outcry from Americans, then we could see the day when the Palestinian territories are completely inaccessible. Perhaps this is what the Israeli government intends but it is deplorable and must be stopped. Without the freedom for press, aid groups, human rights organizations, and development agencies to operate in the occupied territories, conditions will undoubtedly deteriorate and further jeopardize the chances for any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


P.S. Two interesting Op-Eds on Jared Malsin’s detention/deportation and what it means for democracy and freedom of speech in the Jerusalem Post and by Americans for Peace Now.

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