New Israeli rules would require foreign passport holders to declare romantic relationships with Palestinians


TEL AVIV — Foreign passport holders in the West Bank will be required to report their romantic relationships with Palestinians to Israeli authorities, under hotly contested new rules set to come into effect on Monday.

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

The 97-page Israeli order detailing the new restrictions requires foreign passport holders, including in some cases Palestinian dual US citizens, in a romantic relationship with a Palestinian resident of the West Bank to “inform” Israeli security authorities “in writing (at a special e-mail address) within 30 days of the start of the relationship.

“The ‘start date of the relationship’ is considered to be the day of the engagement ceremony, the wedding or the start of cohabitation – whichever comes first,” he said.

The new restrictions – which also require applicants to declare whether they have land or inherit land in the West Bank – would not apply to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The territory’s two-tiered legal structure treats Jewish Israelis as citizens living under civilian rule while Palestinians are treated as combatants under military rule, subject to nightly military raids, detention and a ban on visiting their ancestral lands or to access certain roads.

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

“One side of it is about control and isolation,” said Salem Barahmeh, executive director of Rabet, the Palestinian Institute for Public Diplomacy’s digital platform. wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “The other is: if you can’t be together in Palestine, you’ll have to [to] leave & do it elsewhere. It’s about driving as many people as possible out of Palestine to maintain supremacy.

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Fadi Quran, campaign manager of the militant group Avaaz, tweeted that the new rules signal that in the occupied West Bank, “love is dangerous”.

Foreigners visiting the West Bank are already subject to intensive screening. A Palestinian woman, who lives in Germany and is married to a German, said she fears the rules will make it even harder for her and her husband – and their future children – to visit relatives in the West Bank. The woman spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid drawing the attention of Israeli authorities to her case.

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

Even then, she said, Jordanian authorities at the border crossing advised the couple not to cross together and to delete any evidence of their relationship from their phones, as Israeli authorities had turned away foreign spouses of Palestinians.

The couple took off their wedding rings, unlinked their Airbnb booking and deleted their WhatsApp chats and photos together. Her husband told border guards he was traveling to the West Bank for sightseeing. Still, he faced intense interrogation from the Israeli police.

A spokeswoman for COGAT, the Israeli military agency responsible for coordinating with the Palestinians on civilian matters, declined to comment on the new restrictions, but said a new version of the rules would likely be released on Sunday.

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The order describes the “purpose of the procedure” as a way to codify standards that have already been in place for years for foreign passport holders entering the occupied territory. The objective is to “define the levels of authority and the mode of processing applications from foreigners who wish to enter the Judea and Samaria region through the international crossing points, in accordance with the policy and in coordination with the appropriate offices” , the document says, referring to the biblical name Israel uses for the West Bank.

Since they were first announced in February, the implementation of the new restrictions has been repeatedly delayed by Israel’s High Court.

In June, HaMoked, an Israeli human rights organization, along with 19 individuals, petitioned the High Court to strike down the new rules, arguing that they set “extreme limits on the length of visas and visa extensions” that would hamper foreigners’ ability to work. or volunteering for Palestinian institutions for more than a few months, prohibiting them from leaving and re-entering the West Bank during the visa period, and in some cases requiring people to stay abroad for a year after the expiry of their visa before they can apply for another one.

The rules would also “deprive thousands of Palestinian families of the ability to live together without interruption and lead normal family lives,” HaMoked said in a statement in June, and would make it harder for foreign scholars to work at universities. Palestinians.

The new rules allow 100 professors and 150 students with foreign passports to stay in the West Bank – a blow to Palestinian higher education institutions. They rely on academic collaborations and recruit hundreds of foreign passport-holding students every year. More than 350 European university students and staff have studied or worked at Palestinian universities under the Erasmus program, an EU student exchange program, in 2020, up from just 51 five years earlier.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, offered in July that the development could also harm academic relations between Israel and Europe.

“With Israel itself benefiting greatly from Erasmus+, the Commission considers that it should facilitate and not hinder students’ access to Palestinian universities,” Gabriel said. She added that EU officials had raised their concerns with the Israeli authorities “including at the highest level”.

Sam Bahour, an American-Palestinian economist, cited Israeli High Court rulings delaying implementation of the new rules as evidence of their illegitimacy.

He said he receives daily phone calls from Palestinian emigrants around the world, worried that the new procedures may make future visits difficult or impossible. He said the new protocols would be so “absurd” that they would be “impossible to implement”.

But, he said, they conveyed a decades-old message from Israel to the Palestinians: “Stay away.

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