In response to a letter filed by an Israeli human rights organisation, the Israeli government has postponed plans to restrict international scholars and students’ travel to the West Bank.
The rules, which were supposed to go into effect on May 22, were delayed by 45 days after attorneys from HaMoked, an advocacy NGO for Palestinians under occupation, demanded revisions to the restrictions, which it said: “unnecessarily impedes the entry of foreign passport holders.”
The directive, titled “Procedure for Entry and Residence of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Area,” issued in February, would further restrict foreigners’ access to the occupied West Bank, including limiting the number of international staff and students eligible to teach and study at universities to 100 and 150, respectively. The Israeli government will also only issue permits for independent research to people over the age of 25 and will limit foreign academics’ residency to five non-consecutive years.
Scholars at Risk, a pro-academic freedom organisation, issued a letter on April 27 expressing “deep concern” about the policy. According to the report, the new rules could “significantly harm the Palestinian and international academic communities,” with scholars currently working at Palestinian universities “at risk of being forced to depart and vacate their roles, upending courses and research projects that involve hundreds, if not thousands, of local students and scholars.”
Permits to teach more than two semesters in the same year will also be issued only to academics with a doctorate degree who can demonstrate that they “contribute significantly to academic learning, the Area’s economy, or advancing regional cooperation and peace.” According to SAR, this raises “serious concerns that applicants may be reviewed in an opaque, potentially arbitrary, and inconsistent manner,” making it more difficult for Palestinian universities to recruit academics.
Organizations such as the City University of New York community and the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies have sent similar letters. According to Jessica Montell, executive director of HaMoked, the new restrictions “further entrench the Israeli military’s micromanagement of Palestinian society.”
According to Montell, the delay “gives us a little more time to get organised in the hopes of preventing the new procedure from taking effect, or at least bringing about significant changes to it.” If Israel does not change the restrictions, HaMoked says it will file a petition with the High Court of Justice.
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