October 16, 2006

Engage supports "appropriate collective action" against Israel

It's true. Well it's true that Engage claims to support "appropriate collective action" against Israel in the case of "the denial of entry, re-entry, and continuous residence to foreign passport holding Palestinians and non-Palestinian family members, lecturers, NGO workers, and international development experts." Here's the whole piece:
Palestinian heads of universities protest the policy of refusing re-entry to Palestinians who work and live in Palestine
Added by Alexandra Simonon on October 15, 2006 03:02:44 PM.
Engage supports this letter from Palestinian heads of universities, calling for appropriate collective action:

To Members of Global Civil Society and Academia

To Members of Global Civil Society and Academia We, Presidents of Palestinian institutions of higher education, wish to bring to your attention an alarming yet unannounced Israeli policy that affects our society in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at large, and education in particular: the denial of entry, re-entry, and continuous residence to foreign passport holding Palestinians and non-Palestinian family members, lecturers, NGO workers, and international development experts.

Since the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, Israel has unilaterally 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, thus depriving the Palestinians of their basic right to freedom of movement and residence.

Since the beginning of 2006, and especially 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 suddenly been denied entry or even threatened with deportation.

Israel has arrogated to itself the prerogative of allowing or refusing work permits to foreigners in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Most of these are Palestinian-born and currently hold foreign passports because their IDs have either been revoked while studying or working abroad, or their applications for family reunion rejected by the Israeli occupation authorities under various pretexts since October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.

The majority of foreign passport holders who are denied entry have family connections in Palestine and are entitled to family integrity by international conventions and recognized norms. Israel has also 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 behavior, 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, while citizens of these countries are being denied similar treatment when they cross Israeli borders.

The business community has also been severely affected. Several successful diaspora businessmen, who have invested heavily in building their community for over a decade, are now being refused entry or deported with barely a month’s warning. Diaspora Palestinians and foreigners have withstood humiliating interrogation at entry points, continuously threatened with the insecurity of not having their tourist visas or visitor’s permits renewed every three months.

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 were 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 of denial of entry- and re-entry to Palestinians and other nationals that threatens to empty the Occupied Palestinian Territory of its educated classes:

• To achieve the reversal of this illegitimate, discriminatory and immoral form of population control
• To secure the total freedom of access to education and other activities in Palestine.

Presidents of Palestinian Universities
Dr. Ali Zedan, Al-Aqsa University/Gaza
Brother Daniel Casey, Bethlehem University
Dr. Daoud Zatari, Palestine Polytechnic University
Dr. Fakhri Hasan, Hebron University
Dr. Jawad Wadi, Al-Azhar University/Gaza Dr. Kamalain Shaath, Islamic University of Gaza
Dr. Munther Salah, Arab American University Dr. Nabeel Kassis, Birzeit University
Dr. Rami Hamdalla, Al Quds University
Dr. Sari Nusaibah, An-Najah University
Dr. Younis Amro, Al Quds Open University
And already there's a dissenting comment from a Paul Malin:
Some immediate thoughts on reading this article:

1) Is there supporting evidence that an undeclared Israeli policy as described in this letter exists, and that it is applied without reference to legitimate security concerns?

2) Has Engage bothered to ask Israeli authorities for their perspective, before endorsing the letter?

3) The letter says most of those affected are "Palestinian-born and currently hold foreign passports". That means that (A) they have official representation from another government, able to go to bat for them if they are being treated in breech of international agreements, and (B) they cannot be the citizens of any Arab country except perhaps Jordan. This is a situation which has not generated public letters of condemnation from Palestinians or anyone else, or calls for "appropriate collective action".

4) Are you not troubled at all by the hypocrisy and purposeful oversimplifications of the fifth paragraph?:

"The majority of foreign passport holders who are denied entry have family connections in Palestine and are entitled to family integrity by international conventions and recognised norms. Israel has also 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, while citizens of these countries are being denied similar treatment when they cross Israeli borders."

- Neither a family connection nor reciprocal visa agreements guarantee anyone a right to enter or reside in any country.

- Very few countries give foreign visitors unrestricted access to war zones, least of all visitors with ties to their enemy.

- There are a number of the countries of the world, most not far from the West Bank and Gaza, to which Israeli citizens do not enjoy unfettered entry at all. Since this letter is couched as an appeal to international norms and universal justice, it is fair to ask what Palestinian voices have been raised against that situation.

5) Describing a policy that so far this year has resulted in "five cases of academics and university staff being denied entry" as one that "threatens to empty the Occupied Palestinian Territory of its educated classes" and a "form of population control" seems to carry the conclusion a little beyond what the data can support.

6) We're back to "appropriate collective action" again. What collective action is being proposed? If not a boycott, what collective action does Engage envision?
Exactly Paul, What collective action is being proposed? If not a boycott, what collective action does Engage envision? Good question comrade. Now let's just wait for the answer.

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