Jerusalem24 – Palestinian legal experts, academics and digital rights groups have expressed outrage over an incoming Israeli policy for the entry and residence of foreigners in the occupied West Bank, which they say further complicates the rules of movement, and adds restrictions to an already convoluted system.
The 97-page document, called “Procedure for Entry and Residence for Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Area (PDF),” replaces the current four-page document. Judea and Samaria is the term the Israeli government uses to refer to the occupied West Bank.
The policy has more expansive entry rules, which some legal experts say is an attempt to restrict and track the travel of foreign nationals to the occupied Palestinian territories, control Palestinian population growth and keep data on the land claims of Palestinians holding foreign nationalities.
The new rules, set to come into effect on May 22, were published in February but received little attention at the time.
The regulations treat the West Bank as an integral part of Israel, using terms such as travel to “Judea and Samaria” or the “Area”. They also stipulate entry to Israel for the purpose of “transit” to the West Bank.
The rules also further complicate and formalize written and unwritten entry restrictions for foreigners wishing to visit, do business, reunite and reside with their Palestinian families, work or volunteer in the West Bank, or study or teach at Palestinian academic institutions.
Foreign-passport holding Palestinians must provide information – for visa purposes – on an application for approval prior to travel, which includes the names and national ID numbers of “first-degree” relatives, or other non-relatives with whom they may stay or visit.
Digital rights experts say that personal information on travelers and their families and acquaintances is likely to be used in Israel’s mass surveillance and data collection efforts.
Palestinians with foreign passports must also state whether they own property or stand to inherit some in the West Bank. No reasons are given as to why this information is necessary in order to process an entry application.
As per the new policy, differences are made between travelers seeking to visit Palestinians in the West Bank and those visiting Israeli settlers. Only those visiting Palestinians must obtain approval before their visits and provide the aforementioned information.
The document says that the aim of the new rules is to “define the levels of authority and the manner of processing from foreigners who wish to enter the Judea and Samaria area”. Israeli authorities say that restrictions on travel into the West Bank are necessary for security reasons.