The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) decision on 6th July 2012 to permit the Israeli Immigration Service to hunt down and arrest (non-Jewish) foreigners in the West Bank is a clear sign that Israel wants to further physically isolate Palestinians from the rest of the world. The decision by the IOF Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon permits the Israeli Interior Ministry's Oz unit to arrest foreign nationals in the West Bank if they are deemed to not have the correct permits. According to the IOF, foreigners are considered to be "illegally" in the West Bank if they have passed 48 consecutive hours here, and not necessarily if they have overstayed the usual three month tourist visa.
The presence of internationals in Occupied Palestine, often volunteering in human rights and independent media organisations, provides an important link between Palestinians living under occupation and the rest of the world, and results in internationals returning to their countries with a much more vivid impression of the realities of the Israeli occupation and colonisation of Palestine, and thus a desire to intensify their efforts in questions of international Palestine solidarity activism.
This is surely one of the motivating factors for Israel's attempts to implement this closing of the West Bank for foreigners who are not Jewish settlers or privileged diplomatic staff. This is the second time in two years that Israel has directly and specifically targeted internationals living in the Occupied West Bank. In 2010 the IOF and Israeli immigration officers raided Ramallah, in supposedly Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled Area A, and arrested Spanish and Australian citizens. The subsequent legal appeal against the arrests led to the Israeli High Court ruling that the Israeli interior ministry officers, including immigration officers, did not have jurisdiction in the West Bank. This latest order contradicting the previous ruling shows the farcical nature of Israeli "justice" which respects neither international law, human rights nor mere common sense but follows the needs of the randomness of Israeli repression.
It is also important to view such a decision to remove non-Jewish foreigners from the West Bank in the context of the recent escalation of the campaign to deport asylum seeker and refugees from within historical Palestine. The Israeli state is obsessed with the "demographic threat" of Palestinians marrying, having children, and merely living. Anyone who does meet the racist criteria set by the Jewish state, whether Palestinian, Sudanese, or Western, is treated as a threat to the ethno-religious continuation of Zionism.
We condemn any moves by the IOF to control the freedom of movement of anyone in Palestine, and specifically defend the rights of Palestinians to continue to build internationalist links. We condemn the tactic of reducing the (non-Jewish) foreign presence in the West Bank to foreign government-funded normalisation NGO's and diplomatic staff such as EUPOL COPPS. Internationals, as individuals, have a role to play in Palestine that does not have to be neo-colonialist and harmful to a mass Palestinian movement of resistance.
While there is an important discussion about just how internationals can support the Palestinian struggle, in a spirit of solidarity and internationalism, we want to have this discussion in a situation where internationals are able to travel to Palestine and experience firsthand the horrors of the occupation.
The right to freedom of movement is enshrined in International Law, specifically the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee, General Comment No.27 on Freedom of Movement. Even within the framework of the Oslo Accords, the PA have the right to receive guests, though this is a right that Israel daily violates, amongst countless others.
Foreign countries, chief amongst them Israel's allies in Europe and North America, also have a legal responsibility to protect their own citizens from arbitrary arrest, humiliation, torture and violence at the hands of the Israeli state. These countries have remained silence, or at best have rehashed weak-worded statements declaring their support for "human rights", while at the same time financing and arming the forces that daily visit violence upon Palestinians and their international supporters in Palestine.