A new report released by the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) on Tuesday, May 16, has highlighted the “confusing, complex and arbitrary” restrictions imposed by Israel on foreign entry into the occupied West Bank. According to the report, Israel is sitting on or has forbidden the entry of foreign passport holders into the occupied Palestinian territories on the basis of their racial and ethnic backgrounds. It notes that these restrictions were introduced by Israel in 2022 and are collectively known as COGAT 22—inspired by the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, the Israeli body which governs and rules over the Palestinian territories since 1981.
In the press release on Tuesday, the ICJP claimed that the restrictions have been introduced to cement the Israeli military occupation by preventing the millions of Palestinians living abroad from visiting their native and ancestral lands. In his statement, co-director of the ICJP, Tayab Ali, said that “COGAT 22 is a draconian development that is designed to disrupt people’s lives, strip people of their rights and segregate people from one another. It is a classic tactic of divide and conquer, and an entrenchment of Israeli apartheid. However, these new regulations simply formalize a reality that Palestinian people have been forced to live with for years.”
He added that the new restrictions are a “bureaucratic nightmare designed to tie people’s ankles together with red tape”
One of the new rules states that foreign passport holders, including Palestinians living abroad, must apply for a visa at least 45 days prior to traveling to Palestine, instead of the earlier practice of obtaining visas on arrival. Another restriction disallows foreigners from entering into the Palestinian territories via Israel’s main airport in Tel Aviv. Instead, they will have to enter Palestine through the land crossing between Jordan and the occupied West Bank. The restrictions also include “shocking surveillance tactics” that give the Israeli government the right to record personal data on land claims and inheritance, as well as the names and national ID numbers of relatives of those entering the occupied territory.
The ICJP says that the restrictions “cuts West Bank Palestinians off from the rest of the world, so it is imperative that the international community holds Israel accountable for these arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on the exercise of people’s rights.” It called on the Israeli government to order a review of these restrictions and ensure that its policies governing the occupied Palestinian territories comply with international law. Notably, these restrictions don’t apply to the foreigners visiting the illegal Israeli settlements constructed on stolen Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.