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Israel's West Bank clamps put 2m at risk

By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-05-14 07:20

People inspect the destroyed house of a Palestinian militant following an Israeli raid, in Jenin, Israeli-occupied West Bank May 13, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Moves by Israel to tighten entry conditions for foreigners visiting the West Bank areas that it occupies could threaten the well-being of some 2 million people who need humanitarian assistance, experts said. The new rules target universities, nongovernmental groups, businesses, and family reunions.

They said the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, headquartered in Saudi Arabia, can play a role in putting a stop to Israel's aggression by recognizing that the Palestinian issue "is part of its existence".

"The OIC's charter clearly shows how deeply embedded the Palestinian issue is in the existence of the Muslim body," Arhama Siddiqa, a Middle East expert at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad in Pakistan, told China Daily. "Because of the OIC's untiring efforts, the UN(designated) March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia, which is a testament to what the OIC body can achieve if they are on the same page."

On April 27, Doha-based media outlet Al Jazeera reported that a 97-page Israeli ordinance, called the Procedure for Entry and Residence for Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Area, will replace the current four-page policy. The report said the Israeli government uses the terms "Judea" and "Samaria" to refer to the West Bank.

The report said the new policy differentiates between travelers who seek to visit Palestinians in the West Bank and those who visit Israeli settlers. Only those who visit Palestinians must obtain prior approval. Israeli authorities say the restrictions on travel to the West Bank are "necessary for security reasons", the report said.

The Jerusalem Post reported on May 1 that Israel has postponed the imposition of the new restrictions to July following a legal appeal. The restrictions were first published in February by the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT-the Israeli military's civil body that administers the West Bank.

"Now because of Israel's new restrictions, many professors and teachers will not be able to come back to Birzeit University and other Palestine universities," said Mohammad Abualrob, an assistant professor and chairperson of the Department of Media at Birzeit University in the West Bank. "We have the right to raise our voice. Why will Israel restrict the right to education in Palestine?"

Walaa Sabah, a community outreach and partnership officer at We Are Not Numbers, or WANN, a youth-led Palestinian project in Gaza, also occupied by Israel, said the new rules will have a severe impact on humanitarian aspects.

"We Are Not Numbers is not limited to Gaza only, but it extends all over the globe, and most definitely the West Bank,"Sabah said. "We are now awaiting a delegation from the UK to visit Gaza, and it seems that the process is so complicated. They have been trying to get access for over three months and were not able to get permission until now."

At a meeting on April 25, OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha reaffirmed the OIC's support for the right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty over their occupied land.

He also urged all international actors to assume their responsibilities and get involved to sponsor a political track to end the Israeli occupation.

Belal Alakhras, a political analyst and Palestinian researcher at the University of Malaya in Malaysia, said that when a large number of countries declare a firm stance against Israeli oppression Israel is likely to reconsider its proclivity to violate Palestinian sovereignty and the right to self-determination.


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