An officer in the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories will soon rule that a certain college instructor, a U.S. citizen, cannot enter the West Bank to teach at a university in Jenin because her area of expertise is not an “essential field” for Palestinians. The field will be determined in accordance with a COGAT ruling. A French student’s application to Bethlehem University will be refused because the Defense Ministry has decided that the department is closed to foreign students.
This isn’t a satire on military control, but rather highly likely scenarios based on COGAT’s “Procedure for the entry and residence of foreigners in the Judea and Samaria region,” set to go into effect in May (Amira Hass, Wednesday). The protocol applies to citizens of countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel (but not Jordan and Egypt) who seek to live for a period in Palestinian communities – that is, foreigners whose destination is not the settlements.
According to the protocol, a visa application for lecturers and researchers (as long as they are accomplished and hold a doctorate) “will be approved only in the event it has been proven to the satisfaction of the COGAT official that the lecturer will make a significant contribution to academic education, to the economy of the area or to advancing regional cooperation and peace.” COGAT also caps the number of foreign instructors and students at 100 and 150, respectively. In addition, students must undergo an interview at an Israeli diplomatic mission in their country of origin.
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For about 15 years Israel has gradually tightened restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals with family, social, economic, political or cultural/intellectual ties to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The new protocol sets down in writing the “oral law.” (It does not apply to the Strip.) It is detailed, but also ambiguous. Absent from it are certain categories of foreign nationals that come to the West Bank, such as friends of Palestinians and teachers at schools and music academies. Was this an oversight, or will they be barred because they are not explicitly mentioned in the protocol?
An “authorized official” in COGAT will also decide and define the “essential areas of activity” for Palestinian companies in which they may employ foreigners. The entry of businesspeople and investors will be permitted “in accordance with economic criteria that will be determined by the authorized person in COGAT.”
These authorities reflect Israel’s true attitude toward the Palestinians: as subjects who don’t have the right to decide what is right for them. Israel must respect the Palestinians’ right to determine which foreign academics and businesspeople will work at their institutions. Academic institutions in Israel must take action against the infringement of Palestinian academic freedom. And the Labor Party and Meretz must remember that in their passivity in the face of predatory intervention in the lives of Palestinians, they are betraying the positions and expectations of their voters.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.