The same rules do not apply to the more than 130 illegal Jewish settlements spread across the occupied West Bank, nor to visitors.
The number of visiting professors and students would be limited to 100 and 150, respectively.
A visiting lecturer would have to persuade an Israeli military officer that they “[contibute] significantly to academic learning, the Area’s economy, or the advancement of regional cooperation and peace,” according to the policy.
The quotas, according to COGAT, apply to teachers and students who wish to stay for more than one semester and will be “re-evaluated from time to time.”
Almost all foreigners would be required to leave after 27 months and wait another nine months to apply for re-entry, with a total stay of only five years, making long-term employment practically impossible.
Volunteers who were authorized by the Israeli military could stay for a year but would have to wait another year to seek for re-entry.
Israeli institutions are exempt from the rules.
Furthermore, most foreign spouses would only be permitted to enter the West Bank on three- to six-month visiting visas. While some of them may be eligible for spousal permits that are renewable for up to 27 months, they would have to leave for six months.
The procedures, according to the military, standardize the application process and broaden the “spectrum of permissible justifications for accessing the area.” They are part of a two-year pilot program, and “some portions” are already being re-evaluated.
The State Department said it was looking into the procedures and “engaging with Israeli authorities to understand their applications.”
A legal challenge to the policy that was implemented
after examining the new law’s neative effect on the educational sector, a number of International organizations are increasing their pressure on Israel to ease limitations on Palestinian colleges’ capacity to recruit foreign faculty and students.
The Israeli regulation, which was published in February, was supposed to take effect on the 20th of this month, but it has been postponed until July due to concerns voiced by HaMoked, an Israeli human-rights organization, according to The Jerusalem Post.
HaMoked, an Israeli organisation, has threatened threatened legal action against the restrictions. Other organizations that campaign for education rights and academic freedom, such as Scholars at Risk and the Middle East Studies Association of North America, have put pressure on Israel too.
In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Scholars at Risk, a worldwide network of institutions and individuals whose aim is to safeguard scholars and promote academic freedom, expressed their concern over the restrictions.
The letter, dated April 27 and signed by the organization’s executive director, Robert Quinn, stated, “The Israeli government mandate would severely restrict international researchers’ and students’ travel to and work in the West Bank.”
The decision “will substantially harm the Palestinian and international academic communities,,” according to Scholars at Risk.
The letter cited several respecificstrictions in the directive as cause for concern. Among which the plan to set a quota on the number of foreign faculty and students who could study and conduct research long-term at universities in the West Bank.
The letter also protested a proposal to an age limit on permits for independent research to those over 25 and/or already holders of a PHD. This would unreasonably eliminate opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students who are not affiliated with universities in the West Bank to conduct independent research there, it said.
He was particularly concerned about the lack of clarification regarding the role of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, an agency inside Israel’s Defense Ministry that would be in charge of enforcing the directive.
According to Quinn, the directive empowers COGAT to assess foreign lecturer and researcher permit applications. However, it “does not describe the procedure or timing of COGAT’s reviews” and “does not identify the competence of COGAT personnel to examine researchers’ work.”
“The burdensome requirements and restrictions imposed by the directive endanger international relationships and academic work that are crucial to the scientific, political, economic, and social progress of Palestinian universities.” stated Daniel Munier, senior program officer for advocacy at Scholars at Risk.
Quinn wrote, “Provisions such as these, raise serious concerns that applicants may be reviewed in an opaque and potentially arbitrary and inconsistent manner and that Palestinian higher education institutions will be severely impaired in their ability to recruit scholars.”
“The burdensome requirements and restrictions imposed by the directive,” according to Daniel Munier, senior program officer for advocacy at Scholars at Risk, “endanger international relationships and academic work that are crucial to the scientific, political, economic, and social progress of Palestinian universities.”
“We write to express our solidarity with members of the Palestinian higher education community, letting them know that we stand with them and will not let attacks and pressures on academic freedom like this go unnoticed.”Munier wrote in an email to Al-Fanar Media.
The letter reminds Israel that it is bound by international law to “refrain from actions or policies that restrict academic freedom and the right to education,” according to Munier.
Quinn outlined many ways in which the mandate could impact Palestinian higher education in his letter.
“upending courses and research projects that implicate hundreds, if not thousands, of local students and scholars.” he wrote, scholars currently employed at Palestinian universities will be forced to leave.
He predicted that Palestinian colleges will struggle to fill such positions, further interrupting teaching and research.
The law faced a strong condemnation form MESA (Middle East Studies Association) whose president, Eve Troutt Powell, wrote of behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom saying, “The policy vests the Israeli military with the unilateral power to select and exclude international faculty, academic researchers, and students who wish to teach, study, and conduct research at Palestinian universities,”
According to her, MESA views this as “both an attempt to isolate Palestinian scholars and students from the international scholarly community and a form of censorship aimed at constraining the freedom of speech and association of international academics and students by denying them access to and engagement with Palestinian scholars and students, as well as professional and educational opportunities at Palestinian universities.”
She concluded: “We condemn this proposed policy in the strongest terms as a clear escalation of the persistent efforts of your government to deny Palestinians the right to education.”
Palestinian educators hailed the international expressions of support.
“The academic community, especially in Europe and the United States, is sympathetic to the Palestinian universities affected by the decision,” Ghassan Khatib, vice president for advancement at Birzeit University, wrote to Al-Fanar Media. “I think that their solidarity and statements help a lot.”
Khatib said, The Palestinian academic community is working to resist the Israeli restrictions in three ways, Gaining statements of solidarity from international organisations that put pressure on Israel is one of them.
A second means of resistance “is to conduct diplomatic contacts with representatives of European countries, especially those whose nationals are professors at the university,” Khatib added.
“The third is through a legal path to refuting the decision,” he said. “This is handled by Adalah, an institution concerned with legal issues for Arabs in Israel.”