Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that newly–implemented Israeli restrictions on foreigners entering the Occupied West Bank, which went into effect in October 2022 and were amended in December 2022, could further exacerbate the isolation of Palestinians. The rules stipulate the requirements for foreign nationals entering and living in the West Bank, which differ from those for entering lands occupied by Israel.
The new guidelines further solidify and intensify existing restrictions, making it increasingly difficult for Palestinians living in the West Bank to be with family members who do not hold a West Bank ID and to interact with foreign students, academics, professionals, and other visitors. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has noted that the guidelines may have an especially adverse effect on the Palestinian population in the West Bank, who already face significant movement restrictions imposed by Israel.
“By making it harder for people to spend time in the West Bank, Israel is taking yet another step towards turning the West Bank into another Gaza, where two million Palestinians have lived virtually sealed off from the outside world for over 15 years,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch. “This policy is designed to weaken the social, cultural, and intellectual ties that Palestinians have tried to maintain with the outside world.”
Human Rights Watch conducted interviews with 13 individuals who recounted the challenges they have endured for years trying to enter or stay in the West Bank, as well as their worries about the impact of the new regulations. The organization also consulted with Israeli attorneys who have represented those fighting the limitations. Among those interviewed were an American psychologist teaching at a Palestinian university, a British mother of two striving to remain with her Palestinian husband and family, and a Palestinian who has resided in the West Bank for most of his life, yet lacks an ID.
Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch, was denied a permit to enter the West Bank for one week in order to carry out research and advocacy activities, due to the newly-imposed restrictions.
All those interviewed by Human Rights Watch described the immense bureaucratic hurdles they faced in attempting to stay legally in the West Bank, and the tremendous effect this had on their lives. An American businesswoman, who has been living in the West Bank for more than 10 years and wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution, was forced to leave her young children behind and spend weeks abroad in 2019 after her visa was denied. She recounted how this experience caused her to become overwhelmed with emotion and she “broke down in sobs in front of my son‘s school as I dropped him off, not knowing whether I would see him again.” Eventually, her visa was restored after diplomatic assistance.