Hadar Susskind 0:00
Hi I'm Hadar Susskind, the President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, and I am thrilled to have you all with us. And with that, I'm going to introduce our- my colleagues here. First and foremost, Madeleine Cereghino, our government relations director is going to join me in hosting this conversation today. And our guest, Jessica Montell, we are very pleased to have you. For those of you who aren't lucky enough to know her already, I'll give a brief introduction. Jessica is the executive director of HaMoked, a really, really fabulous Israeli organization known otherwise known as the Center for the Defense of the Individual. And you may know her in that role. You may know her from her previous role, as the executive director of B'Tselem, or from the frankly, good amount of time that that that she, along with some of us has been spending working on this issue now. And Jessica is really one of the deep experts on what really matters when we talk about these issues, which is the details, you know, it's easy to talk big picture, it's easy to talk about the politics, but when it gets down to really helping people and really trying to impact people's lives and those that are most impacted by the Occupation, the people whose homes are being demolished the people who are being expelled people dealing with the Israeli bureaucracy, and in the Israeli legal and military legal systems, Jessica and HaMoked are really the experts. And we are grateful to have you with us today. So hello.
Jessica Montell 1:38
Thanks so much for having me.
Hadar Susskind 1:40
Thank you. And I'm going to turn it over to Madeline now to get us started. Yeah, so let's
Madeleine Cereghino 1:45
Yeah, so let's just jump straight into you know, what COGAT is and these rules and things like that. But before we get into these new rules, would you mind telling folks a little bit about what COGAT is and the kinds of restrictions we've already seen. And then going into how these rules will be changing, expanded with the new guidelines when they're implemented in July. Also, as a side note, I understand this new set of rules is 97 pages long while the previous set was four pages. And I'm just curious how much of this is codifying existing discriminatory practices versus implementing new practices?
Jessica Montell 2:21
Yes, so thanks for that. I mean, I say one word about HaMoked, which is an Israeli human rights organization with a focus on providing individual assistance to Palestinians. And increasingly over the years, it's 30 years, that HaMoked has been working initially on issues of violence and detention. And other of the sort of dramatic events you read about in the headlines. Over the years, the work has really evolved to be focusing on the bureaucracy of occupation. And I think that says a lot about, you know, what occupation actually is, for a majority of Palestinians. It's a permit bureaucracy, you need a permit for almost everything, all sorts of things that we Israelis, or you Americans take for granted, living in your own home, traveling from point A to point B, having a family gathering, you know, really the day to day life. So then this new regulation, which Madeline as you said, 97 pages. The regulation is to regulate the title procedure for entry and residence of foreigners in the West Bank. But, of course, it has really important implications for Palestinian society and Palestinian institutions and Palestinian families who are hosting those foreigners. So first, what you need to know is that a person coming to visit Israel, their entry is governed by the Israeli Ministry of Interior, a person going to the West Bank, their entry is governed by the Israeli military, the Israeli military is, is the government, you know, the the legislature and the executive, you know, and the judiciary in the West Bank. And Madeleine, you're really right, that a lot of these new, what has been codified into 97 pages has been, you know, unwritten practice that has emerged over the past few years. And then we and others that have been challenging these regulations and saying, you know, where is it written all of these restrictions all of this basis for denying all sorts of people entry into the West Bank? Now they've come and codified that and they've also added a lot of new things that were not in practice before. So first of all, who is affected by this? The regulations are talking about entry to the West Bank, for students, at Palestinian universities, for faculty at Palestinian universities, for people who want to work or volunteer at any Palestinian institution and also for investors. And then there's a whole category for spouses of Palestinians. And I'll, I'll talk about that separately. But those are the only categories. Those are the only reasons that people can get a visa to come into the West Bank. Somebody who comes to visit Israel and the West Bank together, is outside of these regulations, that's called a mixed entry visa, and that would be governed by the Ministry of Interior. So if you're coming as a tourist to visit, you know, the West Bank and Israel, you would go through the regular channels of visiting Israel. But if you're just coming to the West Bank, let's say for a cultural visit, for a tourism visit, for a religious pilgrimage, there is now no longer any way to get a visa to come to the West Bank, solely for those purposes. So whole categories are excluded from the regulations. Now, somebody could land at Ben Gurion Airport and just come in as a tourist to Israel. I mean, plenty of people up until now who plan to go to the West Bank, they, you know, slip in through the cracks. But increasingly, people are subject anyone who for any reason is a flag for those people screening at the airport, they ask you, what's the purpose of your visit? If you say, I'm going to my church in Ramallah? Or I'm visiting a cultural institution in Nablus, no, you will be told that you should have applied 60 days earlier for a special visa, again, which isn't even possible for those purposes. But let's talk about the people who have been coming in, let's say students, I mean, what is new, I'll just outline. First, let me say 97 pages, it should be clear, you're talking about a micro management of Palestinian society. I mean, that's the headline that I would give to this, because they're all sorts of things that should not be under the purview of the Israeli military and the Israeli Ministry of Defense, to be setting criteria for who you can offer a teaching position to at a faculty at a Palestinian University, how many students can a Palestinian University host which institutions can receive volunteers, all of those things the military should not be dictating. And I take one step back to say, you know, the legal framework for everything the military does in the West Bank. By law, there are two two arms in terms of the legal authority of the Israeli military. One is for its own security necessity. And the other is for the welfare of the local population. So of course, an individual foreigner who raises any security concerns, the military can deny them entry. But to set a quota of 150 foreign students, which is what the new regulation does, for the first time explicitly sets that quota. Obviously, there's no security need for a quota on students of Palestinian universities, obviously, it is not in the best interest of Palestinian society. So those sorts of you know, invasive, regularly, regulations of the military are quite infuriating. And I say another
Hadar Susskind 8:26
new, I mean, something that has been enforced more or less in a sort of haphazard way, but now is written black on white is a very explicit discrimination. This policy applies to foreigners coming in from all countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel, with the exception of five, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, South Sudan, and Morocco, are outside of these regulations. They can only come to visit if they get a special visit to the Palestinian Authority permit that's given really in exceptional humanitarian considerations. Basically, those five categories cannot come to the West Bank, to be a volunteer, a student, a teacher, an investor, there's no visa process for them. And what this policy says is, if you have two different passports, you're that, if you have a Jordanian passport and an American passport, you're a Jordanian for the purpose. So what that means basically is, you know, who are the people with Jordanian passports, those are descendants of Palestinians. You have a whole class of, you know, grandchildren of Palestinians, who have a Jordanian national ID number. For the purposes of this procedure They're not Americans, they're Jordanians and they will not be able to study or teach or volunteer or come for any reason. And then I want to take just one minute to talk about the whole other class of people that are affected by this procedure. You have 10s of 1000s of foreigners married to Palestinians. Again, I say foreigners, a lot of them are Palestinian refugees that are coming from Jordan. But originally, you know, their grandparents village is in the West Bank, or you have, you know, non Palestinian Europeans and Americans who fell in love with Palestinians and married them and moved here. And this procedure also governs them, because there's a whole separate procedure that I'm happy to talk about, because it's equally infuriating about not granting family unification to Palestinians. Israel has taken unilateral control, although this is contrary to the Oslo Accords, about granting any legal status to spouses. You know, a person could be married to a Palestinian, and living in the West Bank for 30 years, own a home, have children work in a Palestinian institution, and never be granted the status of, you know, get a Palestinian ID, the only way they can stay here legally is through this visa system. But the new procedures are much, much more restrictive. On those couples, what it says is you can get a visa for three months, maybe extend for another three months. And then that's it, if you want to apply for another visa, you have to leave and stay abroad for a period of six months before you can even ask to come back. Now you have 10s of 1000s of people living, quote unquote, illegally as far as Israel is concerned, they're illegal aliens in the West Bank, because they've overstayed their visa, the new procedure now sets these security guarantees, you would have to deposit something like $20,000, you get a visa to come and live with your husband and children in your own home in the West Bank, you're going to have to deposit $20,000 as a guarantee that you leave after six months, too. So it's I mean, I think it's a whole separate issue, the denial of families the ability to live together, as opposed to all of the other categories, which really affect I mean, of course, it's affecting Americans who want to come to the West Bank, but of course, also affecting the Palestinian economy, the Palestinian academic, community, Palestinian society as a whole. overwhelmed, did I Oh, I
There's so much in this and I mean, you're not the one who overwhelmed. Thank you. First of all, you know, there are a tremendous, there are a lot of pieces in here that I think are really important for us to come back to I want to talk about the family reunification issue, which to me is sort of the most glaring, or one of the most glaring, I should say, of the humanitarian issues here. Definitely, we want to come back and dig in a little bit more. So what this means for Americans, and maybe look at what this means vis-a-vis the US and Israeli government. But first, I just have to go back to what you were saying about the five or six countries who are not part of this, including Jordan. So I gotta be honest, and I don't know if anybody else was, was with me on this, when you started listing those countries, I actually thought you were gonna say it's better for those countries, right? Because those are countries, some of them at least the beginning of that list that have closer relationships with the Israeli government, longtime peace, Abraham Accords, all kinds of different stuff. And then when you said that, in fact, it's worse for those and that the Jordanians who, again, so many of those people who we're talking about are, of course, Palestinians, like, like you said, Who's whose families, you know, have been in Jordan for a generation or two. That part to me is, is just shocking for, you know, a country with which Israel is supposed to be improving its relationships under this last government, and however long that lasts, it's a different issue. But and where, you know, we talk we hear all the time about oh, we want to find international funding for joint Israeli Jordanian, maybe Palestinian projects, you know, we want to improve, we see complaints in Jewish press all the time about, you know, is Jordan, you know, part of some sort of cultural boycott against Israeli institutions. And yet here we have a regulation that would be keeping I presume that's probably the largest number right Jordanians of Palestinian descent out of the country under this. So tell me a little bit more about that. And what have you know, what is Jordan had to say about this? What's that? What's that done around the bilateral relationship?
Yes, so you're right that the in terms of the people who would want to come the biggest population is Jordanians and and of those 10s of 1000s of spouses living here with no legal status a majority are Jordanian Palestinians. The the rationale? I mean, how could they possibly there's I have not seen any written justification. It's an odd, you know, Jordan, you could understand maybe but I mean, I can't even explain to you how South Sudan and Morocco, I don't know how they got added, except those are the Arab Arab countries with diplomatic relations with Israel. You know, those people could come to Israel, welcome to come to Israel to invest, or study at Tel Aviv University. It's only we want to keep you from having relations with Palestinian institutions and Palestinian society. I haven't seen any statements from the Government of Jordan or others regarding this policy.
Wow, and one other question, Madeleine, then I'll turn it, turn it over to you. But you mentioned the quota of 150 students, but tell me a little bit more 150 per what, what does that mean?
150 students per year, and there's also a quota on faculty, 100 faculty per year again, where does this number come from? It has no relationship to the actual numbers. And the only indication I don't know how many total foreign students or lecturers are at Palestinian universities right now, I can only tell you how many are coming from the European Union. The European Union has a program called Erasmus Plus, which is supporting Europeans to come to university universities throughout, you know, the Mediterranean region. So coming to Israeli institutions, it's last time I the numbers that I saw something like 1600 Europeans are studying or teaching in Israeli universities. And the same program, you have 366 Europeans in Palestinian universities. So these quotas are not enough, even for the Erasmus Plus participants. It's, I mean, it is infuriating as a, you know, sort of slap in the face to Europe, we're very happy for you to fund people coming to Israeli institutions, but we're going to be drastically restricting the ability of Europeans to come to Palestinian institutions.
Madeleine Cereghino 17:39
Wow. Okay. Thank you. Jessica, I want to go back to the the point you made about how this is kind of codifying the existing discriminatory practices. And I was curious, one, how activists in Israel are pushing back. And then, in addition, if these practices were already in place, in an like an ad hoc manner, prior to the rule change, is it almost more helpful from an advocacy perspective to be able to point to what is now clearly written out guidance instead of having to rely on anecdotal evidence?
Hadar Susskind 18:13
Yes, so, I mean, at this stage, first, I have to say the regulations are supposed to come into force in early July. So we're at a good point, you know it, and I'll reiterate this toward the end in terms of the ability to be influencing policy, it's not already enforced set in stone that would require Israel to, you know, back down. And and we have sent already our concerns to the Ministry of Defense and ask them to amend you know, very drastically amend these procedures. They informed us that they were postponing by another 45 days, it was originally supposed to come into force in May. They said they're postponing for another 45 days to consider our objections. And other I mean, we know that many others have also, including the US government and others have voiced objections. So it's very helpful to have written in black on white, let's say this discrimination against certain types of American citizens, of course, it's helpful to have that written black on white to be advocating against these regulations.
So, you know, you mentioned the date and talking about the US government and its thoughts. You know, the announcement has now been officially made the President Biden will be visiting Israel, starting July 13, I believe. And, you know, we have done you know, we've been involved in conversations, both congressionally and maybe Madeliene will get to that in a minute, but also with folks in the administration around this and I think it's, I think it's fair to share without getting into the details that I've heard From a number of senior government officials that the US government is very unhappy about this, that they they look at, I think they're unhappy about it, broadly speaking, but particularly, you know, they look at how this is going to impact American citizens. And you said something just a minute ago about, you know, certain different kinds of American citizens, because obviously, it's not fair. But the US government, at least theoretically looks at all American citizens as the same. And those citizens should be treated the same by by foreign countries. And one of the questions that this brings to mind for me is, you know, the question of the Visa Waiver Program, that Israel has, for a long time, been lobbying quite extensively, trying to become part of the US visa waiver program, it seems I would think, rather counterintuitive that they would do this do this at a time, again, where it's gonna be highlighted by the President's visit, but do this at a time when they're trying to become part of that Visa Waiver Program. Do you think? Do you think they took that into mind? I mean, why do you think they're doing this right now? I guess it's part of that question. And, you know, do you think that this opportunity with the bright light of the President's visit might help, you know, help raise the objections?
Yes, it is hard to imagine that they took the Visa Waiver Program into consideration and still formulated these regulations, I can only assume, you know, the Defense Ministry, people working on these regulations are siloed, from the foreign ministry, and, you know, maybe the prime minister's office pushing the inclusion into the US visa waiver. Because, you know, as it was, there was discussion about discrimination against Palestinian Americans and maybe Arab Americans in general, coming in. I mean, the experience of a Jewish American landing at Ben Gurion Airport is not at all the experience of a Palestinian American, it's a very blatant racial profiling and then being subjected to, you know, really invasive interrogation. So that already was a concern in terms of negotiations around the visa waiver. But then this adds a whole level of, you know, again, it's not under the table, sort of informal unstated profiling. It's very explicit discrimination. So and, and the visa waiver to be to be included in the Visa Waiver Program requires reciprocity, the way we treat your citizens is the way you treat our citizens. There cannot be a discrimination within different kinds of American citizens, as you said, for the US government, Americans are Americans. So I think the Biden visit is a great opportunity. I mean, I know there is negotiation around, you know, a package of decisions, announcements, gestures, that would be made in the, in the context or ahead of that visit. So I think this is a great issue, to add to the list that the Ministry of Defense would, you know, announced that they are scrapping this whole procedure and instead putting in place a much more, you know, fair and respectful of Palestinian society procedure.
Madeleine Cereghino 23:33
Thank you, Jessica. You know, Hadar noted a few of our he noted that there was have been some congressional letters about this, even one from represent Flaxton, another one of 12 members of congress in May, led by Representative Bowman. And then just last week, Representative Ocasio Cortez Tlaib McCollum led a letter calling on Mayorkas and Blinken expressing concerns and saying that render aid for the visa waiver program. But these rules don't, as you pointed out, don't just apply to American citizens. And I'm curious how other countries you mentioned the Erasmus program, how they've taken the news and what their pushback has been, maybe there's particularly lessons learned from them that we can, you know, make put into action here in the United States?
Hadar Susskind 24:26
Yes, I mean, for the Europeans? Well, I would say for the Americans as well, I mean, violating human rights should be a concern, you know, violating the human rights of Palestinians has to be part of the US Israel conversation, regardless of the impact. You know, there's the consular services, conversation, and there's, you know, just the diplomatic conversation around expecting Israel to uphold all of its legal obligations and respect human rights and the same is true of Europe. So particular countries are concerned about their own nationals, you know, the fact that you have your own nationals living in the West Bank, married to Palestinians, the fact that you have students and faculty and other people that are coming here. But also Europe, hopefully is concerned about what this means for Palestinian society in general Europe is investing in Palestinian universities, you know, building building up Palestinians, strengthening Palestinian universities, this measure is obviously a blow to academic freedom. I mean, the the levels, again, of micromanagement, which are priority fields, that will be people will be allowed to come and teach. What are the academic credentials, you know, when you need a master's, and when you need a PhD within this visa to extend from a one year visa to a two year visa, you know, the fact that it's not the university making that decision, but some clerk in the Ministry of Defense is outrageous, and of course, will harm academic institutions, Palestinian universities need to be free to, you know, recruit the best faculty from around the world, to be offering tenure to faculty from around the world. But offering tenure means that you can guarantee they will be able to, you know, stay permanently in the West Bank, what about their spouse and children? Will they be able to stay permanently? Currently, it's a maximum 27 months of foreign faculty, again, in fields that have been defined as high priority for the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the most you can get is a 27 month visa. So of course, you can't offer tenure to, you know, a really excellent faculty member, that's super important to the academic development of your department. So that should be a concern. I mean, it can't be, you know, that Europe is, on the one hand, trying to be strengthening Palestinian academia, and on the other hand, allowing the Israeli Defense Ministry to be curtailing academic freedom.
Thank you. So I want to take a couple of the questions that we've got from participants. And there's a scene here. So I'm going to bundle a few of these together, and then you can answer them. And it's really a question again, of trying to figure out who this applies to, and how. And so there are a couple questions here. So one person asked, you know, if somebody is if a US citizen was coming to for, you know, for medical, it's up to the PA to stay for a week and, you know, in the Palestinian territories for a medical mission, would this apply to them? And then there's right. And so then there's a different question, right, that goes along with this about, you know, what about people who are Palestinian Americans? And the question was asked about Omar Assad, who was killed who came from Milwaukee, to the West Bank, you know, how would this apply to people in that category? Who were, you know, Palestinian American citizens? And then the flip side of this, which I think is a really interesting question is, do the restrictions on foreign nationals entering the occupied territories also apply to Jewish settlers? Right? What about Jews who are either dual citizens, as I am, for example, you know, which you'd said earlier, you know, if you're a Jordanian, and if you have dual passports, they consider you that thing. Does that apply to Jews as well? Or what about Jews that are not Israeli citizens, you know, the many, many, many Americans who come to live and study in yeshivot in settlements, etc. How does this does this impact them? Or if not, what's the sort of explanation around that?
Yes, so this procedure applies to anyone who is not an Israeli citizen, or a Palestinian resident. So if an American who is in the Palestinian population registry does not need a visa to come to the West Bank, it applies to everyone else, except to the people who are excluded and prevented from visiting, but it applies to everyone else coming to Palestinian society, you know, married to Palestinians coming to Palestinian cities, coming to Palestinian institutions, a student from the United States, Jewish or not, who wants to go to Ariel University in the settlement of Ariel. is not governed by this procedure. They are free to come through the Israeli Ministry of Interior the Israeli Ministry of Interior, you know, rolls out the welcome mat for foreign students. You just need to show that you've been accepted into a program you will receive you get a visa for a year if you're going you know it's to Tel Aviv University or to Ariel college in the settlement, you can stay for if you're in a four year degree program, you can stay for four years, if it's a five year degree program, you can stay for five years. So, you know, there's all sorts of levels of discrimination. But you know, there definitely is a two tiered system for coming to study in the West Bank settlements is, you know, the red carpet, as far as Israel is concerned. And you don't even need to be talking to the Israeli Defense Ministry, as opposed to coming to Palestinian universities. I mean, what I didn't mention the procedure for coming to a Palestinian university, you will be required to undergo an interview at the consulate nearest to your house. So I mean, what is the content of that interview, the consular office within the embassies or consulates around the world will interview students pass those interviews on to the defense ministry. And then the Defense Ministry makes up its list of approved students again, you know, maybe 500 students are interested in coming, they have to make up a list of 150. Who I mean, what are the criteria? You know, any of us can sort of imagine in terms of who would be screened out from from that interview process. So I mean, basically anyone who is only coming to the web to Palestinian society in the West Bank, if you're coming to Israel, if you're on a medical delegation that goes both to Tel Aviv, and to Ramallah, this does not apply to you, if you're only coming to Ramallah, again, for any purpose, for a conference for a week, for a month for a year, for any purpose, you need to go through this process. Thank you.
Madeleine Cereghino 31:59
Um, okay, I have a question from someone in chat, asking what rationale the government used for these new laws. And then I also wanted to ask, you know, do you know anything about the process in which it was adopted or formed? Is has there been? I mean, some of it seems pretty, really hard to justify, frankly. But it has, have there been attempts to justify it.
Hadar Susskind 32:26
So the procedure was just issued in February. I mean, I know I have heard anecdotally, from some European diplomatic missions that have registered their complaints. And, you know, the, the, the people that they've spoken to in the defense ministry have been a little bit offended, you know, that the the response has been, we're trying to be transparent. And how come you never, you know, we don't get any recognition of the fact that now we're being so transparent. I mean, again, I think it indicates the way that they are in some little bubble, you know, divorced from considerations of the outside world, how a procedure like this might look. But um, you know, part of the reality of the West Bank being under military occupation, the legislative process, if we can call it that is very haphazard. I mean, a military commander signing a military order. That's the legislative process. So now, if the regulations are not drastically amended, before they come into force in two weeks, we would take them to we would petition Israel's High Court of Justice, and then the High Court of Justice would require them to justify I mean, I would say, in general, HaMoked is challenging all sorts of infuriating procedures, you know, the closure on Gaza, why can't families Why is there no way for families to be meeting that are separated by the Gaza enclosure access to land, beyond the separation barrier? Just this year, we had a success challenging, you know, a crazy regulation that in fact, I think I talked about last year in a webinar here. Why are they restricting people who have a small plot, they've decided that people with a small plot, don't warrant a permit to cross the separation barrier and get access to their land. Why, you know, only when they came before the court, and then they had some garbled explanation about what is agricultural, sustainable agriculture. I mean, again, clerks who, you know, probably have never farmed an olive grove in their life or setting these kinds of regulations. So we don't know how they're going to justify these regulations yet. Probably they will say that there is a problem of people overstaying their visas because we know again, 1000s of people stay here with their families beyond the their visa So they'll say we need a way to be ensuring that people leave at the end of their visa. You know, why is for them to decide that you need a master's to be a lecturer at a university? I know, it's hard to imagine how they will justify that.
So I'm going to ask two to one as a follow up, and then a separate question. So the follow up to that is, you know, you've talked about steps that that you that HaMoked can can take in terms of bringing this to the High Court, as this has been out in the public space, again, since since February. What, you know, we know this comes from COGAT we talked about earlier, you know, from the defense ministry in the military side of things. It's not from the it's not from the legislative process of the Knesset. But what, if anything, have we heard from the political leaders in the Knesset? And I'd say specifically, you know, have the parties on the left spoken up? Have they had anything to say about this? And is there anything that they can do about it, frankly, given that it is under military control? Yes. We had a hearing last week in the Knesset, we is, you know, the whole sort of family of organizations concerned about occupation, to mark 55 years of occupation. And I presented these regulations in that committee. So that was like the first effort to put it on the table. And now we're following up on that with members of Knesset submitting questions to the defense minister asking for a hearing in the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. And obviously, there are implications for both halves of that committee's mandate. I mean, Israel's foreign relations and Israeli security and its responsibilities in the West Bank. So we would be pushing those channels. I mean, what can they do is a question that I'm sure every single webinar that you have had settlement expansion, settler violence, forced dispossession of Palestinian communities, you know, if they if the left wing members of the coalition made this the deal breaker for the continuation of the coalition, of course, they would be successful in changing the regulations. But of course, this is not going to be the deal breaker. I mean, if you know, a forced dispossession of the 1000 Palestinians from Massafer Yatta is not the deal breaker, then definitely these very bureaucratic, hard to understand regulations governing foreigners coming into the West Bank. I mean, is there something in between, you know, half hearted protest and pounding your fist on the table and saying, it's all, you know, putting all your cards? I would hope there would be something in the middle. I mean, there's no reason there's no lobby who, you know, unlike settlements, where you really have, you know, both halves of the government on opposing sides. I don't think there is a lobby, you know, insisting on these restrictions on foreigners coming into the West Bank, so that should make it easier. But, of course, I think it should be. You know, it's not out of the question that the US administration, working together with European governments would be able to make a real change. I mean, again, the the it's it, it should be something very straightforward, again, given that we're talking both about violation of human rights obligations, but also a real discrimination and hardship for American citizens.
And one of the things that we've talked about with, with leaders here, both folks in Congress and the administration is, again, this connection between this and the Visa Waiver Program that, you know, they are getting members of Congress are getting lobbied by, by the embassy here by other groups to push Israel's inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program. And they've been very clear our position on it has been, you know, we're we're all for Israel being included in the Visa Waiver Program, if and when and only if and when they meet the qualifications, which includes not discriminating against American citizens. So this, this would seem a very clear spot where, hopefully, you know, our collective voices can raise some of the objections and bring that that foreign relations side of the Foreign Relations insecurity interview, I'm gonna ask one specific follow up question and then I'll turn it over to Madeline in a moment, but one of our participants here said that they are planning on coming on an eyewitness Palestine trip next year, and they want to know if that trip could be in jeopardy of not being able to happen because of these regulations.
Yes, a trip with a headline of I visit Palestine unless the definition of Palestine includes 1948. Israel if the definition of Palestine is the West Bank, right there. Yeah, I mean, that trip would definitely need to request visas ahead of time. And there's no tourism clause for this. So in fact, I do not see. I mean, that's a great example. And I do not see how, with these new regulations coming into force, I witness Palestine would be able to come to the West Bank.
So I just I want to know someone who is listed as an attendee as an anonymous attendee. So I don't know who it is. But no, I just wrote in the chat, that they work for eyewitness Palestine and that the trip will not be affected. So I don't I don't know the details of that. And again, we don't have to go down. Now.
If you're coming as a tourist, if you're coming as a tourist to Israel and the Palestinian territories, these regulations will not affect you. Gotcha. I wanted to say one thing about the Visa Waiver Program, which is this principle of reciprocity. I mean, I think every one the most important point for Americans is that the US has to stand firm on the principle of reciprocity and non discrimination. I mean, if the US stands firm on those principles, then the ball is in the court of the Israeli government, do you really want to be included in the US visa waiver program? Or it's not that important to you? It's your decision. But it can't be that it's a negotiation between the Israeli government and the US government, how much discrimination? is the US administration willing to stomach?
That's a very, that's a very good question. And one that we often ask.
Madeleine Cereghino 42:11
Just, just to follow up on that, we have another question in the chat, asking what would prevent someone from flying into Ben Gurion and basically not saying they're going to Palestine? And then going?
Hadar Susskind 42:24
Yes. You know, you already have that situation, if someone is coming. Either someone has a Palestinian last name, or somebody is known to have been active in Palestine Solidarity activities in the United States, those people are flagged at the airport. And those people have been sent back. In some cases, even you know, under the current regulations, if you are active in BDS. You know, as anyone who has worked on immigration issues in the United States knows, you know, there are no, there is very, very broad discretion on allowing foreigners to come into your territory, there's no inherent right of anyone to go to a foreign country. So, you know, Israel decides now inside the State of Israel, that's an argument for Israelis to have, you know, what are what sorts of restrictions are legitimate, but obviously, you can't be applying those same parameters when you're talking about Israeli control over people coming into Palestinian society. But the current situation is, you know, plenty of people come in hoping to get in under the radar. Plenty of those people succeed, and some people don't. So is this new procedure, going to mean a crack down at the airport that they're going to be much more restrictive? I don't know. But, you know, the legal situation is if you're going to Ramallah, I mean, again, starting next month, if you're coming to Ramallah for any reason, you should have asked for a visa ahead of time. Now, if you say no, I'm going for a weekend at the beach in Tel Aviv, and then going to Ramallah, again, are you going to get away with it? Or you're not going to get away with it?
So, you know, I think I know I'm sitting here kind of trying to think through all the the implications in the details. And I see the questions coming in from the chat people are doing the same as we're trying to figure out who this is going to impact and how what about the press? And how is this going to, you know, how might this impact foreign press who are coming to cover, you know, what's taking place in the Palestinian territories? Obviously, this is you know, a topic that has been much in the news recently for horrible, horrible reasons. Is this is Is it possible that these are the you know, these regs are going to be used to crack down on press representation? Also?
Yes. Any press institution that has an office inside Israel is going to be asking for visas for their staff under the Israeli system. Right. So if AP or Reuters, which has their headquarters in Jerusalem, all of their foreign staff would be the mixed visa, right, they're coming in to cover the situation in Israel and the West Bank, any, so any institution that's registered with the Israeli government press office, can get away with not engaging with this new procedure, but Palestinian press institutions? You know, an organization that has a headquarters in Ramallah, obviously, can't do that. And in fact, press is one of the lacuna In this procedure, there's no visa for press. So if a Palestinian press agency wants to hire foreign staff, there is no way that they can get a visa for foreign stuff.
Fascinating. And that's something that, you know, again, maybe, obviously, you knew the answer, but like, I hadn't I haven't heard that discussed at all, yet as part of this. And, you know, it just goes to show that the the breadth of these regulations, and we know, they're focused on on family reunification issues, and, you know, and, um, the university pieces, but this this, if it really goes into place, it's going to impact so many so many different things.
Yes, yes. And I'll add another and that's international organizations, international organizations. Again, a big institution that has its headquarters in Jerusalem is not going to be affected a, you know, humanitarian aid institution that has its headquarters in Jerusalem, even if it's Palestinian Jerusalem, because Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and Israeli Law, they're applying Israeli law there. So any institution that has a headquarters in Jerusalem is going to be able to avoid these procedures, but an international development or humanitarian or aid institution, with headquarters in Ramallah? Or Nablus is going to have to go through this procedure for their staff and their volunteers? And again, again, they
would be for that. Right. Right. I
don't know, for international organizations, there is a there is a procedure for if you're a worker, or a volunteer in an organization, you can get a permit.
Does that also have a quota on it?
No there's no quota. But there are all sorts of guidelines. It's called experts and consultants in unique disciplines, and senior employees. So you, you can ask for a permit, you get a short term permit, you can ask for it to be extended. You know, but there is a very firm limit on how long you can stay here. Now, even for Israel, you know, international aid organizations that are headquartered in Jerusalem, the maximum is five years. I mean, that's why I just discovered this week that that's why you know, you have a rotation in these international organizations, that after five years, the senior staff you know, non Palestinian staff have to leave. But in the West Bank, the maximum is 27 months. So though that same institution, if their headquarters is in Ramallah, you know, they bring in a project manager or project director, they would only be able to stay here for a maximum of 27 weeks.
Madeleine Cereghino 48:58
I'm so mindful of the fact that we're running short on time, so I apologize if I'm about to open up another wormhole element of this but um, you know, in the reading and the reporting of these regulations and kind of what's being asked what has been asked for these FISA applications include like, people listing out all associations and family members and potential property that could inherit and like you know, there have been reports of people being required to log into their Gmail accounts and things like that. It how common has this been? And is this really what it's gonna look like going forward?
Hadar Susskind 49:38
So the form that foreigners have to fill out is the same form and already for the past few years you have been required to detail if you have any land claims in the West Bank, if you stand to inherit any property. I mean, they're, you know, odd questions for somebody who's asking to come to visit They are questions, you know, the students who are filling out the form to go study in the Ariel settlement or Tel Aviv University are obviously not asked these questions. It's not new, but it is a concern. You know, in general, when we are asking for any kind of a permit for Palestinians, let's say a Palestinian from the west bank wants to go to a wedding in Gaza, have family members, the military requires that they submit the name and phone number of all of those family members in Gaza. So and it's clear there is I don't know if fishing expedition is the but But definitely, let's say an information gathering exercise. You know, we know about all sorts of the surveillance technology being used in the West Bank, facial recognition, the fact that soldiers now have a quota, you know, that they're photographing Palestinians and entering them into this database, the blue wolf database, so information gathering is, you know, the, you know, an auxiliary function of these forms, it's not new, but it definitely is very invasive questions that people are being asked.
I'm just shaking my head over and over again, throughout this conversation.
I'm looking over Wait, I've just to give you the examples, I looked for the actual form, you have to fill out, do you have a land or house in the area in the West Bank, please specify, do you own or are claiming inheritance in the area? Please specify? Do you have a criminal record? Of course, that's legitimate. And anybody would ask, you know, any country that you're coming into, you know, those? Those are sorts of, you know, have you ever visited before? Did you stay beyond your last visa? Were you ever denied a visa? So, you know, mixed in with what are legitimate questions to be asking when you're asking for a visa, or things that are completely, you know, invasive, and infuriating?
I know you you mentioned it might have been before we started actually that you that you and your organization have just put out a report on this. So first of all, I want to make sure we get that again, in English. Yes. Is there an English version?
We haven't put out No, we sent our objections, a very detailed letter to the military with our objections. And then we would file a high court petition. I mean, again, they have, you know, unless they come back next week with, you know, a drastic amendment to these procedures, we would file a petition, and then we would, you know, sort of summarize all of the, but on our website, there's just a two page, position paper. That's the report that I refer to just sort of two page overview that I think already put in the chat.
Which is great. So one of the things that, you know, I want to make, make sure that we do going forward, I know we've we've had you join us for congressional briefing that Madeleine has organized in the past, I think this is frankly, a really important opportunity to do. So again, just like you had the chance to present this to the Knesset Members we've been talking to, you know, to a number of members of Congress, who are, you know, are definitely interested and definitely concerned about what this means on the human rights front and what this means for American citizens in particular. And I think, you know, we're gonna reach out for sure to find that opportunity to have you join us and talking to them and hopefully explain explain this to them, so that we can help them raise their voices.
Great. That's great. I mean, I think I would say I would say, you know, there's there I have two agendas in raising this this issue. One, I want to, you know, and this procedure, get this procedure very drastically amended, but I think it's a really useful, teachable moment, you know, to everyone who thinks that occupation is just those, you know, really dramatic events, or that everything that the Israeli military is doing, you know, they're forced to do for security reasons, and it's all very complicated. You know, this is a really good example of this. This micromanagement that occupation is, in fact, this very invasive permit bureaucracy. I mean, as Madeline said at the beginning, it's helpful that they've laid it out for us in black and white to make this case to people who weren't aware of this level of micromanagement before.
Unknown Speaker 54:46
Yeah, thank you.
Hadar Susskind 54:48
I want to welcome to our screen, Jim Klutznick, the chair of Americans for Peace Now. Hi, Jim.
Jim Klutznick 54:53
Thank you, Hadar. And thank you, Jessica, for trying to explain something that's almost inexplicable something. It's coffee. Orwellian. And I just I have a specific question is related to the question of the Visa Waiver Program and reciprocity. It seems to me that on the face of it, it doesn't it won't make any sense. Because if if we allow Israelis to come in under that under on a waiver under those under that program, and then what does that mean for citizens of other countries? First of all, we have our own citizens who happen to be of different Heritages including obviously Palestinian. So how do you how do you structure a risk, a reciprocal agreement, where you have so many exceptions? And then if and if we were to now I'm looking at it from the American government point of view, if we were to allow them under that program, based on reciprocity, what does it say to the rest of the world? How we think about their citizens? Does it just say we're doing it selfishly, so we in Israel can play games together? And that and we allow that to happen? I certainly if that's the case, I don't know. First of all, I asked the question, Jessica. So I just want to see what your thoughts are that?
Hadar Susskind 56:15
Oh, I mean, it's a rhetorical question, because you're quite right, that there can't be, you know, reciprocity is it's not a question of degree, either we deal equally and fairly with all of your citizens, or we don't. So I think you're right. And I think you're right, that there's a second level of, you know, the US can't be only concerned about the treatment of its own citizens, that's crucial that they look out for the interests of their own citizens and the principles of equality and non discrimination. But as you said, of course, US interests and foreign policy interests have to be much broader than that they can't be indifferent to, you know, abuse of other citizens.
Jim Klutznick 56:59
I would think so. I mean, certainly from our standpoint of APNS, if we lobby our government for all kinds of things, this certain, certainly to me would be a prime reason to say to them, don't do this. Will you? What do you want, you want to look like it's just a game between you and Israel and the world, and the rest of the world doesn't count. So anyhow, I, I was trying to form that formulate that questions, and the easier just to come along. And first of all, thank you, everybody who's listening in and make that point. So thank you very much. Thank you.
Hadar Susskind 57:33
And thank you, Jessica, thank you so much for joining us. And again, we're going to continue to be in touch as we work on this and try to help take some of this explanation from today and share that with, you know, our community leaders here with elected officials with folks in the administration. Madeleine thank you as always for helping to facilitate this conversation. And most importantly, thank you to everybody who joined us. We look forward to being in touch soon. And again, we will be sharing the recording. We'll share the PeaceCast episode and we will talk to you all soon. Goodbye. Thank you very much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai