On October 20 the Israeli government will implement new procedures for those seeking to enter the West Bank. First published by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) in February, and revised in September, these new procedures discriminate severely against those seeking to visit Palestinians, and will have a profoundly negative impact, separating Palestinian families, undermining Palestinian education, and subjecting Palestinians and their visitors to intrusive data collection.
U.S. passport holders seeking to visit Palestinians will not be immune from this discriminatory treatment. These harmful and discriminatory rules should make Israel ineligible for participation in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which would allow Israelis to enjoy visa-free short-term visits to the U.S., but would require Israel to ensure “reciprocal privileges to citizens and nationals of the United States.” Certainly Palestinian-Americans, and others of Arab descent, will continue to be treated less favorably than other Americans or than Israelis visiting the U.S.
Under the new COGAT rules, only immediate family members, journalists, and investors will be able to apply for short-term visas to visit Palestinians in the West Bank, and they will be required to undergo a lengthy and intrusive pre-approval process, requiring the personal details of friends, family, and hosts.
These rules do not apply to those seeking to visit Israeli residents of the West Bank, essentially punishing travellers with Palestinian ties or heritage, and enabling Israeli collection of data that can be used for mass surveillance of Palestinians.
In peace,Brian Evans
Churches for Middle East Peace