x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Israel constrains foreign nationals in the occupied territories

On multiple fronts, Israeli authorities are curtailing the rights and freedoms of those perceived as critical of the state, be they journalists, human rights activists, or foreign nationals working for international nongovernmental organisations operating in the occupied Palestinian territories. On Wednesday, Jared Malsin, an American journalist working for a Palestinian news agency was deported from Tel Aviv, after being detained for eight days upon returning from a holiday in Prague.

On multiple fronts, Israeli authorities are curtailing the rights and freedoms of those perceived as critical of the state, be they journalists, human rights activists, or foreign nationals working for international nongovernmental organisations operating in the occupied Palestinian territories. On Wednesday, Jared Malsin, an American journalist working for a Palestinian news agency was deported from Tel Aviv, after being detained for eight days upon returning from a holiday in Prague. The Guardian reported: "Malsin, who has worked with the Ma'an news agency for two years as its English news editor, spoke by telephone to a colleague to say he was being deported and was then put on a flight to New York. 'He was not in a good place. He sounded very confused,' said George Hale, a staff writer at Ma'an. "Sabine Hadad, a spokeswoman for the Israeli interior ministry, said Malsin had refused to answer questions and co-operate with security staff when he landed at the airport last week. 'It is the minimal right of every immigration authority to ask questions or to clarify things that are not clear about every person who wants to enter Israel,' she said. 'He refused to co-operate and we told him if he continued to refuse he would not enter Israel.' "Hadad said they did not know Malsin was a journalist until they were contacted by the press about his detention. "However, Hale said Malsin was interrogated repeatedly and was asked about articles he had written from the occupied West Bank that were critical of Israeli policies. Hale said Malsin had briefly overstayed his last tourist visa, but was registered as a journalist with the Palestinian Authority and with the authority's labour ministry. He had applied for an Israeli government-issued press card, which most foreign journalists here carry, but was told it would not be granted because he was based in Bethlehem, in the West Bank." In Al Jazeera, Orly Halpern reported: "Last month the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) revealed an alarming trend in its annual survey on the protection of human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories - the conditioning of rights. " 'The realisation of the entire spectrum of rights is now more than ever dependent on what we say or believe, what ethnic group we belong to, how much money we have, and more,' says the ACRI. " 'We have the freedom to express ourselves and demonstrate - only if we don't say anything displeasing; we have the right to equal treatment and opportunities - only if we are "loyal" to the state.' "In the streets, the Israeli security forces are waging a war against protests by Jewish left wing and human rights activists, who non-violently protest against Israel's separation barrier or against Jewish settlers taking over Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. "Many have been arrested and some were attacked by the security forces. "However, right-wingers protesting against the government's decision to temporarily freeze building in settlements are accorded much more leniency by Israeli law enforcement agencies. "During Operation Cast Lead about 800 Israeli citizens, most of them Arab, were arrested, with criminal charges brought against most of them. "In a recent editorial, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz called the arrests 'an evil omen regarding the state's attitude toward protesters' and said that as a result, 'concern is growing over Israel's image as a free and democratic country'." On Wednesday, Haaretz said: "The Interior Ministry has stopped granting work permits to foreign nationals working in most international nongovernmental organisations operating in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, Haaretz has learned. "In an apparent overhaul of regulations that have been in place since 1967, the ministry is now granting the NGO employees tourist visas only, which bar them from working. "Organisations affected by the apparent policy change include Oxfam, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Terre des Hommes, Handicap International and the Religious Society of Friends (a Quaker organisation). "Until recently, the workers would register with the international relations department at the Social Affairs Ministry, which would recommend the Interior Ministry to issue them B1 work permits. Although the foreign nationals are still required to approach the Social Affairs Ministry to receive recommendations to obtain a tourist visa, the Interior Ministry is aiming to make the Ministry of Defense responsible for those international NGOs and also requiring them to register with the coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT), which is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense." Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reported: "The United Nations on Wednesday said it was 'deeply concerned' about the deterioration of the health care system in the Gaza Strip due to Israeli closures of the Hamas-ruled territory. "A year after Israel's devastating offensive in Gaza the borders of the impoverished territory remain mostly sealed, preventing hundreds of patients each month from leaving to receive timely advanced care, officials said. " 'We are deeply concerned about the current health system in Gaza and in particular its capacity and ability to deliver proper standards of health care to the people of Gaza,' UN Humanitarian Coordinator Max Gaylard said. " 'This adverse situation is not like Haiti. Haiti has been destroyed by an earthquake,' he told reporters at Gaza's main Al-Shifa hospital. 'The circumstances here are entirely man-made and can be fixed accordingly.'" Amnesty International issued a statement on Monday saying: "Israel must end its suffocating blockade of the Gaza Strip, which leaves more than 1.4 million Palestinians cut off from the outside world and struggling with desperate poverty, Amnesty International said one year on from the end of Israel's military offensive in Gaza. "Amnesty International's briefing paper Suffocating: The Gaza Strip under Israeli blockade gathers testimony from people still struggling to rebuild their lives following Operation Cast Lead, which killed around 1,400 Palestinians and injured thousands more. " 'Israel claims that the ongoing blockade of Gaza, in force since June 2007, is a response to the indiscriminate rocket attacks launched from Gaza into southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups. The reality is that the blockade does not target armed groups but rather punishes Gaza's entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials,' said Malcolm Smart, Middle East and North Africa Director, Amnesty International." The former Israeli foreign minister who was in office during the war on Gaza was interviewed by CNN. "Tzipi Livni, leader of a key Israeli opposition party, said Monday she would be willing to face arrest to challenge the validity of war crimes charges reportedly filed against her in a British court. " 'For me, this is not a question,' Livni told CNN's Christiane Amanpour, when asked whether she was willing to face arrest. 'I mean, yes, the answer is yes. I am.' "A British court last year issued an arrest warrant for Livni, leader of Israel's Kadima Party. Details of the warrant were never made public; the warrant was reportedly later dropped. " 'I would like this to be, in a way, maybe even a test case, because I'm willing to speak up and to speak about the military operation in Gaza Strip,' Livni said."

pwoodward@thenational.ae