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Israel delays West Bank academic travel restrictions

The Israeli government has delayed plans to restrict the travel of international scholars and students to the West Bank in response to a letter filed by an Israeli human rights organisation.  

Academics have expressed “deep concern” about the new measures, which would limit the number of foreign students and scholars. Photo: Pexels.

The directive would limit the number of international staff and students eligible to teach and study at universities in the West Bank

The rules, which were due to come into force on May 22, have been pushed back by 45 days after attorneys from HaMoked, an advocacy NGO for Palestinians under occupation, demanded revisions to the restrictions which it said “needlessly hampers the entry of foreign passport holders”. 

The directive, “Procedure for Entry and Residence of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Area”, published in February, would further restrict travel by foreigners to the occupied West Bank, including limiting the number of international staff and students eligible to teach and study at universities to 100 and 150 respectively. 

The Israeli government will also only issue permits for independent research to individuals over the age of 25 and will limit the residency length of foreign academics to five non-consecutive years.

“serious concerns that applicants may be reviewed in an opaque and potentially arbitrary and inconsistent manner”

Scholars at Risk, which supports academic freedom, published a letter on April 27 to express its “deep concern” about the policy.

It said these new rules could “substantially harm the Palestinian and international academic communities”, with scholars currently working at Palestinian universities “at risk of being forced to depart and vacate their roles, upending courses and research projects that implicate hundreds, if not thousands, of local students and scholars”. 

The measures also mean that permits for teaching more than two semesters in the same year will only be issued to academics who possess a doctorate degree and can prove that they “contribute significantly to academic learning, to the Area’s economy, or to advancing regional cooperation and peace”. 

SAR says that this raises “serious concerns that applicants may be reviewed in an opaque and potentially arbitrary and inconsistent manner”, making it harder for Palestinian universities to recruit academics. 

Similar letters have been shared by organisations including the City University of New York community and the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies

The new restrictions “further entrenches the Israeli military’s micromanagement of Palestinian society”, Jessica Montell, executive director at HaMoked, told The PIE News.  

The delay “gives us a little more time to get organised in the hopes of preventing the new procedure from taking effect, or at least bringing about significant changes to it”, Montell said. 

HaMoked says it will petition the High Court of Justice against the restrictions if Israel does not amend them.

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