Travel Restrictions to Israel and the West Bank | Machsomwatch
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Travel Restrictions to Israel and the West Bank

Ana Shidlo

Israel proudly encourages growing tourism and immigration, but discriminates according to ethnicity. This article addresses some restrictions affecting those of Palestinian heritage.


An American passport does not guarantee free entry: security agents pounce on the family name, and the parent(s)’ Palestinian origin. Two young women, Ms. D. a U.S. born and educated architect, whose father is Palestinian, and her friend S., a finances expert, recently endured in Ben Gurion fourteen hours’ exhausting questioning, photographing, and close scrutiny of their emails, contacts, luggage, and person. Two female security guards escorted them, even to the restroom. Finally, they were deported to the U.S., losing travel arrangements, including expensive airline tickets (Doughman, 2012).


Similarly, Ms. L. was born in America to a Palestinian mother. She was singled out and separated from her fellow travelers---California University students on a Middle East diplomatic trip---undergoing prolonged scrutiny, humiliating questions and restrictions. Not allowed to enter Israel through the international Jordan River crossing from Amman, she was told to “try the Allenby Border Crossing, that is for Arabs only.” She felt “stripped of [her] entire identity, [her] history erased.” She could only enter and depart the West Bank via the “Arab” Allenby Bridge; but, once stamped in her passport, this entry permit prevented her from entering Israel (Karmalawy, 2013).


University students can neither enter Israel nor merely transit through: most West Bank students cannot attend Israeli Universities. Nor, since the year 2000, can Gaza students transit through Israel to study at nearby West Bank Universities, even if they are PhD scholarship recipients (“Student travel...Gaza,” 2012). Others were hindered from joining Israeli and West Bank students in a NYU “coexistence” program (Skop, 2014), causing American funders to withdraw these laudable scholarships (Bohn, 2012). These restrictions are part of Israel’s “separation policy,” but significantly, Gazan business people and football players are free to travel (“What is separation policy?”, 2012).


Harsher still is the plight of Dr. H., a fifth generation East Jerusalemite returning from the U.S. In 2007 he obtained his doctorate in nanotechnology, after many years’ work in the Silicon Valley. He had paid 120,000 NIS for a construction permit, his wife was working as a Kupat Cholim nurse, and two good jobs awaited him. But, in 1967 Israel annexed East Jerusalem and its surrounding villages, and since then it restricts Palestinians’ permanent residency in the area. Dr. H.’s permit expired because he had lived longer than seven years in the U.S. and acquired American citizenship. His work contracts were therefore cancelled and his three children deprived of health insurance. Worse, as an illegal he could be arrested and expelled (Hass, 2010).


Offering useful information, the Jerusalem U.S. Consulate warns Palestinian Americans that the experience of entering Israel may not be pleasant (“Entering and Exiting Jerusalem,” 2014). Ironically, matters might improve because Israel has recently requested American visa waivers for its citizens. In return, the U.S. demands a reciprocal arrangement guaranteeing free entry to Israel for all American citizens, regardless of ethnicity or origin (Deger, 2014).


Tourists and students visiting or returning to Palestine and Israel may one day be able to enjoy the experience and, more important, remain and enrich the whole region with their acquired skills.




Selected References

Doughman, N. and Al-sarabi, S. (2012). “‘Do you feel more Arab or

more American?’: Two women’s story of being detained and interrogated at Ben Gurion.”Retrieved from

Hass, A. (2010). “Palestinian Jerusalemites go work abroad and

get residency revoked upon return.” Retrieved from work-abroad-and-get-residency-revoked-upon-return-1.297136

Karmalawy, Y. (2013). “Palestinian-American student denied

entry to Israel after being told, ‘there is no such thing as Palestine’.” Retrieved from

Skop, Y. (2014). “Israel bars Gaza student from travel to U.S. for

coexistence program.” Retrieved from

“What is the “separation policy”? (2012). Retrieved from