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Monday, July 10, 2006

Profiling for terrorists

One of the things that bothered me about stories like the 'home grown' terrorists in Canada was the potential for those terrorists being admitted to other countries - like Israel - based upon the lack of a visa requirement. At the time, I wrote:
When I lived in the US, you could travel between the US and Canada with any form of ID - you didn't need a passport. I trust it's still that way. In fact, occasionally when we drove from New York to Montreal (a ride I took several times during my college career), the border guards would just wave us right through. I really hope that's not the way it is anymore. If I lived in the US today, and even living here in Israel with many friends and family in the US, I'm really nervous about what's going on in Canada.
Someone here in Israel has gotten wind of the fact that there are Islamic terrorists populating western countries and is doing something about it. That's the real story behind what HaAretz is making sound like a vast denial of admission of 'Palestinians' with US citizenship to Israel. As you read this story, please keep two things in mind:

1. This is supposed to be a news story but in the finest European tradition, it's a news story written with a severe editorial bias (you don't see that as much in American papers but it's a tradition in Europe).

2. Amira Hass is about as left-wing a 'Palestinian' sympathizer as there is in this country. As the second story I linked reports, she lost a libel case filed by the Hebron Jewish community several years ago and was forced to pay NIS 250,000 in damages (considered a large amount for a libel case in this country). So the tone of this story is biased. The substance - assuming that it is true - is good news:
For the first time since 1967, Israel is preventing the entry of Palestinians with foreign citizenship, most of them Americans, who are arriving from abroad, but have lived and worked for years in the West Bank.

By various estimates, the ban has so far affected several thousand American and European nationals, whom Israel has kept from returning to their homes and jobs, or from visiting their families in the West Bank. This could potentially impact many more thousands who live in the territories - including university instructors and researchers, employees working in various vital development programs and business owners - as well as thousands of foreign citizens who pay annual visits to relatives there. The policy also applies to foreigners who are not Palestinian but are married to Palestinians, and to visiting academics.


One of the demands that Israel has posed in specific cases which attorney Leah Tsemel represented before the High Court of Justice, is that applications for visitation permits be authorized by a low-ranking official from the Palestinian Interior Ministry, who is not affiliated with Hamas. The ministry refuses to comply with this condition. Now it turns out that this policy has been extended to U.S. and European citizens.


The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv told Haaretz that no Israeli official informed them of a change in entry policy, and said that the United States cannot intervene in sovereign decisions of another country. Several people who were refused entry and spoke with U.S. representatives said that the consulate and embassy are well aware of the apparently new policy.

An e-mail from the department of U.S. Citizen Services in Jerusalem to a U.S. citizen who had inquired about entering the West Bank stated that the consul general had met with a representative from the Israeli Interior Ministry regarding the government's entry policies: "The Israeli official conceded that 90-day visa entry cards, which were once routinely granted in the past, especially to U.S. citizens, are now more difficult to obtain, specifically for Palestinian American citizens traveling to the West Bank and for U.S. nationals affiliated with humanitarian organizations. Both the U.S. Embassy and the Consulate in Jerusalem are pursuing the issue." [In other words, if you're coming to be a human shield with the ISM, you're not going to get an automatic tourist visa - and with good reason. CiJ]

Israel's Civil Administration stated in response that "the entry to the region of foreigners who are not residents of the territories takes place by means of visit permits issued by the Palestinian Authority and approved by the Israeli side," because coordination stopped after September 2000, and entry was permitted in exceptional humanitarian cases - a practice that was also suspended after the Hamas government was formed. Today, the statement continued, cases "involving special humanitarian need" are being considered.
In summary, Israel is apparently taken precautions to ensure that terrorists don't enter Israel on American, Canadian, European or other friendly country passports. If that's true, it's about time. There's no reason we have to allow 'peace activists' like Rachel Corrie to come here and try to disrupt IDF activities just because they carry US passports.


At 10:33 AM, Blogger Jeremayakovka said...

Amira Hass is one of the most unhappy professional journalists I've ever met in my life. (I heard her at a talk about 5 years ago.) She's full of frustration, definitely not joie de vivre


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