In a recent development, Israel seems to have paused its usual stance of preventing BDS activists from entering its borders. This is significant as it did not prohibit AJP Action’s Executive Director, Osama Abuirshaid, from entering. The policy change demonstrates the ability of the United States to effectively exert pressure on Israel to alter its discriminatory policies against Americans and, more crucially, against Palestinians. However, it’s essential to approach this cautiously, as this change might only last for as long as the trial period.
Just two weeks ago, Abuirshaid visited Israel for the first time to evaluate adherence to the Visa Waiver Program’s (VWP) stipulations during the trial period signed on September 30. As per the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on July 19, 2023, Israel is reportedly committed to treating all American visitors equally. However, the MoU has certain ambiguities that grant Israel broad discretion to refuse entry to American citizens if it cites “legitimate security concerns,” a term that will likely be interpreted broadly to target Palestinian human rights activists.
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While Israel may be temporarily relaxing its harassment and prohibition on Palestinian rights activists with origins from 48 Palestine, Jerusalem, and the West Bank, it is distinguishing Gazan Americans by imposing extensive travel restrictions on them. For example, Gazan Americans are not eligible for visa-free travel from Gaza to Israel via the Erez checkpoint. Instead, they must navigate a labyrinthine system of permits and visas, further complicated by 45-day advance request requirements for secure travel to the Allenby Bridge. Israel is expected to unveil new entry procedures by September 15, a mere two weeks before the VWP decision deadline, raising concerns about the integrity of this trial period.
Abuirshaid commented, “This isn’t solely about any single activist; it represents a collective advancement towards justice. Yet, there remain considerable gaps and continued discriminatory policies.”
While this shift is a rallying cry for all activists, human rights advocates, and justice seekers, it also highlights the need for sustained efforts and continued vigilance. It proves that collective resistance can be transformative but also underscores the imperative to remain unyielding in the face of persistent injustice.