Press release from the Middle East Studies Association:
As Palestinian universities opened for the fall semester, the American Anthropological Association, American Political Science Association, Middle East Studies Association, National Women’s Studies Association, and Society of Architectural Historians issued a joint letter to Israel authorities asking them to clarify lawful procedures for issuing entry visas and work permits for international academics working in the West Bank and Gaza.
Arbitrary policies regarding visa renewals and re-entry visas threaten the ability of Palestinian universities to hire foreign nationals, and disrupts faculty recruitment, teaching, curriculum planning, program development, committee work, and supervision of theses. Amongst the immediate challenges facing foreign nationals this fall are changing documentation requirements without prior notification, lengthy visa processing periods that force applicants to overstay valid visas or require them to leave the country, shortened and arbitrary duration of visas, restrictions on ports of entry/exit, travel restrictions within the West Bank, and re-entry obstacles that prevent foreign nationals from traveling to participate in academic conferences.
The letter calls upon Israel authorities to issue a transparent policy that allows entry and the presence of foreign faculty and staff on Palestinian university campuses in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law.
Read the letter below.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu
Minister of Justice Amir Ohana
Minister of the Interior Aryeh Machluf Deri
Minister of Education Rafi Peretz
Chairman, Council for Higher Education of Israel
Ambassador David Melech Friedman
US Ambassador to Israel
Dear Prime Minister, Ministers and Ambassador,
We write to express our concern regarding the limitations imposed on international faculty at Palestinian universities in the West Bank and Gaza, some of whom are members of our associations. For the past three years, the Israeli authorities have increasingly denied new and reentry visas, imperiling the right to education of Palestinian students.
Like peer institutions globally, Palestinian universities employ academics and administrators who are foreign nationals. Since the 2017-2018 academic year, well over half of the international faculty and staff members, some of whom have taught for years in Palestinian universities, have had to deal with a wide range of arbitrary demands to obtain re-entry visas, and many have been refused visa renewals. These include: changing documentation requirements without prior or official notification; lengthy processing periods that force applicants to overstay valid visas or leave the country; shortened and arbitrary duration of visas; the issuing of visas that restrict the holder to the West Bank; restrictions on ports of entry/exit; and demands for financial bonds of 5,600 to 22,500 USD. These ambiguous and obstructive measures have meant that international faculty and staff are unable to determine if they can accept a job offer from a Palestinian university, if they can continue their employment for the duration of the appointment, or if they can travel for academic conferences or for research.
At Birzeit University, for example, in the 2018/19 academic year, nearly all international academics and staff have encountered problems in visa renewals. Teaching, instruction in foreign language, curriculum planning, program development, committee work, and the supervision of theses, in addition to faculty recruitment, have been disrupted and, in some cases, prevented altogether.
These measures contravene international humanitarian and human rights law. As the occupying power, in the view of the United Nations and international law, Israel must not interfere in the functioning of Palestinian civil institutions, including Palestinian universities, and therefore is obliged to issue a transparent policy that allows the entry and presence of foreign faculty and staff members. It is also obligated to ensure the right of the Palestinian people to education, as enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966).
To enable Palestinian universities to maintain knowledge production and academic freedom, we call on Israel to refrain from imposing arbitrary restrictions on the duration of stay or extension of stay for international academics, and to clarify lawful procedures for issuing entry visas and work permits for international academics in the West Bank and Gaza.
American Anthropological Association
American Political Science Association
Middle East Studies Association
National Women’s Studies Association
Society of Architectural Historians