Israel said to ban entry to young Palestinian peace activists
Move reportedly comes amid concerns that permits are being misused to find work and visit Temple Mount
The Civil Administration, Israel’s governing body in the West Bank, has reportedly issued a new order banning young Palestinians from attending peace activities inside Israel.
Peace organizations and NGOs were notified of the change in policy via text message, Haaretz reported Sunday.
Under the new policy, entry for peace activities will now only be permitted to singles over the age of 27 and married people over the age of 22, the report said. It said the policy would effectively bring about an end to all youth-related peace initiatives.
Until now, there were no blanket bans on Palestinians participating in peaceful activities, so long as there were no relevant security concerns.
In a meeting with NGOs, the Civil Administration justified the move by saying that the previous policy was being abused, and that the so-called “peace permits” were being used to work in Israel illegally or to visit the Temple Mount.
Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) issued a statement saying: “The Israeli ‘NGOs permit’ was established to enable the activity of organizations promoting the values of peace and bilateral activities. With regard to long-term permits, they will now be awarded on the basis of the (new) criteria. It should be noted that extraordinary cases are reviewed on a regular basis and addressed professionally as required.”
COGAT is a unit in the Defense Ministry whose responsibilities include coordinating between the military and the Palestinians, as well as human rights organizations and NGOs. The Civil Administration is responsible for bureaucratic functions relating to Palestinians, and is a part of COGAT.
Israel issues a total of 5,000 entry permits to peace activists, which are then split equally between various NGOs. The latest change is seen as a blow to peace organizations, at a time when they feel such activities should be expanded and their scope broadened, the report said.
“This is a significant change,” Yael Braudo-Bahat, joint head of the Women Wage Peace organization, told Haaretz, “This directly impacts our activities. For the last year we’ve been collaborating with a Palestinian group called ‘Women of the Sun,’ which meets us on a regular basis.”
The group includes teenage girls and young women in their 20s, Braudo-Bahat was quoted as saying. “These are the future generations of peace. The policy is problematic and sends a harsh message to Israeli and Palestinian peace initiatives.”