20 June 2013
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Israel imposes new restrictions on internationals
Entering Israel is always stressful. One must figure out how to answer delicately the intrusive questions of the security agents. Additionally,
I had spent two three-month terms on the CPT Al-Khalil (Hebron) team, and was returning for my third term in a year. Some friends from a partner organization warned me that recently Israel had denied all their volunteers were a third attempted reentry. The prospect of a two-hour interrogation with a real chance of being denied entry was daunting enough, but then I received word about a new Israeli policy.
At the airport or border, Israeli security can ask internationals to sign a paper stating that they will not enter the “area under Palestinian Authority control” unless given military permission beforehand. I had no intention
of waiting for military permission before rejoining the team in Hebron, and I dreaded having to respond to this request.
I somehow slipped through. Although Israeli security immediately noticed that I had been in the country multiple times and asked me to sit in a waiting room for a couple hours, they allowed me to enter without having to sign their restrictive agreement. I thought at this point that my troubles were behind me.
However, when I got to Hebron I learned that soldiers were not allowing us to wear our ‘uniforms’ (red hats and gray vests bearing CPT’s name and logo) in the area surrounding the Ibrahimi Mosque. (Most of CPT’s patrols are around the checkpoints surrounding the mosque.) It became clear the policy was about much more than fashion. The soldiers claimed that our organization was not official and not allowed to be in that area, so we could not wear anything distinguishing us as such. According to the military, only the group of diplomatic observers designated by the 1997 Hebron Protocol was allowed in the area. We told the soldiers that CPT
has been patrolling the area since before the 1997 Hebron Protocol; they said that the last eighteen years must have been a mistake. CPT continues to wear our vest and hats in that area, to assert our commitment to continue the work we have been doing for nearly two decades.
The denial of entry to internationals, the new demand of tourists to ask for military permission to enter Palestine, and the denial of CPT’s legitimacy in the Old City–a place where Palestinian organizations have invited us to live and work since 1995–are desperate overreaches to keep internationals from seeing the truth of Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians.
Given the cold reception I received from the Israeli authorities I feel more compelled to be in Hebron. As Israel tries to hide what it is doing, the more important it becomes for us to seek and expose the truth. Each new fence and barricade Israel constructs shows that the architects of oppression know their system is failing. Together with local Palestinian leaders, we are helping to show what could come next.