Those were the recent words of Norway’s foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Store, in response to disparaging Israeli media coverage of his country and its policies towards Israel. During Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s most recent assault on the Gaza Strip, to which Minister Store was referring, international media was denied access and the ability to disseminate independent information on an event of great importance. Minister Store’s evaluation of this predicament is correct. As demonstrated by the reactions to the Goldstone report, much of what took place in Gaza is still disputed between Israel, Gazans themselves, and the international community.
Yet the West Bank and East Jerusalem are in danger of facing their own kind of blockade, and the international press is largely ignoring the story. Israel has ceased to issue “B1” work visas to employees of international non governmental organizations (INGOs) operating not in Gaza, but in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In lieu of actual work visas, INGO workers are being issued “B2” tourist visas, forbidding them to work in Israeli administered territory, which includes but is not limited to nearly sixty percent of the West Bank, according to Gulf News. Many of the organizations whose employees will be affected are registered with and recognized by the government of Israel and have been peacefully operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for decades.
The decision has so far been confronted by Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, in a letter from Adalah advocate Haneen Naamnih addressed to the Israeli Ministers of Interior and Social Affairs in addition to the Israeli Attorney General. In her letter Naamnih appealed to the rights of Palestinians living in Area C who are often in dire need of assistance from INGOs operating in the vicinity:
This policy of the Ministry of the Interior will severely harm more than 500,000 protected residents in various areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, who suffer from ongoing violations of their fundamental rights to life, dignity, housing, property, freedom of expression, education, employment, etc.
Haneen goes on to point out that
On the requirement that an administrative decision be predicated on a factual basis, see the words of the Honorable [Supreme] Court in the Euronet Golden Lines case:
[…] the law does not tolerate a decision that lacks a basis. The rule is that an administrative decision must be based on a foundation of facts. […] More than once this court has rejected an administrative decision because it was not based on facts as required.
HCJ 987/94, Euronet Golden Lines (1992) Ltd. v. Ms. Shulamit Aloni, Piskei Din 48(5) 412, 423 (1994).
One may scour the plethora of international media sources available via the internet and the likely result in regards to coverage of this recent decision is remarkably sparse. The previously cited Dubai based Gulf News carried coverage of the decision, as well as Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, in addition to very few larger news sources now beginning to cover the story much later on, though most of the media yielding results related to the new policy are smaller, more independent news sources.
Is Israel now attempting to blockade the West Bank as well as Gaza from the rest of the world? Or perhaps it is an attempt to blockade the international community from the whole of occupied Palestine itself.