Palestinian legal experts, academics and digital rights groups have expressed outrage over an incoming Israeli policy for the entry and residence of foreigners in the occupied West Bank, which they say further complicates the rules of movement, and adds restrictions to an already convoluted system.
The 97-page ordinance, called Procedure for Entry and Residence for Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Area (PDF), replaces the current four-page document. Judea and Samaria is the term the Israeli government uses to refer to the West Bank.
The policy has more expansive entry rules, which some legal experts say is an attempt to restrict and track the travel of foreign nationals to the occupied Palestinian territories, control Palestinian population growth and keep data on the land claims of Palestinians holding foreign nationalities.
The new rules, set to come into effect on May 22, were published in February but received little attention at the time.
The regulations treat the West Bank as an integral part of Israel, using terms such as travel to “Judea and Samaria” or the “Area”. They also stipulate entry to Israel for the purpose of “transit” to the West Bank.
The rules also further complicate and formalise written and unwritten entry restrictions for foreigners wishing to visit, do business, reunite and reside with their Palestinian families, work or volunteer in the West Bank, or study or teach at Palestinian academic institutions.
Foreign-passport holding Palestinians must provide information – for visa purposes – on an application for approval prior to travel, which includes the names and national ID numbers of “first-degree” relatives, or other non-relatives with whom they may stay or visit.
Digital rights experts say that personal information on travellers and their families and acquaintances is likely to be used in Israel’s mass surveillance and data collection efforts.
“It’s a surveillance exercise,” said Marwa Fatafta, a Palestinian digital rights expert and Al Shabaka policy analyst. “With the new policy, Israeli authorities want to map out the social circles and property of Palestinians who live abroad with foreign passports.”
“The entire identification system is built to control the most two crucial aspects of Palestine: people and land. Now, in a way, it will also apply to Palestinians with ties to the West Bank,” she told Al Jazeera.