200 humanitarian aid workers barred from entering country

Mazal Mualem, Haaretz

200 humanitarian aid workers barred from entering country

By Mazal Mualem

Ha’aretz 31/5 2002

The Interior Ministry says it has recently prevented some 200 humanitarian aid workers from entering the country, expelling around 50 others. The ministry’s statement came in response to a complaint filed by the Center for Religious Pluralism about the barring of humanitarian aid volunteers from reaching the Palestinian territories.

Responding to a letter of complaint from the center’s attorney, Einat Horowitz, who claimed that Interior Minister Eli Yishai was barring entry into Israel of anyone who isn’t patriotic enough for him, the ministry said it had “never hid its policy of deportations and bans on leftists who claim they come to provide humanitarian aid but actually obstruct the security services, with provocations at the Muqata in Ramallah and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.”

Yishai had announced the policy at the start of Operation Defensive Shield, said the ministry statement, and indeed, since then, some 200 people had been denied visas to Israel and another 50, who were at the Muqata, where Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was besieged for 34 days, and at the Bethlehem church, were deported. The policy would continue, said the ministry.

Horowitz’s letter claimed the ministry was “maliciously” barring entry into the country of human rights activists whose intent was to aid the Palestinians and that the ministry had a “secret policy” that included directives to prevent such activists from entering Israel.

The letter of complaint said that the ministry may be violating the law with its actions.

All the activists who had sought entry to the country were volunteers who dealt with humanitarian aid, said Horowitz’s letter.

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