Right to family life denied

Bride Arwad Abu Shahen, 25, from the village of Buqata in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights waves to her relatives as she meets her groom, Syrian national Mohanad Hareb, 30, in the buffer zone at the Kuneitra Crossing, in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, 12 March 2007. Abu Shahen must leave her village for Syria, possibly never seeing her relatives again, as Israel has made it impossible for the groom to live in her village by freezing the family unification process. (Moti Milrod/MaanImages)


Enaya Samara is a 56-year-old US national of Palestinian origin. For 31 years she lived in Ramallah with her husband, Adel Samara, who is a resident of the OPT, and their two children. For three decades she had to travel abroad every three months to renew her tourist visa. The family’s repeated attempts to obtain family unification and establish Enaya Samara’s right to reside in the OPT were unsuccessful. On 26 May 2006, after more than 120 trips, she was denied entry when she tried to return home to the OPT. She did not see her family until 23 February 2007 when the Israeli Interior Ministry allowed her a three-month visa. She does not know if it will be renewed.

Tens of thousands of foreign nationals who are married to residents of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 are not allowed to live with their husband or wife by the Israeli authorities. In virtually every other country in the world, there are procedures to allow such couples — where one spouse is a foreign national — to live together.

Israel controls the borders of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and forbids foreign spouses from entering. The husbands and wives who are denied entry are not seeking admittance to Israel. They simply want to enter the OPT to live with their spouse in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

As an occupying power, Israel is obliged to respect the family rights of Palestinians. [1] Yet violations by Israel of the right to family life have persisted for decades and have worsened over the past six years. By 2006 at least 120,000 families were affected. Moreover, since 2006 the restrictions on family life, and the number of families affected by such restrictions, have increased — the right to enter the OPT is now also denied to spouses from countries for whom advance visas are not required to enter Israel.

Israeli restrictions on foreign spouses are profoundly discriminatory. Jewish settlers in the OPT (whose presence there, unlike that of the Palestinian inhabitants, is actually illegal under international law) face no restrictions in obtaining authorization from the Israeli authorities for their spouses to enter the OPT and reside with them there.

  • Download the full report, published 21 March 2007 [PDF]

    Related Links

  • Amnesty International
  • Banning of internationals and foreign passport-holding Palestinians (25 June 2006)

    Endnotes
    [1] Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, 12 August 1949.