Calling for visa equality.

We need to call on our government here in Britain to implement visa equality between Israelis and Palestinians.
This is a call for equality, anti-discrimination, consistency and human rights.
This is not just a practical issue about the way visas work. As I write, our Palestinian friends have had a long long road to travel to get the visas for our final Twinning in Action exchange. Half of the answers have come back, and two of the young visitors have been refused visas. We are hoping the rest of the visas come today in time for travel to Britain leaving tomorrow.  We are upset about our two friends with no visas and worried about the rest.
But let’s put on one side these detailed and practical questions and address the issue of visa equality.
((STOP PRESS another refusal has just come. Another young one. Another dear friend, part of the project, needed to help evaluate the project. There will be lots of sadness and disappointment and work and losses.  We will have to address these in a minute… now talking about visa equality.))
At the moment here is the situation.
Israel is breaking international law through the occupation,  through the settlements, through continuous human rights violations against the Palestinians.
They are systematically seizing the land of the Palestinians and living on it. They are imposing ethnic distinctions in every aspect, often compared to apartheid.
The International Court of Justice has decreed against their practices, the changing of the land they occupy defies the Geneva Conventions and apartheid is a crime itself.
The Israeli government is promoting settlements and a substantial part of their population lives in settlements or through army service supports the settlements. The settlements are colonial and racist enterprises,  open to Israelis and closed to Palestinians.
They have taken over the West Bank and controlled it in every sphere for half a century, but they do not give the Palestinians a vote so they have no input to the government that controls them.
The UK government has protested against the settlements.
It also says it believes in equality and has legislation against discrimination.
It also believes in democracy and human rights.
But it is implementing a visa policy that completely reinforces the lines between people that Israelis have been building.  The UK accepts the division between  Israelis and Palestinians. It even accepts the division between Palestinians in Ramallah and Jerusalem – they even pay differently for their visas – which has no basis in international law.
Under the current UK visa system, Israelis from the settlement on Abu Dis land could have come as soon as they want, with no wait for visas, and been in the UK 6 weeks and left with no problem while our Palestinian friends from Abu Dis were are struggling still to get a visa to take part in a European project.The UK is rewarding the people the Israelis give votes and give rights to, while Palestinians, with no votes,  rights or say, are BEING TREATED BY THE UK AS WELL AS ISRAEL AS SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS. It is therefore not helping equality, democracy or human rights.
While this apartheid system remains we are calling on our government to IMPLEMENT VISA EQUALITY.
(1) deal with the Palestinians as you do with the Israelis or
(2) deal with the Israelis as you do with the Palestinians.
This is about equality, anti-discrimination, consistency and human rights. /

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