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"By making it harder for people to spend time in the West Bank, Israel is taking yet another step toward turning the West Bank into another Gaza, where two million Palestinians have lived virtually sealed off from the outside world for over 15 years."
A top Human Rights Watch official warned Monday that restrictions recently placed by Israel's apartheid government on "foreigners"—including Palestinians—seeking entry into the West Bank could turn the illegally occupied territory into "another Gaza," which is often described as the "world's largest open-air prison."
Last year, a three-page document used by Israeli authorities to screen foreign nationals wishing to enter the West Bank was replaced by a 61-page guide detailing occupation forces' policies and procedures for foreigners seeking to visit only the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, or to extend a stay for specific purposes including studying, teaching, volunteering, or working there.
"The guidelines are distinct from those for entering Israel, which are normally applied at Ben Gurion Airport and other ports of entry," explained HRW—whose own Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, was denied an entry permit under the new rules. "A West Bank permit holder without an Israeli entry visa has no legal authorization to enter Israel, nor occupied East Jerusalem."
HRW deputy Middle East director Eric Goldstein said in a statement that "by making it harder for people to spend time in the West Bank, Israel is taking yet another step toward turning the West Bank into another Gaza, where two million Palestinians have lived virtually sealed off from the outside world for over 15 years. This policy is designed to weaken the social, cultural, and intellectual ties that Palestinians have tried to maintain with the outside world."
\u201cNew Israeli restrictions on access to the West Bank for foreigners further isolate Palestinians from their loved ones & global civil society\u2014another step by Israel to turn the West Bank into Gaza, which it runs as open-air prison. New @hrw report out today https://t.co/LELHp4YAa1\u201d— Omar Shakir (@Omar Shakir) 1674450399
HRW interviewed 13 people last year "who detailed difficulties they have faced for years entering or remaining in the West Bank and their concerns about how the new guidelines will affect them."
"Ayman," who was born in Europe in the mid-1990s to a Palestinian father from the West Bank and a European mother, has lived in the West Bank most of his life. However, because he has no Palestinian identification card, he has relied upon visas in his European passport to remain in the West Bank and fears the new regulations could endanger his ability to remain in Palestine.
"Palestine for me is home," as "my childhood, schools, classmates, friends, extended family, relatives, and all the memories I have are all here," he told HRW, and yet "I am in Palestine as a tourist, as a European citizen."
"Israel's duties as an occupying power require it to facilitate foreigners' entry to the West Bank in an orderly manner."
"I may lose the right to visit," Ayman added. "I won't be able to visit as a tourist either according to these regulations."
HRW asserted that "while countries have wide discretion over entry into their sovereign territory, international humanitarian law requires occupying powers to act in the best interest of the occupied population or to maintain security or public order."
"There are no apparent justifications based on security, public order, or the best interests of Palestinians for how significantly Israeli authorities restrict volunteers, academics, or students from entering the West Bank or Palestinians' loved ones from remaining on a long-term basis," the group argued.
\u201cDozens of Palestinian women and their children are demanding that Israeli authorities allow them to change the address on their ID cards from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, which would allow them to reunite with their partners\nhttps://t.co/ELYyG98645\u201d— Middle East Eye (@Middle East Eye) 1674450030
"By excessively restricting Palestinian families' ability to spend time together, and blocking the entry of academics, students, and nongovernmental workers who would contribute to social, cultural, political, and intellectual life in the West Bank, Israel's restrictions fall afoul of its duty, which increases in a prolonged occupation, to facilitate normal civil life for the occupied population," HRW continued.
"Israel's duties as an occupying power require it to facilitate foreigners' entry to the West Bank in an orderly manner," HRW added. "Subject to an individualized security assessment and absent compelling reason of law, Israeli authorities should at minimum grant permits of reasonable duration to foreigners who would contribute to life of the West Bank, including the family members of Palestinians and those working with Palestinian civil society, and residency to immediate relatives."
"I had been told without an immediate abortion, or dilation and evacuation, that my life was at risk," said Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez. "I got the care I needed, and now I'm the mother of my 17-month-old son."
As thousands of people gathered at pro-choice rallies across the United States, multiple congresswomen marked the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Sunday by sharing their own experiences with abortion care and renewing calls to protect reproductive rights in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court reversing its landmark ruling.
"I'm one of the 1 in 4 women in America who has had an abortion. Terminating my pregnancy was not an easy choice, but more importantly, it was MY choice," tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who has previously shared her story in a New York Timesopinion piece and during a House hearing.
"Everyone's story is different, but I know this for certain: The choice to have an abortion belongs to pregnant people, not the government. We are not free if we cannot make these fundamental choices about our bodies," she continued. "MAGA Republicans' extreme abortion bans aren't about saving lives, they're about control. We must stand up and fight these bans. Together."
\u201cIn 2021, I testified on my decision to have an abortion. For me, it was an incredibly difficult decision, but ultimately the right one.\n\nIt is now a decision that has been stripped from millions across our country\u2014and a right we must fight for.\u201d— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@Rep. Pramila Jayapal) 1674421200
Fellow Washington state Democrat Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez, who was sworn in for her first term earlier this month, wrote on Twitter: "Three years ago I miscarried in the second trimester of a pregnancy. It's a painful memory but something many women have experienced. I traveled hours to the nearest clinic, and I encountered anti-choice protesters. Thankfully I got the care I needed that day."
"I had been told without an immediate abortion, or dilation and evacuation, that my life was at risk. That I could die, or not be able to have children in the future. I got the care I needed, and now I'm the mother of my 17-month-old son," she said. "On what would've been Roe v. Wade's 50th anniversary, I'm thinking of the millions of Americans with stories like mine who are forced to go without access to safe reproductive care. I won't stop fighting to restore this fundamental right and defend reproductive freedom for all."
\u201cIf there\u2019s one thing I know for sure, it\u2019s that you NEVER know what someone you don\u2019t know is going through, even if you think you do, even if you\u2019re SURE - especially if you\u2019re sure - you do. Abortion care is also miscarriage care, which is also life/saving health care. #Roeat50\u201d— Amanda Becker (@Amanda Becker) 1674413191
Nearly seven months since the high court's right-wing majority overturned Roe with Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, "abortion is currently unavailable in 14 states, and courts have temporarily blocked enforcement of bans in eight others," according to a December review by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, which tracks state laws.
Just after the Dobbs decision leaked last May, Ellepublished a roundtable discussion with the only five then-members of Congress who had publicly shared abortion stories: Jayapal; Sen. Gary Peters, whose ex-wife got a potentially lifesaving emergency abortion in the 1980s; and Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who did not seek reelection last year.
In the weeks that followed, Reps. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Marie Newman (D-Ill.)—who lost her June primary after redistricting—also detailed their abortions when they were each 19 years old. During a House hearing, Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) shared that "when my doctor finally induced me, I faced the pain of labor without hope for a living child."
"Would it have been after the first miscarriage, after doctors used what would be an illegal drug to abort the lost fetus?" McBath asked. "Would you have put me in jail after the second miscarriage?"
McBath took to Twitter Sunday to highlight that testimony and warn that "without Roe, all reproductive care is on the line."
\u201c50 years ago, the Roe v. Wade decision provided a constitutional right to abortion. That right is now under attack.\n\nIn @HouseJudiciary, I shared the heartbreak that comes with a miscarriage. Without Roe, all reproductive care is on the line.\n\nWe can't back down in this fight.\u201d— Rep. Lucy McBath (@Rep. Lucy McBath) 1674392400
Bush—who has spoken about seeking an abortion after becoming pregnant as a result of rape at 17—said in a statement Sunday that "the Roe v. Wade decision was not only historic in that it protected people accessing abortions; it also served as precedent for several more court cases and laws to follow that would further advance gender equality, reproductive rights, and our collective freedoms."
"Unfortunately, we all know what happened last June. Republicans spent decades stacking the federal judiciary with far-right anti-abortion judges and successfully stripped millions of people of their right to safe, legal, and accessible abortion care, particularly Black, Brown, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized communities," she said. "And, let's be clear, Republicans aren't stopping with Roe."
"In just their first couple of days in power, House Republicans passed two anti-abortion bills in a blatant attempt to lay the groundwork for a national abortion ban," added Bush, who was among the 17 federal lawmakers arrested in July while protesting Dobbs at the Supreme Court. "As a congresswoman, a mother, a pastor, and as a person who has had abortions, I will never stop fighting for a person's bodily autonomy, reproductive rights, and for a country that lives up to its proclamation of freedom."
\u201cToday should be the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.\n\nInstead, we are living in a post-Roe world, six months after the Supreme Court overturned it.\n\n24 states have or are likely to ban abortion. The divide between people who can access care and those who can't has only deepened.\u201d— Progressive Caucus (@Progressive Caucus) 1674412822
Moore—who represents a state where abortion is now unavailable due to a contested 1849 ban—issued a similar warning in a series of tweets, declaring that "this Roe anniversary is a reminder of what we've lost, and we must fight for a future that creates more equitable healthcare access for all."
"The chaos we've seen over the past six months is the environment anti-abortion politicians have worked for decades to create, and they won't stop with Roe. While we work to protect and restore access to abortion, more attacks on sexual and reproductive health are happening now," she said. "The path ahead will be challenging. It will require us to think bolder than ever before to ensure our very basic rights and freedoms are permanently protected—not subject to whoever happens to be in power."
"Instead of holding accountable Big Oil CEOs for causing last year's record-setting gas prices, the new majority is hellbent on making political statements as American families suffer."
Climate watchdogs warned Monday that a bill House Republicans are expected to vote on this week is a thinly veiled effort to open more public lands and waters to planet-wrecking oil and gas drilling.
The Strategic Production Response Act, led by new House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), aims to curtail presidential authority to release oil from the United States' strategic reserve—something President Joe Biden did on a major scale last year in an attempt to curb gas prices.
But Joshua Axelrod, a senior advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who focuses on public lands, noted in a blog post Monday that "despite its title, the bill neither responds to any existing problem nor advances any coherent or achievable energy policy."
"Under the guise of limiting the use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the Strategic Production Response Act appears, in fact, to be focused on establishing a federal oil and gas leasing mandate that eclipses all past efforts to hand over public lands and offshore areas to oil and gas companies," Axelrod wrote. "How? Under the proposed language, no non-emergency drawdown of the SPR can take place without the development of a plan from the Secretary of Energy and other relevant agency heads to 'lease for oil and gas production... [on lands and waters] by the same percentage' as the planned SPR drawdowns (up to 10%)."
"Put more clearly: If 1% of the SPR is to be drawn down, a plan to lease 1% of available public lands or offshore areas must first be developed," Axelrod added, cautioning that—if passed—the measure would "lock in another century of oil and gas."
In a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm expressed strong opposition to Rodgers' bill, arguing it would cause "more oil supply shortages in times of crisis and higher gasoline prices for Americans."
Jordan Schreiber, the director of energy and environment at the progressive watchdog group Accountable.US, echoed that warning in a statement Monday.
"McCarthy and his MAGA majority are making it clear right out of the gate—they'd rather play politics than provide much-needed relief for American consumers," said Schreiber. "This bill hamstrings the executive branch, taking away a critical tool in combating rampant price gouging at the pump while making it easier to give our public lands away to the very companies responsible for artificially high prices. Instead of holding accountable Big Oil CEOs for causing last year's record-setting gas prices, the new majority is hellbent on making political statements as American families suffer."
Accountable.US also released an analysis countering Republican claims that have been used to justify the Strategic Production Response Act.
\u201cJUST IN: The @HouseGOP is taking up legislation that would prevent @POTUS from combating industry price gouging and make it easier for Big Oil to gain control of public lands.\n\nThe MAGA majority would rather play politics than provide relief to Americans. \nhttps://t.co/XtmCpd1hmw\u201d— Accountable.US (@Accountable.US) 1674487452
The Biden Interior Department has itself come under fire from environmentalists for auctioning off huge swaths of public lands and waters for oil and gas extraction despite the president's campaign vow to put an end to such drilling. Recent research shows that drilling on public lands and waters has been responsible for roughly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas pollution since 2005.
In 2021, the Biden administration approved more onshore oil and gas drilling permits per month than the Trump administration did during its first three years in power.
Nonetheless, Republicans awash in Big Oil campaign cash have repeatedly accused the Biden administration of being insufficiently aggressive when it comes to turning federal lands and waters over to the profit-soaked fossil fuel industry.
Rodgers, who received $218,367 from individuals and PACs associated with the oil and gas industry during the last election cycle, said in a floor speech earlier this month that "it's time to cut the red tape and expand energy production here at home."
With Democrats narrowly controlling the Senate, the bill—one of several Big Oil-friendly measures Republicans are planning to advance in the coming months—is unlikely to make it to Biden's desk.
Axelrod of NRDC argued it is "not hyperbole" to conclude that Rodgers' legislation proposes "a leasing plan so massive in scale it would eclipse all historic precedent and pave the way for federal oil and gas leasing well into the next century."
"The agencies implicated by this proposal have jurisdiction over 3.1 billion acres of onshore and offshore areas, suggesting that the 10% limit on acreage that could be leased translates into 314 million acres. That's more than eight times as many acres currently under lease," Axelrod wrote.
"This attempted public lands and waters giveaway comes as we are inundated daily with news of the escalating effects of the climate crisis on the United States," he added. "The incoming House majority appears to view those hardships and the enormous costs they impose on the U.S. economy as mere inconveniences to their laser-focused drive to prop up an oil and gas industry that not only recorded record-breaking profits in 2022, but also, is about to achieve record-breaking domestic production."