Oren Ziv, Activestills, February 25, 2016


Banned from Entry


Palestinians holding Palestinian Authority IDs who want to enter Jerusalem (even for an hour) must apply for an entry permit. Israeli authorities can blacklist anyone at any time without revealing the reason. Blacklisting bans them from entering Jerusalem permanently. About a half a million Palestinians are so blacklisted and, as such, can never enter Jerusalem. Reversing this status is almost impossible.

Palestinians holding Palestinian Authority IDs can be banned from entry to Israel (and therefore to Jerusalem) at any time for any reason. This also includes entry into Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The banning can be ordered by the Israel Security Agency (formerly the General Security Service (GSS), or Shabak or Shin Bet in Hebrew for short), the police, or the Civil Administration. Each of these organizations has a different ostensible reason for banning:

  • The Shabak if the person is deemed a security threat
  • The police if they have entered or tried to enter Israel without proper documentation or have a criminal record or failed to pay a fine
  • The Civil Administration if they are suspected of violating administrative regulations

In truth, no reason is needed to ban a Palestinian from entry into Israel.

Graphic Banned from Entry: How Israel Blacklists Half a Million PA ID Holders, Blocking Them from Entering Jerusalem

The black hole of blacklisting: How Palestinians with PA IDs get wholly banned from Jerusalem with one click on the keyboard

Secret Criteria

The criteria for assessing and defining “security threats” are kept secret and constantly fluctuate. They are also arbitrary; the same person can be denied or granted a permit at different times. The uncertainty and unpredictability is by design. According to Yael Berda, an Israeli sociologist and lawyer and author of Living Emergency: Israel’s Permit Regime in the West Bank, “profiling criteria are classified . . . . For the general population, these practices produce uncertainty and paralysis because no one knows if and when movement will be restricted or for what reasons.”1

“The blacklist is ‘a one-way street—you can go in but not come out.’”

Ilan Paz, former head of the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank, in an interview with Israeli author Yael Berda, August 2006

The banning is accomplished merely by changing the person’s status in the computerized system that is now available at every checkpoint and in all the District Coordination Offices (DCOs) throughout the occupied West Bank. Once the change—“a swift, invisible, administrative maneuver”2—is made, the person is blacklisted. Denial of entry to Israel due to blacklisting can last as long as 99 or 100 years.3 According to one top Israeli official, the blacklist is “a one-way street—you can go in but not come out.”4

A Palestinian man entering Jerusalem has his ID card checked by Israeli soldiers, 2019

A Palestinian man on his way to Jerusalem being checked by Israeli soldiers from behind bulletproof glass after exiting electronic gates using his biometric card, March 28, 2019


Eddie Gerald, Alamy

Even as far back as 2007, more than a quarter of a million Palestinian Authority ID holders were classified as security threats and blacklisted by the Israeli police and security forces.5 This was broken down as follows:6

  • 200,000 classified as “denied entry for security reasons”
  • 79,000 classified as “denied entry for criminal reasons”
  • 12,000 denied entry by the police

According to Berda, writing in 2012, “denial of entry by the police includes people who have pending cases in criminal or civil courts, cases opened by the police but never investigated, or who have served jail sentences for any charge and are denied for two to five years after they are released, and those who have not paid their traffic tickets.”7 Today those numbers are likely several times higher, especially if you consider that since 1967, according to Abdul Nasser Farawanah, director of the statistics department in the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Ministry for Detainees’ Affairs in Ramallah, there have been nearly one million cases of arrest among Palestinians from the occupied West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza.8 Israeli officials readily allow that as many as two out of three Palestinian males with such IDs are blacklisted (see below). This means they have no chance of obtaining an entry permit; they will be “refused for security reasons” or “precluded” from approval.

Blacklisted Palestinians cannot obtain a permit to work or trade in Israel or the settlements, and will have great difficulty getting permits for any other type of entry, including for essential medical care (see Sick While Blacklisted, and the Care You Need Is Found Only in Jerusalem).

A Wide Net

Some of the groups who are routinely classified as “denied entry” or banned include:

  1. Palestinians who have ever been imprisoned9
  2. First-degree relatives10 of Palestinians currently imprisoned in Israeli jails on “security” charges or held in administrative detention11
  3. First-degree relatives, and in some cases second- and third-degree relatives, of a Palestinian slain by Israel security forces (i.e., a martyr or shahid in Palestinian discourse); this is on the basis that the person might be motivated to take revenge. According to Berda, “This classification applies to all family members, including women, and people over the age of 80.”12 This even includes relatives of people who were merely innocent bystanders at an incident.
  4. Palestinians who were informed on by Shabak informants (collaborators) (not uncommonly, to settle a family or childhood dispute with no bearing on security whatsoever) or others; even employers trying to pressure workers into obeying can threaten to inform on them to the authorities.13
  5. Residents of Palestinian villages that have been classified in whole as a security threat; in such cases the classification extends to all the village residents.
  6. Civil servants in Palestinian police or other Palestinian armed forces, as well as mid-level clerks for the Palestinian Authority (senior officials, however, get VIP permits—see Jerusalem: A Closed City)

Beginning in 2016, Israel began classifying people “denied entry” merely because they shared the same name as someone who was suspected (not even necessarily proven) of committing a security offense. This affected thousands of workers who depend on wages earned in Israel, stranding them and leaving them unable to feed their families14 (see Banned from Entry).

Personal Story Sick While Blacklisted, and the Care You Need Is Found Only in Jerusalem

The closure of Jerusalem means severe hardships for those outside the city who seek care that is only available in it. Salma, a cancer patient, shares.

An Israeli documentary short exploring the collective punishment of withholding work permits from people with the same or similar names to those who committed security offenses


Israel Social TV (a nonprofit independent media organization promoting social change) (Documentary, 2018, 5.5 min, Hebrew and Arabic)

Any Palestinian Authority ID holder can be blacklisted, even in error (for example, due to confusion in similar names) or based on informant information, whether accurate or not. In a report on the situation based on six years of working with Palestinians attempting to clear their status, author Sylvia Piterman of the Israeli organization Mahsom Watch15 explains:

If you are asked to collaborate and you refuse, you become blacklisted. If you have some close relative in jail—you become blacklisted regardless of whether or not you have anything to do with his/her charges. If there is someone in your vicinity who belongs to Hamas or Jihad or the Popular Front or any other organization that Israel has determined to be illegal, you become blacklisted. And if you are involved in social or community activities organized by those organizations, you also become blacklisted. If someone in your family is killed by the army or by Israeli civilians—you become blacklisted. If someone in your family only gets hurt—you are also blacklisted, especially if you dare to sue. If you ask for a raise in salary and your employer doesn’t approve, you become blacklisted. If you are a proud, brilliant Palestinian, you become blacklisted. If you are active in “peace activities” you become blacklisted. If you participate in peaceful demonstrations you become blacklisted.16

Unpaid traffic tickets result in permit denials.17 Just being young, single, and male can do it. The Israeli authorities assume that someone who is single fits the “profile” of someone who is more likely to sacrifice his life for political reasons or stay illegally in Israel.18 There are thousands of cases of young Palestinians (18–30 years old) who are not previous prisoners or brothers or relatives of prisoners or martyrs, but who are still blacklisted and do not have the privilege of obtaining an entry permit. This type of profiling is also why applicants for work permits in Israel are required to be married, aged at least 22, and without any security record.19

Israeli security forces refuse a Palestinian man entry to Jerusalem at the Qalandiya checkpoint during Ramadan

Israeli security forces members refuse a Palestinian man coming from Ramallah who wants to pass the Qalandiya checkpoint to reach Jerusalem to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque on the last Friday prayer of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on June 8, 2018.


Issam Rimawi, Anadolu Agency, Getty Images

Irus Braverman, a law professor in the United States, interviewed various Israeli officials for a study on Israel’s new crossing administration in 2008, including Brigadier General (ret.) Ilan Paz, former head of the Civil Administration in the occupied West Bank. She explained:

[Prohibited by] the police is someone who got a fine and didn’t pay it or has a criminal record. It’s not a large number. The Shabak’s listing [on the other hand] is very serious: tens of thousands going on 200,000 people are blacklisted. [This,] because there’s a procedure for blacklisting a person but there’s no procedure for removing a name from the blacklist. Anyone who’s blacklisted—it’s almost for good.

Paz continued:

Anyone who was involved in actions against security, anyone suspected of being involved in actions against security, anyone serving in the Palestinian security forces . . . Anyone who’s been married for several years and has no children . . . And there’s things that are less pleasant—like [blacklisting . . .] in order to [convince people] to collaborate, etc. . . . Around 2 out of 3 adult Palestinian men are blacklisted.20

“Anyone who’s blacklisted—it’s almost for good.”

Brigadier General (ret.) Ilan Paz, former head of the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank, interview with Mahsom Watch, 2008

“Help Us and We’ll Help You”

As Paz mentions, the system is designed to pressure Palestinians into collaborating. Berda explains how this unfolds:

When people did finally manage to get an interview with the Shin Bet, their conversations followed a pattern: The Shin Bet investigator said the organization has “security-related” information against them. He offers to help them if they agree to help him; usually the phrase “you help us and we’ll help you” is enough for the Palestinians to understand the nature of the deal offered. If they still don’t understand, they are plainly told they need to provide information in exchange for a magnetic card and an entry permit into Israel. In a minority of cases, they are also offered money.21

Someone who is desperate for work to feed his children is willing to do anything. According to Mahsom Watch:

The population must be kept fearful, in uncertainty and in lack of social unity. The method is also designed to maintain a large pool of Palestinians in need of Shabak benefits, so that they may be enlisted by cynical exploitation of their most burning needs, in their weakest moments. When a man comes to beg for a work permit that has been confiscated, it is the most convenient and appropriate moment to seize him by the throat and obligate his cooperation: “Help me and I will help you,” says the Shabak “captain” [the accepted “code” for a Shabak investigator]. There is no better method of recruitment.22

If the resident does not agree, the turn of threats arrives: “You will never receive a permit.” “Your brothers will not receive permits.” “Your entire family in all its coming generations will not receive permits.”23

No Reason Given

When Palestinians are blacklisted and denied a permit, they are generally not given a reason or even formally notified; their status is just changed in the system and they are not even told—until they are standing at the checkpoint waiting to pass and the soldier checks the computer and informs them summarily that they are denied. In some cases, their entry or work permit is confiscated on the spot, throwing lives into chaos. Most of the time, there is no clear reason why someone would be blacklisted, other than just being a single young man. According to Berda,

Because they did not know which activities had led to the classification, they also did not know which actions to avoid in the future, which generated a sense of paralysis and confusion. Uncertainty regarding the causes of the restriction turned it into a force majeure, an act of fate, or an incurable administrative disease.24

Beyond this, there is no clear avenue for appeal and little one can do to clear one’s status. The process periodically breaks down, and many appeals take months or years to get any response or simply go unanswered. Attending to this need can mean spending every day waiting, until the sun sets, for an audience with the “captain” to plead for removal. This waiting game can go on for weeks, months, even years. For example, Berda shares the words of one of her clients, Muhammad Faraj, a tour guide from Bethlehem who was banned for two years:

I would come to the DCO to speak to the Shin Bet about removing my restriction maybe ten times a month, for two years. It’s like a job. You come in the morning, you give your ID to the guard at the door, he tells you to wait, and at four or five in the afternoon he gives it back and says, “Go home, they don’t want to talk to you.” So you come on a different day to wait to get in and talk to the captain.25 Nothing I can do but come here; I need a permit; I need to work.26

An appeal process is available, but the regulations governing it are not widely known, clear, or consistent. Moreover, the authorities frequently capriciously change these regulations, such as they are, without any public notice. For the few who can master the regulations, meet the qualifications, and afford the relatively high costs of an appeal, their cases can be heard in court. According to Mahsom Watch, of these few cases that do reach judicial scrutiny, 70 percent are withdrawn by the Shabak before the court actually considers them, ostensibly because the Shabak does not want to reveal the basis for blacklisting. The few appeals that ever go before an actual judge rely on secret evidence. For these, the blacklisting is almost invariably upheld.27 It’s no wonder that many Palestinians with Palestinian Authority IDs have simply given up even aspiring to visit Jerusalem (see Helga Tawil-Souri: “A Confining and Asphyxiating Experience”).

Palestinian Jerusalemites—people who identify as belonging to the city—holding Israeli permanent-resident IDs are subject to Israeli civil law, not the military law prevailing in the occupied West Bank. Therefore, they cannot be banned in this particular way. However, they can be and frequently are stripped of their residency and deported from the city (see Precarious, Not Permanent: The Status Held by Palestinian Jerusalemites).

Palestinian Jerusalemites include those who hold Palestinian Authority IDs, Israeli permanent-resident IDs, no IDs, and others (see Who Are the Palestinians of Jerusalem?). The arbitrary Israeli-declared municipal boundary cut through Palestinian villages that had long considered themselves part of the larger Jerusalem area; the Separation Wall excluded neighborhoods that are technically within the municipal boundaries and consider themselves part of the city.28 In all these areas live Palestinians holding both types of ID. So ultimately, the feeling that their relationship with the city is precarious, outside their control, and at the mercy of Israel is shared by all.

Personal Story Helga Tawil-Souri: “A Confining and Asphyxiating Experience”

What’s the experience of traversing a checkpoint really like, minute by agonizing minute? And what does it do to your soul? Helga Tawil-Souri narrates.



Yael Berda, Living Emergency: Israel’s Permit Regime in the West Bank (Stanford: Stanford Briefs, 2018), 60.


Berda, Living Emergency, 50.


Report: Israel Denies Entry to 2,000 Palestinians Based on Their Last Names,” Middle East Monitor, September 28, 2018; Israel Social TV, “His Name Precedes Him,” YouTube video.


Berda, Living Emergency, 47, citing an interview she conducted in August 2006 with Ilan Paz, the former head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank.


Berda, Living Emergency, 46.


Yael Berda, “The Bureaucracy of the Occupation: An Introduction to the Permit Regime” (unpublished manuscript, 2012), 9.


Berda, “Bureaucracy of the Occupation,” 9.


A case refers to a single arrest, so this number is not an indication of how many people have ever experienced arrest, since many people are arrested multiple times, but it still suggests how widespread the network is of people who have relatives who have ever been arrested. This information was conveyed in a phone call with the Jerusalem Story Team on February 9, 2021. According to a 2016 brief issued by Addameer, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, since 1967, approximately 20 percent of the total Palestinian population of the occupied West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza and approximately 40 percent of the total male population have been arrested. Addameer, “Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israeli Prisons,” June 2016.


The (rare) exceptions that are made to this rule are in situations when medical treatment that is necessary to save a life is only available on the other side of the checkpoint. However, this situation does not guarantee that an exception will be made, only that it can be requested. The final decision is in the authorities’ hands and can only appealed to the High Court of Justice but that could be a very prolonged process and might well result in an indeterminate outcome (for example, the court finding that “secret evidence” justifies keeping this individual on the blacklist). According to Badil and Physicians for Human Rights, applications for entry permits to obtain medical treatment, even for life-saving treatment, are commonly denied, and even if they are given once, they can be denied when follow-up treatment is needed. Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, “Forced Population Transfer: Installment of a Permit Regime,” Working Paper No. 18, 19.


This includes parents, siblings, children, and spouses.


Berda, “Bureaucracy of the Occupation,” 9.


Berda, “Bureaucracy of the Occupation,” 9.


Berda, “Bureaucracy of the Occupation,” 9.


“Report: Israel Denies Entry to 2,000 Palestinians.”


Mahsom Watch (Hebrew for Checkpoint Watch) is a volunteer Israeli women’s organization that has monitored the restriction of free movement in the occupied territories since 2001. It also helps Palestinians who have been blacklisted work to discover the reasons why.


Mahsom Watch, Invisible Prisoners: Don’t Know Why and There’s Nowhere to Turn, June 2007–September 2011 (Jerusalem: Mahsom Watch, March 2012).


Berda, Living Emergency, 71.


Berda, Living Emergency, 58.


Irus Braverman, “Civilized Borders: A Study of Israel’s New Crossing Administration,” Antipode: A Radical Journey of Geography 43, no. 2 (March 2011): 284.


Berda, Living Emergency, 61.


Mahsom Watch, Invisible Prisoners, 15.


Mahsom Watch, Invisible Prisoners, 41.


Berda, Living Emergency, 60.


“Captain” is common local “code” for a Shabak officer.


Berda, Living Emergency, 61.


Mahsom Watch, Invisible Prisoners, 12.


See, for example, Muna Dajani, Daniela De Leo, and Nura AlKhalil, “Planned Informality as a By-product of Occupation: The Case of Kufr Aqab in Jerusalem North,” Planum: The Journal of Urbanism 1, no. 26 (2013): 2–10.

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