|Palestine: Occupied, Divided, Isolated, Oppressed and Unaided|
Imagine the following:
You're ruthlessly oppressed in an occupied country under a system of institutionalized racism, affording rights solely to Jews. You have no recognized nation, no right of citizenship, no democratic freedoms or civil liberties, including no power over your daily life.
You live in constant fear, collectively punished, politically denied, and economically strangled in a continuing cycle of violence. Military orders deny free expression and movement, enclose population centers, close borders, and impose curfews, checkpoints, roadblocks, separation walls, electric fences, dispossessions, land seizures, and domination over all aspects of life under draconian military orders like the following:
- No. 92 giving Israel control of all West Bank and Gaza water;
- No. 158 stipulating that Palestinians can't construct water installations without (nearly impossible to get) permit permission and those built will be confiscated or demolished;
- No. 1015 requiring Palestinians get permission to plant trees on their own land;
- No. 128 authorizing the IDF to take over any Palestinian business not open during regular business hours;
- No. 107 prohibiting Arabic grammar, Crusades history and Arab nationalist publications;
- No. 101 banning gatherings of more than 10 people without advance notice with names of participants;
- Nos. 811 and 847 letting Jews buy land from Palestinian owners with or without their consent;
- No. 998 requiring Palestinians get permission to withdraw funds from their bank accounts;
- No. 818 authorizing how Palestinians can plant decorative flowers;
- No. 329 preventing the right of return; and
- Nos. 1649 and 1650 turning all West Bank residents (including native born ones) potentially into "infiltrators," making them vulnerable to deportation, fines or imprisonment without IDF-issued permits.
Overall, your land is occupied, communities isolated, homes invaded, friends and relatives arrested, neighborhoods attacked, homes bulldozed, land stolen, fields uprooted and burned, businesses closed, and livelihoods denied. You're impoverished, unemployed, starved, tortured, murdered, punitively taxed and fined, and demonized for being Muslims in a Jewish state. You endure it daily on your own unaided, yet you go on, hoping others later will do better.
Separation - A Dominant Aspect of Daily Life
The Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement promotes, defends and protects the right of free movement, "guaranteed by international and Israeli law," yet denied Palestinians under a draconian "system of rules and sanctions," restricting the lives of millions in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
As a result, their basic rights are violated, including the right to life, to access medical care, to education, to livelihood, to family unity, and to freedom of religion.
Gisha's new Safe Passage (SP) spg.org web site shows what's "not new and not 'internal' or 'geographical,' but rather intentional, about the separation of Gaza and the West Bank," Israel's draconian control over daily life.
In May, SP examined the affect on families and trade, including legal obligations under international and Israeli laws, spurned with impunity.
Since September 2000 (the start of the second Intifada), travel throughout the Territories (especially between Gaza and the West Bank) has been restricted or denied, notably after Israel's imposed siege. As a result, visiting relatives, pursuing education, accessing medical care, or living normally is virtually impossible, particularly for Gazans wanting to reach the West Bank. "The policy is taking a heavy personal toll on women, men and children, (since) many families have close relatives living in both areas."
ID card addresses affect normal life, including for West Bank natives identified as Gazans, making them subject to dispossession and deportation, separating them from families, husbands from wives, children from a parent, and friends from neighbors - because Israel controls the process, the Palestinian registry, and remains hardline.
Since 1990, Gaza-born Samir Abu Yusef has lived in Qalqilya in the northwestern West Bank. He's a carpenter, married with four children, yet in early 2008 was arrested entering Israel and deported because of his ID card address.
For over two years, he was separated from his family causing immense anguish and hardships, including financial ones. His application to return home was denied because he didn't observe Israel's permit criteria. His wife and children also couldn't visit him for the same reason.
Gisha petitioned Israel's High Court of Justice (HCJ) on his behalf and succeeded, reuniting him with his family in March, Samir saying months earlier:
"Two years have passed since I saw my children. I yearn to touch them, to watch them grow up, to hug them....It's very hard (being) away from them....The holiday season is the hardest time....On the holiday, I stay alone in my room and cry....What have my children done to deserve such a terrible punishment - to live without a father?"
Thousands of others in the West Bank fear the same fate - arbitrary removal, so they restrict their movements, fearing arrest at a checkpoint or by military patrols and deportated.
Gaza-born Ahmed Alul, a Tulkarm resident since 1996, visited his parents and family in Gaza in April 2001. He was then prevented from returning, his wife Samar saying how hard it is "to raise two boys by myself. I am both father and mother to them....no one can (replace their) father."
Unlike most countries and all civilized ones, Palestinians are denied free movement. As a result, Gazan men and women with West Bank spouses can't reunite to be together, yet Israel lets West Bank and East Jerusalem residents move to Gaza, but not return - an option risking livelihoods, land, homes, and family support networks, one few wish to choose.
West Bank-born Gazans face an impossible choice. They can stay with their spouse, detached from West Bank families, or return and be separated from wives or husbands who can't leave. The toll for many is unbearable, living half lives not whole ones.
If allowed, leaving Gaza involves hardships even in extreme cases, such as battered or divorced wives or widows seeking West Bank shelter with parents or other family members. Travel restrictions between the Territories are so strict, that it's easier for Gazans to meet family members abroad than internally, despite the difficulties reaching Egypt through Rafah.
Even Gazans managing to do it can't enter the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge (on the Jordanian side) to reunite with families. Mohammed Abu Aishah's case is tragic. Born in Jordan, his family moved to the West Bank when he was eight, yet his ID card address is Gaza even though he never lived there, because it was his mother's original address.
In February 2007, he visited his brother in Gaza, couldn't leave for over two years, got to Egypt through Rafah, and from there to Jordan. Yet he was denied entry to the West Bank and now lives under impoverished conditions, age 22, "with no future, no profession, no livelihood, no roof over my head. For three years I've (tried) to survive another day."
According to international accords Israel signed, West Bank and Gaza residents live in a single territorial entity. Yet Israel's separation policy creates "an almost impenetrable barrier," disrupting families, including husbands from wives, parents from children, siblings from each other, and friends from neighbors and community ties - in violation of international law and common decency.
Legal Implications of Family Separation
As an occupying power, Israel is required to ensure proper functioning of public life and institutions, including protection and welfare of families. The High Court of Justice (HCJ), in fact, affirmed these obligations because Israel control's Gaza's borders and occupies the West Bank, the populations dependent after decades of military control.
In addition, the Oslo Accords committed Israel to recognize Gaza and the West Bank as a single territorial entity in which free movement (notably safe passage) was allowed between the two by private vehicles or buses through Israel. Crossing permits were required but didn't require residency in either area exclusively.
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|Allen L. Jasson|
|William John Cox|