Jan 27 2014

Israeli report reveals demographic policy in Gaza

Published by at 5:15 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics



By Daoud Kuttab

One of the key obstacles to permanent Israeli control of the West Bank is the presence of Palestinians in it. Unable to physically move them or have them leave voluntarily, Israel has over the years deployed an administrative process that is called “transfer.” The basic foundation of this racist policy is to have administrative policies that “encourage” Palestinians to voluntarily leave and make it very difficult for them to return.

Until the Palestinian National Authority was established in 1993, Israelis used a permit system to carry out this policy. When one left for work or school, a time-based permit was issued. If one overstayed one’s permit, one risked forfeit of the right to return. Now that the Palestinian government issues passports, this practice has lost some of its impact. However, it still applies and as a result continues to subject Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, whose city residency can be revoked after an absence of more than seven years. The demographic reason behind the Israeli “transfer” policy is very clear, although rarely publicly declared. Right-wing Israeli minister Rahavam Zeeve is the exception, as he publicly pronounced his support for transfer.

This politically motivated Israeli policy to gradually reduce the number of Palestinians in the West Bank has been exposed in terms of movement of people from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. A joint report by two Israeli human rights organizations details how thisdemographic policy is carried out. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and Hamoked, the Center for the Defence of the Individual, in January issued a report titled “So near and yet so far: Implications of Israeli-Imposed Seclusion of [the] Gaza Strip on Palestinians’ Right to Family Life.”

This joint report takes the Israeli court to task for facilitating the Israeli policy that is based on this demographic policy aimed at gradually empting the West Bank of its Palestinian residents. How does Israel use demographics in its Gaza policy?

The residency address on the Palestinian ID card is a determinant factor. Even though the Oslo Accord considered the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to be one single political unit, Israel does not honor this. If one’s address is in the Gaza Strip, one is not allowed to live in the West Bank and vice versa. However, the report shows that Israel allows West Bank residents to change their address to one in the Gaza Strip, but makes it next to impossible for Gazans to change their address to one in the West Bank.

Under external pressure from the world soccer body FIFA, in 2008, Israel allowed Gaza soccer player Suleiman Obeid to move to the West Bank for training with the Palestinian national team. However, his wife and two children were not allowed to join him. Five years later, Obeid quit soccer to be reunited with his family. Obeid was not only barred from visiting his wife and children, but when his mother became ill he was not allowed to visit her. She later died without him having a chance to see her. Obeid, one of 27 cases mentioned in the report, spoke emotionally about his ordeal. “Wanting to hug your baby and play with him, or thinking about sleeping with your wife or having more kids … these are basic needs,” Obeid said, “[but] you can’t do that because Israel doesn’t want you to do that.”

This Israeli policy has been regularly supported by Israeli high court decisions in which it accepted without challenge the Israeli government’s justification for keeping Palestinian families divided.

Human Rights Watch slammed Israel’s high-court decisions that do not accept the right of married couples to live together as a human right. In a statement back in 2012, Human Rights Watch said that Israel’s high court has “veered” from its international obligations.

“With these rulings, Israel’s highest court has seriously veered off course in serving as a final bastion for upholding human rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The two Israeli human rights organizations exposed this discriminatory policy in a powerful way and made specific reference to the Israeli Ministry of Justice for its role in the perpetuation of guidelines that are solely based on demographic racist goals. Ironically, there has been little if any attempts by Palestinian negotiators to address it, even though the head of the Israeli negotiating team, Tzipi Livni, is herself the minister of justice.

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