Since the beginning of the current intifada, Israel has taken various steps to separate the West Bank and Gaza Strip, split the Palestinian population into two separate entities and cut them off from one another. This policy was escalated in the past year with the new requirement that residents of the Territories whose registered address is in the Gaza Strip hold a permit to be present in the West Bank, as well as their removal to the Gaza Strip under the pretext that they are illegal aliens in the West Bank.
In 2007, HaMoked handled a number of cases of Palestinians who wished to travel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and vice versa for various reasons. As far as Israel is concerned, crossing in one direction is not the same as crossing in the other. While Israel makes travel to West Bank very difficult, it willingly allows travel in the opposite direction, so long as those traveling undertake never to return to the West Bank.
One of the tools Israel employs for the purpose of separating the populations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is the control it has ceased over the Palestinian population registry. The Interim Agreement between Israel and the PLO (the Oslo Accords) stipulate a transfer of powers relating to management of the population registry of the Occupied Territories to the Palestinian Authority (PA) – including the power to update addresses. In order to ensure Israel has an accurate copy of the population registry, the Palestinian was to retroactively notify the Israeli side of every change it made. Hence, the PA run population registry is the deciding one. It must be noted that the Oslo Accords make no special reference to changes of address between the Gaza Strip and West Bank, a fact in keeping with the basic principle established in the Accords that the two parts form a single territorial unit. In 2000, Israel decided to "freeze" updating changes of addresses between the West Bank and Gaza Strip in its copy of the population registry. The information included in the population registry at the time was not examined or reviewed, but frozen as it was, with no possibility of change, amendment or appeal. Following the freeze, Palestinians whose addresses had been changed only in the original Palestinian registry faced many difficulties. So much so, that the Palestinian side had no choice but to cease updating the original population registry.
As a result of Israel's policy, Palestinians whose registered address is Gaza require the military's permission to be present in their homes in the West Bank. New brides who live in the Gaza Strip and are preparing for their nuptials with their spouses who live in the West Bank require Israeli permits to get to their weddings and must deposit large sums of money as guarantees they return to the Gaza Strip immediately after the ceremony. Parents are separated from their children simply because one has an address in Gaza and the other in the West Bank. Prisoners are released from Israeli jails to the Gaza Strip only because their registered address is there, despite the fact that their home is in the West Bank. It is worth noting that if a family chooses to settle in the Gaza Strip, Israel will allow this despite it's own freeze policy and will even demand and approve a change of address in the population registry. This is a forcible transfer for all intents and purposes, since a registered address in the Gaza Strip means permanent exile from the West Bank.
On 24 September, the HCJ will hear a number of petitions dealing with issues of principle relating to change of address between the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The first petition was filed on behalf of a Palestinian from Gaza who has been in the West Bank since her wedding, but Israel refuses to change her address, making her an "illegal alien" in the West Bank. Two other petitions were filed on behalf of Palestinian women from Gaza who requested a permit to travel to the West Bank in order to realize their marriage contracts. Israel stipulated a NIS 20,000 guarantee for their passage to ensure their return to Gaza immediately after the wedding. The last petition added to the hearing was filed on behalf of four children who were born in Ramallah and have lived there all their lives, yet as a result of a registration error, they appear in the population registry as residents of Rafah in Gaza. Israel refuses to change their address and demands grounds justifying doing so.
In a position paper published today, HaMoked and B'Tselem demand Israel cancel its unilateral measures and call upon the international community to intervene in order to safeguard the integral unity of the PalestinianTerritories and secure the human rights of their residents. Any forcible removal from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip must be avoided and the liberties of every Palestinian living in the West Bank must be guaranteed, regardless of one's registered address. The organizations also call for the immediate renewal of freedom of movement between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
To view testimonies
The testimony of Hadil al-Bardawil