Israel continues to place obstacles in the path of the families of the Shalit-deal deportees: requiring relatives to pledge not to meet their loved-ones who were released as part of the deal – as a condition for allowing their departure abroad – has become the practiced policy
In October 2011, Israel signed a deal for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Some of the Palestinian prisoners released as part of the deal were deported to Gaza, and some to foreign countries. Since then, HaMoked has been handling complaints by a growing number of West Bank residents – parents and siblings of Shalit deal deportees, who were banned by Israel from going abroad. About a year after the deal was struck, Israel presented for the first time a proclamation pledge
wherein Palestinian relatives of the Shalit-deal deportees undertake not to meet their released loved ones as a condition to their going abroad. Israel has since demanded dozens of people to sign this written proclamation; this, without formally announcing its retreat from its previous policy
. This outrageous demand has thus become the practiced policy.
Thus far, in 2015 alone, HaMoked has handled 24 cases of relatives of Shalit-deal deportees, who’ve been blacklisted from foreign travel by the military. These join the dozens of cases HaMoked handled in 2012-2014. In one such case, on January 19, 2015, HaMoked filed an objection to the foreign-travel ban imposed on a woman from the West Bank who wanted to travel to Jordan to visit her brother, a cancer patient who had been released as part of the Shalit deal (as was another brother of the pair). In response to the objection, the military placed the condition for allowing the woman to go abroad that she undertake not to meet her dying brother during her trip. The condition was the rejection, and following HaMoked’s insistence that the woman was entitled to travel to Jordan to meet her brother there, the military retracted the condition, and the ban was lifted on February 4, 2015.
Frequently, blacklisted individuals are Palestinians holding foreign nationalities who are visiting the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. When they attempt to leave the West Bank and return to their home and family abroad, the military prevents them from leaving without any reason; in order to return to their everyday lives, they are required to pledge in writing either not to come back to the West Bank for a few years, or to refrain from meeting their relative who was released in the Shalit deal. The military has thus been preventing a Palestinian woman – who lives with her husband and children in Dubai – from returning to her home after a family visit to the West Bank. On August 5, 2015, upon reaching the Allenby Bridge border crossing, the woman – who had never been interrogated or arrested before – was told that she was blacklisted by the Israel security service (ISA) and prohibited from leaving for Jordan and returning to her home to resume her daily life. Moreover, the woman was about to start a new job in mid-September. So on August 18, 2015, HaMoked lodged an urgent objection to the ban imposed on the woman. In response, the military announced that the ban would be lifted provided that the woman pledged in writing not to meet her released brother, living in Gaza, and also to stay away from the OPT for the next three years. HaMoked objected to these outrageous conditions, and asserted that “coerced lack of contact for such a long period, infringes on the woman’s rights to freedom of movement and to preserving the family fabric, and sets an impossible demand”.
Having received numerous requests for assistance from immediate relatives of the Shalit Deal deportees who discovered on reaching the Allenby Bridge border crossing that they were under a foreign travel ban, HaMoked contacted the authorities
on May 28, 2015, under the Freedom of Information Law and asked for information relating to the Shalit deal. HaMoked, inter alia, inquired about Israel’s policy concerning family visits to the Shalit-deal deportees, and also asked for the number of Palestinians – whether residents of the West Bank or Israel – who were under a foreign travel ban due to their family ties to the deportees.
The military briefly notified that “information concerning the security restrictions imposed on those released in the deal and/or their family members is held by the Israel Security Agency and cannot be perused pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law”. Thus, the ban imposed on many Palestinians seeking to travel outside their country – whose only sin is their being related to the Shalit-deal deportees – remains unexplained; the state continues to violate their right to family life, while gravely infringing on additional basic rights.
So long as the sons were incarcerated, Israel allowed their families to visit them in prison. But since their release and forcible transfer to Gaza Strip or some foreign countries, Israel has been preventing them and their families from meeting, in severe violation of the right to family life.