For over two years the military prevented a childless Palestinian man from leaving the West Bank to receive a specialized infertility treatment in Jordan: the travel ban was lifted shortly after HaMoked petitioned the court
Every year, the Israeli security forces ban hundreds of Palestinians from the oPt from going abroad, with neither a hearing, a notice regarding the travel ban or its expiry date. These “security”-based bans are often imposed arbitrarily, and are frequently lifted following the submission of a petition by HaMoked.
Thus in the case of a Palestinian man in his thirties, who was married in 2014 and has undergone various infertility treatments in the West Bank since 2015, as his condition prevented him and his wife from having children. As these treatments failed, the man was advised to undergo a special microsurgical procedure, unavailable in the West Bank, performed in Jordan. And so in 2017 the man tried to go to Jordan to receive this special treatment, but his exit from the West Bank was banned by Israel. Therefore, the man filed to the military an objection to the foreign travel exit ban, but received no answer.
As he was trapped inside his country, in October 2018, the man opted to undergo a similar but less advanced procedure that is available in the West Bank, in the hope that he and his wife could finally start a family and experience parenthood. Their hopes were dashed once again. Having exhausted all possible treatment options available in the West Bank, the man filed a new objection to the military against the ban on his exit to Jordan, where he could receive the only significant course of treatment left available for him. Again he received no answer from the military.
In late September 2019, the man was summoned to a meeting with an Israel Security Agency (ISA) official, during which he was told that if he agreed to collaborate with Israeli security officials, he would get help in going abroad. The man firmly rejected this offer. Three days later, when he tried once more to leave for Jordan to get the hoped-for treatment, his exit was banned once again. Therefore, HaMoked filed another objection on the man’s behalf, emphasizing the absolute prohibition on pressuring a protected person to collaborate with the occupying power.
When correspondence between HaMoked and the military proved fruitless, on December 26, 2019, HaMoked petitioned to the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of the man. In the petition, HaMoked stressed that Israel had been preventing the man from leaving his country for many years, and that in the past two years this constituted not only a violation of his basic right to freedom of movement but also his basic rights to family life and parenthood as well as health and accessibility to healthcare. HaMoked noted that according to the World Health Organization, ensuring infertility services is a key component of sexual and reproductive health.
HaMoked also argued in its petition that the military, in its flawed conduct, continued to ignore the categorical comments of the High Court of Justice (HCJ) in its 2017 decision
concerning the importance of a timely response to objections over travel exit bans. Additionally, HaMoked cited the HCJ’s decision, whereby petitions such as this, “are filed and deleted before a hearing is held because the specific issue has been resolved” and are “thus proven to have been unnecessary had the matter been addressed”. HaMoked also elaborated on its concern that the military’s delay in responding to the objection was intended to serve as a lever to pressure the man to agree to collaborate with the Israeli security forces, and that if this was so, it constituted an extraneous and prohibited consideration on the military’s part.
On January 1 2020, about a week after the petition was filed, HaMoked received notice that the military would agree to lift the ban if the man signed a “form on refraining from terror”. On January 21, 2020, the petitioner traveled to Jordan to undergo treatment.
As stated, this is not an isolated case in which the military lifted the ban following a petition to the court over failure to respond. In 2019, for example, HaMoked filed 17 such petitions, in 7 of which the ban was lifted before a court hearing was held.
* On February 25, 2020, Judge Sobel ruled the state is to pay HaMoked ILS 5,000 in costs.