IDF checkpoint 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli government policies regarding Palestinian residency have stripped
thousands of Palestinians of the ability to live in the West Bank or Gaza with
their families, and severely restricted their movement between the two
territories, the NGO Human Rights Watch said in a report issued
In the 90-page report, entitled “Forget about Him, He’s Not
Here,” the NGO states that Israel “has used Palestinians’ residency status as a
tool to control their ability to reside in, move within, and travel abroad from
the West Bank, as well as to travel from Gaza to Israel and the West
According to HRW, these Israeli measures “vastly exceed what could
be justified under international law as needed to address legitimate security
concerns, and have dire consequences for Palestinians’ ability to enjoy such
basic rights as the right to family life and access to health care and education
Bill Van Esveld, who compiled the report for HRW, said it
was put together over an eight-month period using information from Israeli and
foreign NGOs, as well as a large number of personal interviews with Palestinians
affected by the population registry.
Van Esveld referred to the
regulations as “an endless bureaucracy that people are always getting left on
the wrong side of,” and called on Israel to examine each entry or residence
permit on an individual basis, rather than to rely on blanket bans effecting
hundreds of thousands of people.
Van Esveld said he understands the
security concerns facing Israeli authorities responsible for approving these
permits. “There is definitely a real security concern [for Israel], the question
is what’s the relation between the security concern and this policy? And our
position is you can – and should – screen people to see if they are a security
threat, but not to propose a blanket ban on everybody.”
He said that even
almost seven years after the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Israel
still has de facto control over Palestinian freedom of movement into the Gaza
Strip, in that the Egyptians continue to use Israeli approved IDs and passports
as the criteria for allowing Palestinians to enter or exit the Gaza
In it’s recommendations section, the report proposes that Israel
“recognize and respect the residency rights of Palestinians and their family
members, including the rights to reside and travel where they choose and to
freely enter and leave the territory,” and to immediately cancel “arbitrary”
restrictions on these rights.
It also calls for an end to quotas on
family reunification requests, and for backlogged requests to be processed at an
In response to the report, Government Spokesman Mark
Regev said Sunday that HRW “has a documented record of anti-Israel bias and of
getting it wrong in the Middle East.” He also criticized the report’s usage of
the term “arbitrary” to describe Israeli government practices.
added that “everyone knows Israel is a democracy and we have a powerful and
vibrant independent judiciary,” and said those who believe Israeli government
practices are arbitrary can turn to the Israeli courts to hear the matter.