NGO: Courts giving authorities free hand in Gaza closure

The report found “The courts affirm the state’s position almost blindly."

Palestinian boys stand by a fence at the Erez Crossing, October 2017 (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS)
Palestinian boys stand by a fence at the Erez Crossing, October 2017
Israeli courts tends to favor the state’s positions and refrain from thorough discussion of the balance between Israel’s security needs and universal rights of Gaza Strip residents when it comes to the freedom of movement, says a report released on Sunday by the human-rights NGO Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.
The report analyzed 10 verdicts issued by the court in the past 10 years on the matter of the rights of Gaza Strip residents.
During this time, there was no actual Israeli control over the Strip, but Israel did enforce a closure on the area and maintained its control over the crossings in and out of the strip.
Gisha said in a press release that the report found “The courts affirm the state’s position almost blindly; avoid discussion of the necessary balance between Israel’s national security needs and the fundamental rights of Gaza residents, while persistently disregarding international law and the legal framework it provides for the protection of their human rights. In so doing, the courts have sanctioned severe violations of Palestinians’ rights, primarily, the right to freedom of movement.”
The report also found that in most cases, Israeli courts refrained from intervening in cases regarding the closure on Gaza, claiming that it is up to other entities, such as the state, to determine policy in this matter.
When it did criticize the state’s conduct, “Justices limited themselves to mild recommendations that certain sweeping restrictions be mitigated,” according to the report. “For instance, when the court upheld Israel’s ‘separation policy,’ which tears families apart between the West Bank and Gaza, the justices merely suggested amendments to the procedure governing relocation to the West Bank (HaMoked 2012), which have yet to be implemented. In two petitions challenging Israel’s blanket ban on travel from Gaza to the West Bank for academic studies (Hamdan 2007 and Izzat 2012), the justices recommended that the state institute an ‘exceptions committee’ to process individual applications, which has never been established.”
Following publication of the report, Gisha said courts should use their power to help residents of Gaza fulfill their universal rights.
“After over a decade of Israel’s failed policy of closure on Gaza, it is high time for Israel’s courts to intervene in Israel’s abdication of its legal responsibilities toward the two million residents of Gaza, and act to protect their fundamental human rights,” the report said.
In response to the article, NGO Monitor said: “Gisha continues to promote the false claim that Israel is legally responsible for the Gaza Strip while ignoring the full withdrawal of 2005 and Hamas' bloody 2007 takeover.
”At a time when Fatah and Hamas infighting cause power shortages and other difficulties, when Hamas steals humanitarian aid to build attack tunnels and rockets, and when Egypt restricts access to the territory, Gisha instead chooses to attack Israel's Supreme Court and the rule of law. Gazan human rights would be better served were Gisha to direct its efforts to the proper address.”