Gisha welcomes expanded Gaza access, says more is needed

Gisha: we need not just gestures but an end to the failed closure policy;

New construction procedure is problematic

Sun., Oct. 5, 2014: As it welcomed gestures that allowed hundreds of Gaza residents to visit Israel and the West Bank, the human rights organization Gisha renewed its call Sunday for a fundamental change in Israel’s policy toward Gaza, namely an end to the failed closure policy.

The Defense Ministry’s easing of access restrictions on Gaza is welcome, but much more is needed“, said Gisha Director Eitan Diamond. “The Israeli government should end the closure and allow Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives“.

The rights group expressed concern that some of the access expansion was presented as a gesture for the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha, rather than a permanent change, and that it left in place harsh restrictions on travel and movement of goods for the vast majority of Gaza residents.

Since the ceasefire in Gaza began, Israel has announced (Hebrew) some steps that ease restrictions on the movement of people and goods, primarily:

  1. A procedure to allow construction materials to enter Gaza under international supervision
  2. Expanded permission for children under 16 and grandparents to visit relatives in cases of grave illness, funerals or weddings
  3. Holiday visits (Hebrew) to the West Bank and the Al Aqsa mosque for 1,000 Gaza residents
  4. Expanded access for senior merchants purchasing goods from Israel and the West Bank
  5. Transferring agricultural and fishing products from Gaza to the West Bank

While these changes are welcome, they fall short of the recommendations and operative suggestions Gisha made following the ceasefire:

  1. The expanded access via Erez shows that much more is possible. People from Gaza should be allowed to travel not just as part of a holiday gesture but rather to maintain critical familial, economic, educational and social ties with the West Bank. Passage via Erez should be permitted subject only to individual security screening.
  2. Permitting Gaza residents to transfer agricultural goods to the West Bank is a good first step. Israel should allow Gaza residents to transfer all kinds of goods – agricultural and manufactured – to Israel and the West Bank, in order to revive the Palestinian economy. Israel was the largest market for goods from Gaza, and the West Bank was second largest.
  3. While the new procedure announced promises to allow some construction materials to enter Gaza, it appears to fall far short of what is needed, especially in light of the physical devastation that resulted from the recent hostilities. Gisha’s Frequently Asked Questions explain why the new procedure appears to repeat the failings of the old procedure and will be insufficient to allow reconstruction and economic development.

The ceasefire creates an opportunity for fundamental change that will facilitate respect for basic rights as well as prosperity and security for Palestinians and Israelis. Gisha calls on the government of Israel to expand travel to and from Gaza to the maximum possible.

 

To read Gisha’s FAQs on construction materials, click here.

For more details: Sari Bashi, Co-founder, sari@gisha.org/ Shai Grunberg, Spokesperson, or shai@gisha.org.