At Gisha’s Request: High Court to Hold Additional Hearing – with Berlanty Azzam in Attendance
• Additional hearing to be held in the Israeli High Court of Justice on Monday November 30, 2009, at 4 pm.
• Gisha asks the court to order the army to permit Berlanty to return to her studies immediately.
• Berlanty has already missed a month of her studies; she was due to finish her BA in Business Administration in less than two months.
• Israel admits that it has no security concerns about Berlanty and that she was removed only because the address listed on her identity card is in Gaza.
• Since 2000, Israel has enforced a sweeping ban preventing students from Gaza from studying at Palestinian universities in the West Bank.
Thur., November 26, 2009 – At the request of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement and despite the position of the IDF and the State of Israel, the Israeli High Court of Justice will hold an emergency hearing in the case of Berlanty Azzam on Monday, November 30, 2009, at 4 pm. This is the second hearing in the case of Berlanty, a 22-year-old student at Bethlehem University who was forcibly removed to the Gaza Strip last month.
The hearing was set after the State Attorney’s Office informed the High Court on November 24, 2009 that the army maintains its refusal to allow Berlanty Azzam to return to her studies despite the fact that she has less than two months to go before completing her degree and despite the fact that she is not the subject of any security concerns.Following the refusal, Gisha submitted a response to the High Court in which it requested that the court order the army to let Berlanty return to her studies at Bethlehem University immediately or, alternatively, that an additional hearing be convened, this time in the presence of Berlanty herself.The court granted Gisha’s request, deciding that an additional hearing would be held within seven days and ordering the State to allow Berlanty to enter Israel to attend, which it refused to do for the first hearing.In addition, the court suggested to the parties:“to consider allowing the petitioner in to continue her studies in an agreement, in exchange for a large financial guarantee”.
The State’s only argument is that Berlanty was present in the West Bank "illegally”, despite the fact that Berlanty herself clarified in her military hearing that she traveled from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank legally – using an entry permit to Israel issued to her by the military commander. This permit, which had no conditions or restrictions, was issued to her after she passed a rigorous security investigation.On this issue, Gisha lawyer, Adv. Yadin Elam, told the High Court:"The only permits that the respondents issued in cases where they allowed Palestinians to travel between Gaza and the West Bank were entry permits to Israel. They are now claiming that Berlanty should have had a residence permit, a permit which at the time didn’t even exist”.
Moreover, after she entered the West Bank, Berlanty did everything she could to change her address as listed on her identity card to her new place of residence, Bethlehem.Over the past four years, she and her parents submitted numerous applications to change her address but all were summarily rejected – they were told that Israel, which controls the Palestinian population registry, refuses to register changes in address from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. “The removal of the petitioner from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip based solely on the fact that the address listed on her identity card is in the Gaza Strip is a problem in itself”,Gisha wrote in its response. “It is even more problematic when you consider that the respondents who removed the petitioner to Gaza are the same ones who prevented her from changing the address listed on her identity card”.
Since 2000, Israel has enforced a sweeping ban preventing Palestinians from Gaza from studying at Palestinian universities in the West Bank.A 2007 High Court decision determined that students from Gaza wishing to study in the West Bank might be allowed to do so “in cases where positive humanitarian implications are known”. However, to the best of Gisha’s knowledge, since this judgment was handed down in 2007, Israel has not issued a single entry permit for the purpose of traveling to study in the West Bank to a student from Gaza. Just last summer, Israel refused to allow 12 students from Gaza to study at Bethlehem University.In the late 1990s, about 1,000 students from Gaza studied in the West Bank, most of them in disciplines that are not offered in the Gaza Strip.
An estimated 25,000 people live in the West Bank but have Gaza addresses listed on their identity cards. Like Berlanty, due to this fact alone they are at risk of being removed from their homes and separated from their families, jobs and studies. These people, some of whom have lived in the West Bank for decades, are extremely limited in their daily movements for fear that they will be detained and removed. This is due to the fact that Israel does not recognize their right to live in the West Bank and, since 2000, has not allowed addresses to be changed from Gaza to the West Bank. As a result, they have limited opportunities for employment, business and studies.These policies are not only a breach of Israel’s obligations under international accords to treat the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a “single territorial entity” but they also inhibit the healthy development of Palestinian society.
The State Attorney’s update submitted to the court on November 24 followed a military hearing conducted for Berlanty after the High Court ordered the State to grant her the legal right that was originally denied to her – an opportunity to present her claims and appeal her removal, while exercising her right to legal representation.The hearing took place on Tuesday, November 17, 2009, at the Erez Crossing in the presence of Gisha lawyer, Adv. Yadin Elam.
Berlanty was detained on October 28, 2009, on her way back from Ramallah to Bethlehem, where she has studied and lived for the past four years.She was handcuffed, blindfolded, and removed to the Gaza Strip on that same day. This was in violation of an explicit promise made to her lawyer that she would be allowed to meet with him, and a denial of her right to a hearing, as the High Court rightly determined.