High Court Declines to Intervene to Open Karni Crossing

April 27, 2006 – Israel’s High Court declined today to intervene in a petition filed to open Karni Crossing for regular and sufficient hours, in order to permit Gaza residents to receive humanitarian goods and to participate in a properly functioning economy. The petitioners agreed to withdraw the petition after the justices accepted the state’s claim that it was exerting maximum efforts to keep the crossing open and that there is currently no crisis in the supply of humanitarian goods in Gaza. The justices noted that the petitioners may return to the court in the future to seek a remedy.

The petitioners are the Gaza-based Mezan Center for Human Rights, the Palestinian Consumer Protection Organization, a Gaza farmer who had to destroy his produce intended for export because of the closure, and Gisha: Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement, which prepared the petition.

According to Prof. Kenneth Mann, Chair of Gisha’s Board: "The court indicated that it was not willing to give a substantive ruling at this time, leaving the issue open for future consideration. Mezan and Gisha do not believe that Israel is fulfilling its duties to the civilian population in Gaza, and we intend to return to court."

Karni is the commercial and humanitarian lifeline of Gaza, through which its residents get food and medicine and export agricultural and other goods. The petitioners maintain that under international law, because Israel controls the passage of goods to and from Gaza and refuses to allow Gaza to operate a seaport or airport, it owes a duty to keep Karni crossing open, in order to prevent an economic and humanitarian crisis. That duty extends not just to allow supply of humanitarian goods into Gaza, but also to permit Gaza farmers, merchants, and industrialists the steady, predictable ability to export their goods.

Since Jan. 15, 2006, the Karni Crossing has been completely closed 47% of the time, and only partially open the rest of the time. According to UN-OCHA, the closure has already caused more than $30 million in losses to the Palestinian economy. The closure has caused shortages of flour, baby formula, medicines, and other goods. Every day, farmers in Gaza systematically destroy or donate their crops, because they cannot get them to export markets.

The petition was written by Sari Bashi, Gisha’s Director, and Prof. Kenneth Mann, Chair of Gisha’s board.