Years later, the threat of removal to Gaza has been lifted, deposit money returned, and address finally changed
Almost two years after he was almost removed to Gaza and some 18 months after he asked for the deposit money he had posted, Majdi Abu Zeid can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Majdi was born in the Gaza Strip in 1973. He moved to the West Bank in 1994, after marrying a West Bank resident, and has lived there ever since, with the exception of a few years during which he worked in Gaza. The couple’s four children were born in the West Bank.
On September 22, 2009, when crossing a checkpoint in the West Bank, soldiers noticed that the address in Majdi’s ID card was in Gaza. He was detained and was about to be removed to Gaza as part of Israel’s policy of not allowing Palestinians with Gaza addresses to remain in the West Bank, even if they have been living there for many years.
With the threat of deportation hanging over his head, Majdi’s wife called Gisha. A lawyer on staff urgently contacted the military in an attempt to prevent Majdi from being forcibly transferred to the Gaza Strip and torn from his home, wife and children aged nine, seven, three and nine months. The military stated Majdi was “to be deported back to his home in the Gaza Strip”.
Following Gisha’s intervention and the threat of legal action, the military agreed to allow Majdi to return to his home in the West Bank on condition that he post a 10,000 shekel ($2789) deposit by the next day. Majdi’s wife posted the deposit and he was released to his home in the West Bank. Majdithen filed an application for change of address with the Palestinian Interior Ministry, despite the fact that Israel, which controls the Palestinian population registry, has refused to allow Palestinians to change their registered addresses from Gaza to the West Bank since 2000.
Years went by and Majdi went on with his life. By late February 2011, the cost of living had begun to take a toll on the family, while the 10,000 shekels deposit collected dust in one of the state’s accounts.
In late March 2011, Gisha contacted the authorities asking that the deposit be returned to the Abu Zeid family. For six months the request battled the military’s bureaucracy: Gisha’s letters went missing, processing was passed from one official to the next, Gisha’s staff made repeated inquiries with the authorities and there was confusion regarding the account into which the money should be deposited – in September 2011, the 10,000 shekels were finally returned to the Abu Zeids.
In August 2011, as part of a pledge Israel made to Quartet Representative Tony Blair to change the addresses of 5,000 Palestinians from Gaza Strip to the West Bank, Majdi’s address was changed to the West Bank and the threat of removal was lifted. Majdi can now travel throughout the West Bank without fear and can even cross the border into Jordan and travel on to other countries.