Squeezing past the criteria: How Mr. Awad travelled between Gaza and the West Bank
Mr. Awad is the information systems director for a large company in the Gaza Strip, which recently expanded its operations to the West Bank. Awad, who lives in Gaza, is the only person with the technical knowledge required to train new staff in the West Bank on how to operate the company’s computer systems. However, Israel’s policy document on travel into and out of Gaza does not contain a special clause for people named “Awad”, neither one for travel by employees of service companies, or one allowing travel for to give or receive professional training . In fact, the document lists few scenarios (visiting medical patients, receiving medical treatment, traveling to the wedding of a first-degree relative, etc.) which warrant consideration for a permit request by residents of Gaza wishing to visit the West Bank and Israel.
So even though Awad does not technically meet the criteria for obtaining a permit to travel to the West Bank and despite the fact that a previous request he submitted was denied on these very grounds, Gisha wrote a letter to the army elucidating the importance of allowing Awad to travel to the West Bank to provide a month-long training seminar to his company’s new staff members and the likely positive repercussions should the request be approved. A few weeks later, Mr. Awad’s request was indeed approved.
Gisha often submits requests on behalf of Gaza residents who do not meet the Israeli’s criteria for travel between Gaza and the West Bank and many times such requests are approved. It may be that despite the rigid criteria outlined in the document, army officials themselves recognize that the policy of restricting access to and from Gaza severely limits the possibility of normal life there. The reality of the situation continues to prove the value in examining each case on its merits and for its particular circumstances, rather than a-priori denying Gaza residents’ freedom of movement, even in the absence of concrete security concerns.