Gisha in letter to COGAT: Publish holiday “gesture” for permits in time for residents to take advantage of it

September 6, 2017. Traveling from Gaza is only possible for the very few people who meet limited criteria for travel established by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). To mark Muslim and Christian holidays, COGAT sometimes announces that the closure will be eased slightly, as a “gesture” of goodwill. Details about the extent of the gesture are often published right before the holiday in question, sometimes only hours in advance, and other times only once the holiday has begun, or even ended.

The so-called “gesture” is usually comprised of only a tiny quota of permits, compared to actual demand or need for travel, but for the few people who manage to obtain the permits, they certainly make a difference in the way they experience the holiday. For this reason, as Eid al-Adha approached this year, and given that no notice was published announcing any gesture, Gisha sent a letter to COGAT, requesting that it act in accordance with the promise it made last year and publish the notification ahead of time, so that residents are able to take advantage of it and submit their requests for permits.

Only after Gisha filed a pre-petition to the High Court on the subject did COGAT finally take the trouble of answering our letter, with a noncommittal, maybe. “The recent unfortunate security incidents compelled security officials to examine things more closely, in accordance with the changing security situation and the current policy.” COGAT promised to post a notification if and when decisions were reached in respect to the holiday travel quota.

On September 4, after Eid had ended, Gisha received an update from COGAT, stating that the holiday travel quota was published in an updated version of the Status of Authorizations document, which lists the criteria for travel for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The updated document was ostensibly posted to their website on August 31, the day Eid began, and certainly not enough time in advance for residents to apply for travel permits.

Israel’s restrictions on movement must change: In the name of decency, freedom of movement and of religion, and for the sake of the well-being of all residents of the region.