As discussion of “easing” the closure of Gaza continues, restrictions on movement between Gaza and the West Bank remain tighter than ever. Last week, the Defense Ministry announced that the “easing” would in no way expand criteria for travel of people between Gaza and the West Bank.
In an op-ed in Tuesday’s Haaretz, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens implies that the division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank has only to do with the very real obstacles presented by 40 kilometers (25 miles) of land and the political divisions that define the opposing ruling authorities of the areas. In fact, Israel’s policy separating Gaza from the West Bank goes back long before the Hamas-Fatah split and is entrenched in every aspect of life. It is what prevents families from living together, even when a father is split from his children; it is what prevents a patient from seeking treatment in a Ramallah hospital, even when that treatment isn’t available in Gaza; it is what prevents a trader from shipping his wares to the West Bank, even when the Palestinian economy would seem to include the whole of the Palestinian territory; it is what prevents Fatma Sharif from studying at Birzeit University, even when the program she wishes to study does not exist in Gaza. It is what prevents movement between Gaza and the West Bank almost completely, but allows for a one-way ticket from the West Bank to Gaza. It is why nearly 35,000 people living in the West Bank with “Gaza” written in their ID cards are afraid to leave the house for fear of forced removal. It is the subject of a new interactive media tool called Safe Passage, www.spg.org.il, showing what is not new and not “internal” or “geographical”, but rather intentional, about the separation of Gaza and the West Bank.
We encourage you to play, Mr. Arens.