A 62-year-old resident of Gaza we’re calling B. has three daughters who have Israeli citizenship and live in Israel with their families. This summer B. received news that her granddaughter, who also lives in Israel, had gotten engaged. The wedding festivities were scheduled for July 11 and 12.
As required by Israeli authorities, and well ahead of time, B. submitted an application to the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, which channels all permit applications by Gaza residents to the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration (the Gaza CLA). No response came, and the wedding date drew closer. On July 1, the CLA rejected her application, noting briefly that the documents she had submitted were “not in order.” No further details were provided, leaving B. guessing what she could do differently in order to obtain the permit.
Gisha filed a petition on B.’s behalf to the Beersheva District Court. It was only after the court instructed the state to respond to the petition that the state finally explained that the documents B. had sent were “illegible” and officials had been unable to extricate the information required for processing her application.
B. went again to the offices of the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee in Gaza with the documents requested by the CLA, only to discover that Israel had suddenly formed new grounds for the rejection of her permit; now the state was claiming that B. was not actually in Gaza, but rather, that she is an “illegal alien” living within Israeli territory.
Incredibly, B. had to have her picture taken at the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee office in Gaza to prove, well, that she was really there – in Gaza. The CLA only granted B. her long-awaited permit once they had seen the photo themselves.
Israel’s permit regime puts even the few residents who are eligible for permits under Israeli policy through a labyrinth of absurd obstacles. But even these hurdles do not dull the desire to see family members divided between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank. Israel has an obligation to enable access to family life; its bureaucracy works completely counter to this obligation — by design.