October 28, 2019. On April 17, 2019, Gisha submitted an appeal on behalf of Mr. Shadi Ramadan, a Gaza resident who wishes to visit his bed-ridden father in the West Bank. This is the third step in ongoing legal proceedings challenging Israel’s refusal to allow Mr. Ramadan to visit his ailing, bed-ridden father in the West Bank. Gisha filed an initial High Court petition on his behalf in late 2018 after the state rejected his permit application, claiming his father did not have a life-threatening condition and was not being hospitalized by the time the application was processed. The petition was deleted after the justices expressed the opinion that a situation in which a patient requires constant care should be considered as “hospitalization” even if the bed-ridden patient is at home rather than in the hospital. However, after reconsidering Mr. Ramadan’s application, in light of comments made by the court, the state rejected it once again. The Jerusalem District Court, where a second petition was filed by Gisha, accepted the state’s position whereby the father’s condition could not be considered the equivalent of “requiring hospitalization,” which is the terminology used in Israel’s stringent criteria for travel.

To read more on previous proceedings, see here.

In the appeal, submitted April 17, 2019, Gisha argued that the main problem arising from the District Court’s decision was its failure to address the narrow interpretation of the phrase “requiring hospitalization.” When the High Court heard the original petition, and although the father was not in hospital at the time, the justices noted that the phrase could be interpreted to include a person who required round-the-clock care, even if he or she is not actually hospitalized. Gisha’s position is that the District Court failed to examine and discuss the reasons provided by the state for its refusal of Mr. Ramadan’s permit, and the question of how these reasons might be reconciled with the remarks of the High Court panel. In other words, we claim that the court did not exercise judicial scrutiny with respect to the state’s position.

Gisha further argued that the court had not given any weight to other cases brought to its attention, in which the respondents approved permit applications submitted under similar circumstances. The court did not demand explanations from the state as to why its decision in this case differed from its decision in those cases, nor did it point to relevant distinctions between those cases and the matter at hand or explain why it had chosen to ignore them.

In addition to the aforementioned legal errors, the judgment by the District Court also contains a factual error: The court ruled that the medical reports pertaining to Mr. Ramadan’s father indicated that the father was in a state of “dependency,” rather than a state of “complete dependency,” as stated explicitly in the medical reports. The court’s finding that the father was only in a state of “dependency” contradicts the definition of “complete dependency” under the National Insurance Institution Law [Incorporated Version] 5755-1995.

After the appeal was filed, and based on the comments made by the High Court panel, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories changed the criterion for visiting sick relatives in the “Status of Authorizations,” the document listing all of Israel’s criteria for movement of Palestinians between Gaza, Israel, the West Bank, and abroad. The amended criterion now reads:

Visiting a sick relative: Entry into Israel by Gaza Strip residents (including for the purpose of transit to the West Bank or abroad) for the purpose of visiting a first-degree relative in long-term hospital care, including hospitalization in a rehabilitation facility or home care requiring medical monitoring and support, or a relative who has a serious life-threatening medical condition. The patient’s age will be taken into account under this criterion.”

Given the change to Israel’s official procedure, Gisha contacted the State Attorney’s Office to request that Mr. Ramadan’s application be reconsidered under the amended criterion. The State Attorney’s response was that the care the father receives at home does not meet the condition of “medical monitoring and support,” and, therefore, that the state maintains its previous position.

On October 28, 2019, a hearing on the appeal took place. The presiding judges, Justices Daphne Barak-Erez, Yael Vilner, and David Mintz, adopted the state’s position whereby the criterion on visits to sick, first-degree relatives should be narrowly interpreted: Despite the fact that the petitioner’s father still needs round-the-clock care, the petitioner was not found to meet the criterion. The court examined the father’s condition and the medical care he receives according to Israeli health-care standards and ignored the fact that home care in the West Bank rarely includes medical monitoring and support, other than for the few who can afford to pay for it privately. The judges did at one point ask the state’s attorney to explain why, in other cases, detailed in the appeal by Gisha, the state had not insisted on the specific conditions stipulated in the criterion, but the state attorney did not present a reasonable explanation for this discrepancy, and the judges chose not to press the matter further.

In the ruling (Hebrew), the judges rejected Gisha’s petition. The decision emphasizes the fact that Israel enables Palestinians from Gaza to submit permit applications, with disregard for how these permit applications are processed or whether they are approved or denied:

“After examining the matter we are of the opinion that the appeal is rejected. The need to bridge between human considerations and security considerations in cases such as these is not simple. The updated criterion attempts to do so, and even if the result is not simple on the human level, it cannot be said to exceed the realm of reasonability. We attribute great importance to the explicit statement in the state’s concluding remarks whereby the petitioner is free to submit a new application including medical documents providing basis for his request.”