January 27, 2019. Gisha submitted a petition on behalf of a Palestinian woman who was born in the West Bank in 1996. In 2017, she moved to live with her spouse in the Gaza Strip, because her spouse’s registered address is in Gaza, and Israel does not allow Palestinians whose registered address is in Gaza to live in the West Bank, even for the purpose of “family reunification.” The couple have two daughters, both born in Gaza, but whose registered addresses are in the West Bank, as determined by their mother’s registration. Given the dire living conditions in the Strip, the parents decided the girls should live and grow up in the West Bank, even if it means living separately from their father.
In 2018, the petitioner filed a permit application to return to the West Bank and live there with her daughters, but Israel denied the request. In the response (Hebrew) to Gisha’s letter on her behalf, received on November 6, 2018, the Civil Liaison Administration (CLA) claimed that the petitioner had filed an application previously for “settlement in the Gaza Strip” and signed a declaration in order to have it approved. The CLA alleged that by doing so, the petitioner took upon herself to comply with Israel’s access policies toward Gaza residents, including the procedure according to which relocation to the West Bank is only permitted in exceptional humanitarian cases.
The petitioner had indeed signed a form after she was told by Israeli authorities that she would not be allowed to enter the Strip if she failed to sign it. She did so without understanding the meaning of the form. When she moved to Gaza, she had believed that after entering the Strip she would be able to return to the West Bank and live there, where she was born and raised, whenever she chose to. Her registered address is still in the West Bank, and so is the registered address of her two daughters.
In the petition, Gisha argued that Israel’s decision to bar the petitioner from returning home was a violation of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits population transfer in an occupied territory. We demonstrated that the accepted interpretation of the terms ‘forcible transfer’ and ‘expulsion’ is broad, including a ban on relocating a person against their will, whether by using direct or indirect pressure, or by exploiting governmental powers. In this context, any alleged “consent” on the part of the individual should be examined carefully, with special consideration to the circumstances in which it was given and attention to that person’s level of vulnerability.
Gisha further argued that the implications of signing the document were not explained to the petitioner at the time she was made to sign in order to enter the Strip, and that, in any event, without thorough knowledge of Israel’s policy on the matter, she could not have known that signing the document meant waiving her future right to return to the West Bank. Blocking the petitioner from returning home with her daughters is a severe violation of her fundamental rights. Thus, Gisha argued that the CLA’s decision is unreasonable and disproportionate.
Judge Eli Abarbanel granted the state’s request for an extension and instructed the state to answer by March 24, 2019. A hearing was scheduled for April 4, 2019.
For an update on the case following the hearing, see here.