A new report by Gisha, One-Way Ticket, analyzes an Israeli procedure that forces Palestinian residents of the West Bank who are living in Gaza to effectively “waive” their right to move back to the West Bank as a condition for submitting permit applications for humanitarian needs. Israel’s use of the procedure to stop Palestinians from returning to the West Bank constitutes forcible transfer, a grave breach of international law amounting to a war crime.
Israel’s “Procedure for Issuing Permits for Judea and Samaria Residents in the Gaza Strip” (hereinafter: the procedure) dictates that Palestinians registered in the Palestinian population registry as West Bank residents who reside in Gaza can only submit permit applications if they sign a form declaring that they have “settled” in Gaza permanently. The procedure, the most recent version of which was published in November 2020, is part of Israel’s long-standing “separation policy,” designed to divide Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza in service of Israel’s illegitimate political and demographic goals.
Through its ongoing control over the Palestinian population registry, Israel determines in practice whether Palestinians are registered as “West Bank residents” or “Gaza residents.” This status dictates where Palestinians can live, work, access education and livelihoods, and start a family. Israel prohibits family unification for Gaza residents in Israel and the West Bank, meaning that Palestinian couples in which one spouse is registered as a resident of Gaza can only live together as a family in the Strip. Since women are most often those who move to live near their spouses’ families after marriage, women are disproportionately impacted by the procedure.
Since its establishment, Gisha has represented numerous Palestinian women from the West Bank who live in Gaza with their spouses and children and have submitted applications to visit family in the West Bank or move back there permanently. In cases where women had already signed a settlement form upon entering the Strip, Israel used the form to justify denying them the possibility of moving back to the West Bank. In cases where the applicants had not yet been made to sign the settlement form, Israel exploited their basic, urgent need to visit the West Bank (within its own criteria for humanitarian travel) in order to force them to sign it. Women were often pressured and intimidated into signing the form, as a condition for travel – whether to visit their relatives in the West Bank, or to return to their homes and families in Gaza. People who choose not to sign the form are effectively blocked from exiting Gaza via Erez Crossing for any purpose whatsoever, no matter how humanitarian their need to travel might be.
According to international law, protected persons have a right to return to their homes, and forcing a waiver of this right is explicitly forbidden. Israel’s use of the procedure to prohibit Palestinian residents of the West Bank from returning there constitutes forcible transfer, a grave breach amounting to a war crime. Israel must immediately revoke this illegal procedure and stop all forcible transfer of Palestinians living under occupation.
To read the report, One-Way Ticket, see here.
For the PDF version, see here.