During holidays and life-cycle events, our closest relationships feel all the more significant. For many of us, the presence of our family members in joyous celebrations or at times of hardship and grief can be taken for granted. What does it feel like when you’re permanently separated from your family? How does society function when the ties that bind it together are deliberately loosened? 

Under Israel’s “separation policy,” the stated purpose of which is to minimize Palestinian travel between Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, a family gathering is no easy feat. Israel uses a labyrinth of bureaucracy to control every detail of Palestinians’ lives, which includes dictating when and under what circumstances they can see each other or reunite.  

What does this mean? It means that relatives can live an hour’s drive away from each other but be denied seeing one another for years. It also means that the Palestinian economy, academia, industry, cultural and economic institutions, even Palestinian civil society – continue to grapple with crippling arbitrary, far-reaching restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, which make it extremely difficult to function.  

Israeli-imposed access restrictions have established as fact the separation between Palestinians living under occupation in Gaza and those living under occupation in the West Bank. This “divide and rule” system serves Israel in entrenching Gaza’s isolation and maintaining its control in the region. The separation policy also serves Israel in reducing the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank and advancing de facto annexation. All this stands in stark contradiction to its obligations as an occupying power to allow movement and access to everything necessary to maintain a normal life, and constitutes a profound violation of human rights. 

Israel’s access restrictions go beyond checkpoints, walls and fences. They permeate the spirit of the people who have not been able to see their relatives for years, who are not free to choose where to live or study, who are forced to live with limited possibilities for employment and professional growth.  

The separation Israel produces between Palestinians in the area is contrived and runs counter to international law. The policy, including the closure of Gaza, is a key element in a regime of dispossession and fragmentation, and in the crime of apartheid perpetrated against Palestinians.