New Report by Gisha: Gaza Is Still Occupied – Despite Israeli Denial

Wed., January 17, 2007 –  Israel never “disengaged” from control over Gaza and therefore cannot escape responsibility for the well-being of its residents, according to a position paper published today by Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. The paper, titled, “Disengaged Occupiers: The Legal Status of Gaza,” counters a claim made by Israel that it no longer occupies Gaza and therefore owes no obligations to Gaza residents under international law.

The position paper argues that despite the removal of settlements and permanent army bases from Gaza, Israel continues to control life in Gaza through an “invisible hand”: control over borders, air space, territorial waters, population registry, taxation system, supply of goods, and control over the ability of the Palestinian Authority to function. The paper challenges an assumption held by Israelis and even some international policy-makers that Israel’s “disengagement” plan ended the occupation of Gaza.

According to the paper: “Gaza residents know that their ability to use electric lights, to buy milk, or to have the garbage collected depends on decisions made by Israel. At times, soldiers operate in the streets of Gaza, but even after they leave, Israeli control over the lives of Gaza residents remains constant.”

Gisha uses public and internal military documents, interviews with EU monitors, and narratives from Gaza residents to argue that tightened Israeli closure policies, implemented since its disengagement plan, have helped plunge Gaza into an economic and humanitarian crisis unprecedented in the 38 years of occupation that preceded the removal of permanent military installations. The paper includes interviews with Gaza residents who are trapped in Gaza and officially “do not exist” – because Israel won’t recognize them as residents of Gaza. The paper analyzes the international law of occupation and concludes that it still applies to Israeli actions vis à vis Gaza residents.

“A Gaza university cannot receive visits from a foreign lecturer unless Israel issues a visitors permit; A Gaza mother cannot register her child in the Palestinian population registry without Israeli approval; A Gaza fisherman cannot fish off the coast of Gaza without permission from Israel …”

Gisha calls upon Israel to fulfill its obligations to Gaza residents under international law: to open Gaza’s borders to the outside world; to allow passage of persons and goods; to refrain from destroying infrastructure; and to allow life in Gaza to function.