Catch 22, Gaza Closure Style

Two American Boys Can’t Leave Gaza Because They Can’t Renew Passports;
Can’t Renew Passports Because They Can’t Leave Gaza.

• The Israeli-imposed closure – and American bureaucratic requirements – have trapped the children and their parents in Gaza – indefinitely.

• Without passports for his children, their US-educated father cannot reach his studies at a university in Russia.

• The family’s plight exemplifies draconian restrictions on travel for Gaza residents – including hundreds of students pursuing higher education.

Sun., June 7, 2009 – Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement today petitioned the Beer-Sheva District Court on behalf of the Elkafarna family, demanding that Israel allow its two children, U.S. citizens, to reach the U.S. consulate in east Jerusalem in order to renew their passports. Because the U.S. does not provide consular services in Gaza, Elias and Qasem, aged 5 and 6, together with their parents, residents of Gaza, need permits from the military to cross through Israel, in order to appear personally at the consulate.

The children, who do not have Palestinian ID cards, need to renew their passports immediately in order to travel with their parents to Russia, where their father, Kamal, has been accepted for an advanced degree program in Engineering Management, not available in Gaza. The visas for Kamal and his wife will expire on June 16, but they can’t leave without their children.

Israel has ignored requests to permit the family to leave Gaza via Erez Crossing, in order to reach the US consulate. The family can’t even try to leave Gaza during one of the rare openings of Rafah Crossing, because one of the child’s passports has already expired. The second child’s passport will expire next month.

The children, American citizens, are caught in a Catch 22 that illustrates the draconian nature of the two-year long closure of Gaza. They cannot leave Gaza because they can’t renew their passports, and they can’t renew their passports because they can’t leave Gaza. The parents, of course, must accompany their children to east Jerusalem and wish to continue from there to Russia via Jordan.

Kamal Elkafarna, a lecturer in systems engineering in the Palestine Technical College, holds a Master’s Degree in systems engineering from George Washington University in D.C., thanks to a prestigious scholarship from USAID.

Kamal Elkafarna: “The field in which I wish to develop professionally will contribute to my community in Gaza. When a technology project is implemented in hospitals or schools, it is essential to have people with broad-based knowledge – managerial and technical – to supervise the project”.

According to Tamar Feldman of Gisha, who wrote the court petition: "The Elkafarna family’s plight is just one example of how the closure of Gaza – led by Israel but with the tacit acceptance of the international community – is trapping 1.5 million people, including hundreds of students accepted for study abroad".