Gisha Executive Director Tania Hary at UN Security Council: The isolation of Gaza is also a primary obstacle to peace

On Novemeber 21, Gisha Executive Director Tania Hary addressed the United Nations Security Council in New York City. Hary, who was invited to brief the Council on the situation in the Gaza Strip, stressed the heavy damage – to the economy, society, families, and well-being – caused by the sweeping access restrictions Israel imposes on Palestinians, particularly in relation to movement between Gaza and the West Bank, as part of the “separation policy”. While “certain practices” in Israel’s  permit regime “have changed” over time, Hary explained, “the overall picture remains the same: Israel believes that it can ‘manage’ the humanitarian situation in Gaza; it has an interest in maintaining the physical and political fragmentation of Palestinians, which allows it to pursue annexation in the West Bank.”

In her address, Hary described several of Gisha’s recent cases: women who were blocked from attending Gisha’s Gaza Policy Forum because, according to the state, “women play too minor of a role in the economy”; a cookie manufacturer in Gaza who wishes to sell his products in the West Bank and has been effectively banned from doing so; and the Gaza resident who, after two petitions and an appeal to the Supreme Court, is still being denied a permit to visit his bed-ridden father who, according to Israel, is “not sick enough.” “These stories are not just the unfortunate by-product of conflict,” Hary explained. “They are an expression of Israel’s intent to maintain control of the West Bank, while locking out Palestinians in Gaza.”

Hary also weighed in on the current discourse around West Bank settlements, generated by the Trump administration’s announcement that it no longer views them as a violation of international law, emphasizing that “the isolation of Gaza” must also be seen as “a primary obstacle [to peace],” and as something that is “driven by deliberate choices on the part of Israel.” As evidence, she cited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said this year that “maintaining a separation between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza helps prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Speaking to the entire UN, Hary noted that “The erosion of norms entailed in maintaining the occupation undermines the universal values of security and human rights on which this very institution was founded.” She then listed a number of steps that can be taken to improve the lives of Gaza residents and increase stability in the region: “Rather than allowing the minimum access necessary to prevent further crisis, we believe the international community should insist that Israel allow the maximum access possible, subject only to necessary and reasonable security procedures.”

“Many people in Israel may see my appearance here today as an act of disloyalty, because we’ve been taught that it’s us or them,” Hary said. “In fact, it’s just the opposite. The well-being of Israelis and Palestinians is interlinked and we should address Palestinian security just as much as we address Israeli security.”

For the full speech