Gisha and Adv. Sari Bashi win human rights award

From legal aid provided pro-bono by a single lawyer, the organization has expanded. Sari Bashi

From legal aid provided pro-bono by a single lawyer, the organization has expanded. Sari Bashi

December 14, 2014.  Today, Gisha will receive the 2013 Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award together with its co-founder and former director, Adv. Sari Bashi. In 2005, just prior to the implementation of the disengagement plan, Bashi, together with Prof. Kenneth Mann, established Gisha out of an understanding that, although Israel would be removing its permanent military installations and settlements from inside the Strip, it would continue to control many important aspects of the lives of its residents.

From legal aid provided pro-bono by a single lawyer, the organization has expanded to include more than 20 full-time staff members working in several departments as well as a field coordinator operating in the Gaza Strip. The organization works to promote an understanding of the impact of Israel’s policy towards Gaza, and the ongoing obligations which stem from its control there, especially among Israeli and international decision-makers. Gisha advocates for increased transparency regarding the procedures, protocols and decisions that impact freedom of movement as part of an effort to facilitate well-being and normal life.

Over the years, Gisha has helped thousands of people who wished to travel to and from Gaza. Beyond individual assistance, the organization promotes public awareness about Israel’s policy in Gaza. As part of this work, Gisha exposed the existence of a list of goods that were permitted to enter the Gaza Strip and the mathematical formulas used by the army to calculate the quantities of food allowed into the Gaza Strip. Gisha’s legal and public activity regarding restrictions on the entrance of goods into Gaza, which received significant media coverage, likely played a role in the cancellation of important elements of the restrictions in June 2010, following the Gaza flotilla incident.

In the explanation for its selection, the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award Committee wrote that “Gisha is the only human rights organization focusing on the Gaza Strip, which, in the absence of active hostilities, receives little attention from the Israeli public. Freedom of movement is a prerequisite for exercising other basic rights such as the right to education, livelihood, health care and family reunification. Thus, Gisha’s work is important and influential in many aspects of life for Palestinians residing in Gaza and the West Bank. Gisha has helped thousands of people cope with a system that applies Israel’s “separation policy” and has made it possible for some to overcome access restrictions in order to unite with family members, attend their studies, arrive at their places of work and reach professional and educational opportunities”.