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J-Post: ‘Israel is dividing Gazan, W. Bank populations’

By Dan Izenberg

To view original article, published in the Jerusalem Post on the 11th September, click here

In the past year, Israel has stepped up its policy of separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and forcing Palestinians registered in Gaza or wishing to visit Gaza to forgo their right to live in the West Bank, two human rights organizations charged Wednesday.

The organizations, Hamoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual and B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, held a press conference to mark the publication of a position paper entitled “Separated Entities – Israel Divides Palestinian Population of West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

According to the paper, since last year Israel has stepped up its measures, originally introduced after the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, “to institutionalize and perpetuate a new factual and legal reality of separation between residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, while severing the interdependent social, economic and cultural ties between the two groups, infringing their rights and impeding the possibility that the Palestinian people will realize their right to self-determination.”

In the past year, Israel has introduced a new requirement for Palestinians whose registered address is in the Gaza Strip, demanding that they obtain a permit to be present in the West Bank. Those who do not have such a permit are defined as “illegal aliens,” as though the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were not one entity.

The permit must be obtained from the army and is valid for only three months. In order to be granted one, a Palestinian listed in the population registry as living in Gaza must prove that he has lived in the West Bank continuously for the past eight years, must be married and have children, must have security clearance and must provide humanitarian grounds for requesting the permit.

The policy has been exacerbated by Israel’s refusal for the past eight years to update the Palestinian population registry, which it controls, to record the moves of Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank. Therefore, by definition, any Palestinian who has moved to the West Bank since then is there illegally, or at best, temporarily.

Israel does not consider marriage between residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank sufficient cause for issuing a permit to the Gaza spouse to settle in the West Bank. Gaza brides who want to marry their husbands in the West Bank must deposit a large amount of money as a guarantee that they will return to Gaza after the wedding.

In one case, the state demanded that a woman deposit NIS 20,000.

West Bank residents who want to visit the Gaza Strip may only do so if they sign a commitment to remain there. In one case, a woman living in the West Bank asked for permission to visit her ailing husband in Gaza. The military authorities said they would not approve the request but added that “a single, one way permit to the Gaza Strip may be approved.”

In another case, a Palestinian originally from Hebron but living in Gaza returned to the West Bank when his mother’s leg was amputated. When he asked for a permit to return to Gaza, his request was rejected. At the same time, the army also refused to allow his wife and baby daughter in Gaza to join him in the West Bank. After a year, the army agreed to allow the man to return to Gaza if he signed a promise never to come back to the West Bank.

According to the report, Israel has forcibly removed Palestinians from the West Bank on the grounds that they were registered as living in Gaza and did not have permit to reside in the West Bank.

The organizations charged that recently, the High Court of Justice, in a series of petitions filed by Moked, has consistently upheld the state’s decisions.

An IDF spokesman was unavailable Wednesday night to respond to the claims made in the report.