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Palestine: Occupied, Divided, Isolated, Oppressed and Unaided - Palestine

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Palestine: Occupied, Divided, Isolated, Oppressed and Unaided
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Yet military orders or regulations separate families, creating inducements to move to Gaza and stay. Family visits, including between spouses, are prohibited, except under specially allowed humanitarian circumstances rarely granted. In addition, Israel now arrests West Bank residents with Gaza addresses, removing them by force. Also, strict criteria restrict Gazans from reuniting with family members in the West Bank, those returning removed by force.

"Understanding this policy requires understanding control over the Palestinian population registry," ostensibly given the Palestinian Authority (PA) under Oslo on these terms:

The PA must "inform Israel of every change in its population registry, including, inter alia, any change in the place of resident of any resident."

Nonetheless, Israel usurped control, treating PA address change notifications as a request it can approve or deny. As a result, since 2000, Israel refused to register them for Gazans who moved to the West Bank. Palestinians relocating thus had no way to record the change. At the same time, West Bank residents with Gaza IDs must get "staying permits" (rarely granted) to remain.

To quality, they must have entered the West Bank before 2000, be married to a resident there, have children, and demonstrate exceptional humanitarian circumstances.

Israel then prohibited Palestinians with Gaza addresses from traveling to the West Bank to reunite with families, except under "extraordinary restrictive circumstances."

Its policy states that family separation alone isn't a qualifying factor, effectively banning reunifications, even for parents and children, spouses, and siblings, with these exceptions:

  • children under 16 seeking reunification with a surviving parent;
  • elderly invalids needing help from a first degree West Bank relative; and
  • chronically ill people needing assistance from a first degree West Bank relative.

Even then, Gazans must prove they have no local relatives to provide care. Only then may they get temporary permits for up to seven years before being able to request an address change. However, if the humanitarian need expires before the permit, it's rescinded. If all conditions are met, Israel conducts a security check before deciding whether or not to grant permission. As a result, "family reunification is nearly impossible." For example:

  • a very young Gazan girl would be prohibited from reuniting with her West Bank mother if any Gaza relative can care for her; if not, hard to get special permission would be required;
  • a elderly invalid would be refused permission to be cared for by a West Bank niece because she's not a first degree relative; if one is there, the applicant must prove no one can provide assistance in Gaza; and
  • if all qualifications are met and permission granted, permits would be rescinded if the humanitarian need expires.

Other obstacles also exist, including the requirement for the Palestinian Civil Affairs Office Director-General to personally transmit requests to the military. In addition, if families are divided between the Territories, West Bank  members are prohibited from visiting others in Gaza unless they waive their right to return.

Separation Policy's Damaging Affect on Trade between Gaza and the West Bank

Before closure, Gaza and the West Bank comprised single territorial entity, letting goods produced in one area be sold in the other, some (now destroyed) Gaza factories earning most of their revenue from West Bank sales.

However, during the 1990s, Israel imposed restrictions, to advantage its own companies over Palestine's. By late 2006, trade had markedly declined, and with Gaza under siege, virtually all its exports are prohibited, only limited amounts entering, including minimal amounts of essential to life items.

Excluded are medical equipment, all kinds of spare parts, construction materials, and basic items like books, wheelchairs, pens and pencils, shoes, cleaning and hygiene products to bring the Strip to its knees, induce malnutrition, illness, and systemic hardship for 1.5 million people - in gross violation of international law.

In mid-June, modest easing was announced, though hardly enough to matter, and it won't help the West Bank. Prior to closure, dealers earned a living selling goods in Gaza at affordable prices. Afterwards things changed, restricting items to a limited few, and imposing an expensive, lengthy, uncertain process to operate.

West Bank goods must be bought remotely, without checking for quality, then await permit permission to import them, provide storage, and coordinate with Palestinians and Israeli truck drivers for transportation through Israel to the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza.

About 12 days are needed, costing over $2,000 per truck, plus storage costs and the possibility that distribution will be impeded or denied, forcing longer storage, lost sales and spoilage.

Previously, Gaza merchants could travel between the areas freely, selecting goods prior to buying them. No longer, and crippled Gazan industries can't compensate. As a result, unemployment and impoverishment skyrocketed to some of the highest levels globally, making Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, never enough because Israel restricts amounts and excludes most items, including essential ones.

Unsurprisingly, Gaza - West Bank business relationships have deteriorated, each cut off from the other, one Gaza farmer/fruit and vegetable dealer saying:

"In 2000, I used to export 10 - 12 tons of vegetables to the West Bank every day....Now I....can't export a thing. I had 1.2 acres of land where I grew guavas, among the best (in the Strip). They used to say that someone with a guava orchard is like a king, because they could be exported to the West Bank. Now, guavas mean a loss - the market has completely disappeared....I'm broken inside."

The few remaining Gaza businesses suffer huge losses, and most factories were either destroyed or shut down because West Bank raw material imports are prohibited. As long as the siege continues, a productive economy is impossible. So is earning a living, even one modest enough to survive and support a family.

The announced "economic peace" skipped Gaza, the World Bank saying:

"The West Bank and Gaza are now almost completely delinked, with Gaza starkly transformed from a potential trade route to a walled hub of humanitarian donations."

Besides their damaged societies and economies, the Gaza - West Bank disconnect destroys the possibility of unifying Palestine, the World Bank adding:

"(T)he strategic goal of an economically viable Palestinian state is achievable only if Gaza and the West Bank are maintained as an integral economic entity," what Israel prevents, keeping Gazans under siege and West Bank communities confined to Bantustans, isolated in the Territory's least valued areas, hoping they'll wither, perish or leave, transforming all Palestine into a greater Israel, exclusively for Jews, pressuring Israeli Arabs to comply, move, or be forced out.

A Final Comment

Phillip Weiss and Adam Horowitz blog on Mondoweiss on Israel/Palestine and Middle East issues daily. A July 18 entry related the distaste some Jews have for Arabs, one man saying they're guests as long as they behave. Another called them stinking Arabs ("aravim masrichim"). A third hoped the next war would drive them out because they're the modern incarnation of Amalek, the enemy of God and the Jews, and still another said "We like to be with people who think like we do."

Settlers are especially hostile, notably religious extremists believing they're chosen, Israel given them by God, the Messiah's reemergence imminent once it's entirely gotten, the "infidels" driven out.

With that mindset, American support, and a complicit world community, prevailing is a formidable task, yet achievable with enough tenacity to persist. If Palestinians are committed, can global activists do less and be true to their ethics, principles, honor, and resolve to demand equal justice, self-determination and peace.


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