In an unprecedented decision, Israeli authorities are denying hundreds of Palestinian Christians the right to travel to Jerusalem for the holiday, while barring all movement between the West Bank and Gaza.
Thousands of Christian pilgrims from all over the world are expected to travel to Jerusalem for Easter celebrations. For Christian Palestinians who live no more than hours away from the holy city, however, holiday plans are determined by the whims of the Israeli army. This year, in an unprecedented decision, the army is denying movement for hundreds of Palestinians and barring all movement between the West Bank and Gaza.
The Israeli army limited the holiday travel quota to 200 Christians from Gaza who are over 55, and only for travel outside of Palestine-Israel. Only 120 of the 1,100 Christians in Gaza meet this arbitrary requirement. Palestinians who were planning on visiting the holy sites or their families in the West Bank and Israel, already a rare occasion, will not be able to do so.
“I’ve been applying for permits over the past three years, but nothing has come out of it,” said Samir Abu Daoud, 65, from Gaza, who has a son and grandchildren in Ramallah. Although he meets Israel’s criteria for travel, he has yet to hear back regarding his permit request.
While the army has allocated twice the quota for Palestinians in the West Bank — who will be allowed to travel to Israel and Jerusalem — this only allows approximately one percent of the Christian population there to leave for the holiday. They are not allowed to visit family members in Gaza.
“Imposing such sweeping restrictions on movement cannot be justified by security needs,” said Miriam Marmur, a media coordinator with Gisha, an Israeli rights group that focuses on freedom of movement in and out of Gaza. The decision is based on political considerations, added Marmur, and the limitations are part of Israel’s “separation policy,” which seeks to widen the divide between geographically disconnected Palestinian communities.
“Israel is increasingly restricting movement between Gaza and the West Bank so as to deepen the separation between Palestinians torn between parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, and by doing so, advance and legitimize its annexation of the West Bank,” Gisha wrote in a statement this week.
Contacted for an explanation, the Israeli army’s “Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories” (COGAT) — the Israeli military body responsible for administering the occupation and...Read More