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On second thought, no: Gaza students denied exit permits

The ease with which Israel can give and take away, allow and deny, isn’t just disturbing and depressing, it’s also further proof, in case anyone needed any, that Israel’s control over daily life in Gaza is immense.

By Amir Rotem

Palestinians wait to pass through the Erez Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, December 18, 2013. Damage to the border wall and crossing terminal caused by winter storms led to longer delays than usual as Israeli officials failed to establish efficient alternatives to process  the few Palestinians permitted to enter Israel from Gaza. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinians wait to pass through the Erez Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, December 18, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Early last week, the Palestinian media reported that the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee had reached some new understandings in its talks with Gaza District Coordination Offices (DCO) officials and that, among other things, for the first time in 15 years, Gaza residents would be allowed to travel to the West Bank for academic studies. On Wednesday, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) posted (Hebrew) on its website that 50 students from Gaza would be permitted to study in the West Bank.

Only a few hours later, when the news caught the media’s attention, COGAT’s spokesperson said that the publication was the result of an error. A copy of the “Closure Permissions Status” document, a document that lists the restrictions imposed on the Palestinian public and is updated every few weeks, was removed from COGAT’s website and was reposted only the next day, after the section was deleted.

What went on behind the scenes in those lost hours between the publication and the decision to remove it? According to members of the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, the issue was agreed in advance and the Israeli publication merely confirmed it. It takes a large dose of suspension-of-disbelief to simply accept COGAT’s claim that this was a “clerical error,” as they called it.

And why should news that 50 students who might, perhaps, at some point, under some conditions, receive a permit to study cause such a stir? Mainly because it was supposed to show yet another crack to Israel’s insistence that its closure concept, i.e. that isolating the Gaza Strip and separating its residents from the other part of the Palestinian territory, is legitimate and necessary for political and security reasons. Without going into the nature of this “policy,” which, as stated by a cabinet member, the defense minister could only say was a result of “inertia,” it is possible to say that the Israel-Hamas ritual of violence, with the terrible price it exacts, is probably the strongest proof that the system has failed. Surprisingly, top security officials have acknowledged this and have changed their tune (Hebrew) since the last round of violence ended, exactly six months ago.

As part of the official commitment pledged to mobilizing for Gaza’s reconstruction, its economic recuperation and its’ residents return to normal life, a lot more has to be done than the baby steps Israel has taken so far. More construction materials must be allowed in for rebuilding, but access to markets, professional opportunities and academic opportunities are no less important. Academic freedom will allow Gaza’s younger population to train in critical professions, access education and play a part in building a functioning society, which, most people agree, if allowed to thrive would help make the region more balanced.

The ease with which Israel can give and take away, allow and deny, isn’t just disturbing and depressing, it’s also further proof, in case anyone needed any, that Israel’s control over daily life in Gaza is immense. The moment Israel assumes this control, it must understand that it comes with a responsibility for civilian life – a responsibility it can’t just shrug off. Basic human rights, including the right to education, are just one aspect of this responsibility.

Amir Rotem is the Director of Gisha’s Public Department. This article first appeared in Hebrew on +972’s sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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    1. Jello

      Israel has no control in Gaza. What this incident demonstrates is that Israel has control of who transits its territory, nothing more. It also has no responsibility to anyone living in Gaza and certainly none to the government of that territory which continues to insist that its goal is the destruction of Israel. When that changes then it will be possible to talk about changing the relations between Israel and Gaza, until then Israel is at war with Gaza and will act accordingly.

      Reply to Comment
      • tommer

        By not allowing the people of Gaza to operate an airport or a seaport, by disallowing free transfer of goods between the 2 main parts of the Palestinian territory, Israel is in evident control on most aspects of life in the Gaza strip.
        Preventing students from fulfilling their ambitions and from families to meet has nothing to do with security. denying facts and defying international law will not win any war. Offering people hope just might.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          Israel has no obligation to allow passage through its territory to any foreigner.

          The current ruling body of Gaza is at war with Israel and declares its desire to destroy Israel. Israel is at war with Hamas and will not allow it to bring heavy weapons via sea. If Palestinians wish to travel to/from Gaza they can do so through Egypt.

          Israel has no control over anything that happens within Gaza. There are no Israeli police or soldiers or bureaucrats that enter Gaza or have any influence on what happens on the ground. That is a fact.

          Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            No, the IDF directly controls the movement over a part of the population of Gaza still within Gaza (See AJ below). For that matter, to say Israel’s occupation of Gaza ended in 2005 is simply another instance of Israel and its propagandists abusing international conventions. It’s not ending the occupation to pull the soldiers out of the territory only to blockade it from the outside while reserving the right to stage incursions at will, not to mention Israel expels individuals from the West Bank into Gaza (Including many who were freed in the 2011 prisoner swap). Even without the buffer zone extending beyond the boundary line, Israel retains effective control over what goes in and out of the territory. You are using slippery language as Israeli soldiers and bureaucrats can very much affect what happens on the ground in Gaza without entering the territory.

            “In a November 2012 ceasefire agreement signed between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas government that brought an end to 22 days of fighting, the Israeli authorities agreed to allow Palestinians to come as close as 100m to the fence. Still, 58 shooting incidents were recorded in the area during the first half of 2013 alone. In most of these cases, people were approximately 300m from the fence.

            Two separate incidents were recorded by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In one, a Palestinian toddler was injured and a farmer killed even though they were at least one kilometre away from the wall. (…)”


            Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            The IDF ensures that no one approaches the border. It does so because Hamas has repeatedly stated its intention to kidnap Israeli soldiers and has set up IEDs on the border to kill and maim Israeli soldiers.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            Just don’t think this didn’t go unnoticed: Israel has no control over anything that happens within Gaza. If you’re going to defend IDF actions in Gaza, you may want to at least learn what they’re actually doing there.

            Reply to Comment
      • Average American

        But doesn’t it also make it a farce that Israel has any intention of letting “Palestinians” have their own country and own destiny? Little pockets always to be separated geographically from each other? Commerce and professional development separated (and thereby controlled?) by Israel? Just my opinion.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Surprised to hear you say Israel has no responsibility for Gaza: Israel has a very clear moral responsibility for Gaza since 70% of the Gazan population are either original inhabitants of the territory Israel took over, or descendants of such refugees. Israel also has clear legal responsibility, as do all states, but especially members of the UN, to relieve the suffering of refugees of international conflicts. Even more surprised to hear you say Israel has no control of Gaza, since not a single item of food or medical equipment can reach Gaza without the explicit permission of Israel or its Egyptian backers. The skies of Gaza are constantly surveilled by Israeli aircraft and unmanned drones which frequently also attack Gazans. The borders of Gaza are constantly monitored by Israeli conscripts who frequently fire on farmers straying too close to the border, or even on school-children playing football. The waters of Gaza are constantly patrolled by Israeli warships which frequently attack innocent fishermen. But no – “Israel has no control of Gaza” – you utterly unscrupulous liar.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          Yep, again, Israel has no control over what happens in Gaza whatsoever. If it did I would presume it would have probably chosen to prevent Hamas from building up an arsenal of tens of thousands of rockets or hiding them in schools and mosques. But it can’t because it does not control what happens in Gaza.

          Israel controls its own territory, monitors threats, and defends its borders against those that try to breach them. That is standard stuff for any country to do more so where the government of Gaza is committed to Israel’s destruction.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Sheer nonsense Jello. Protective Edge was a reaction to the formation of a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, that on June 2nd 2014 proposed that Gaza would be administered by PNA technocrats. The move was welcomed by major world states (including the European Union, Russia, China, India, Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, and even though more grudgingly by the USA. Instead of embracing an opportunity, Netanyahu reacted the only way he knows how, interpreting such a move as a threat, and Israel proceeded to announce additional illegal settlements in the West Bank and to attack Gaza despite the fact that Hamas had observed a ceasefire during the preceding two years. That this was not about self-defence but was contrived by war-mongering politicians was made clear by Brigadier General Moti Almoz, the chief spokesman of the Israeli military, who said: “We have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard.”

            Reply to Comment
        • zahwa arafat

          Gaza or as they say it in Gaza & Egypt Raza was integral part of Egypt. Hugh number of families in gaza are called Al Masri (the Egyptian)

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben Alofs

            Gaza was never an “integral part of Egypt” as you call it. It was always part of Palestine. The Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt between 1949 and 1967, that is all. Of course because of its location in the south west of Palestine, Gazans always had more contact with Egypt than with Lebanon or Jordan for instance.
            Also your claim that a “huge number of families” in Gaza are named al-Masri, is misleading. First, you can have the name al-Masri and still be 100% Palestinian. Secondly it is factually much more correct to state that a huge number of Gazans are refugees from Jaffa, Majdal and other towns and villages in Palestine. In the war of 1948/1949 these Palestinians were driven over the armistice line into the Gaza Strip and dispossessed from their land. Israel was established in 1949/49 at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      If it was second thought that Israel decided not to let in potential murderers and suicide bombers into the West Bank, it was a good second thought. Hamas has been training thousands of students to be jihad fighters whose only goal is to kill as many Israelis as possible. This is nothing new. On December 18, 2012, senior Hamas commander Zaher Jabarin gave an interview to Hamas’ Al-Quds TV. In the interview, Jabarin said Hamas labors “day and night” educating Palestinian children in Gaza to become suicide bombers.

      Hamas insists that teaching children how to carry out terror attacks is a legitimate part of “resistance” activities against Israel. On January 24, 2013 Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced the opening of a children’s military academy in which students could graduate with a degree in terrorism. Some 3,600 children participated in terror training in 2013.

      On January 16, 2004 Hamas announced that it had graduated 13,000 child soldiers from its school of terror training. “Beware this generation,” Haniyeh said, addressing Israel. “This is a generation which knows no fear. It is the generation of the missile, the tunnel and the suicide operations.”

      The Palestinian Prime Minister added that female trainers are also on staff “to oversee the training of the young women to follow in the footsteps of the female suicide operatives.”

      In June, 2014 100,000 Gazan children attended Hamas day terrorist training camps.

      On January 17, 2015 Hamas announced that it had graduated 17,000 children of Gaza from its school of terrorism.

      That Israel would want to open the West Bank to potential Hamas Jihadists is about as suicidal as asking Jordan to invite ISIS fighters to guard the Jordanian Parliament or king.

      Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        So Pedro, true or false question: Anytime a state military or non-state paramilitary group uses children for its operations, it’s necessary to block immigration to that group’s turf so as to deprive it of more cannon-fodder. Careful, this is a gotcha.



        I do get bored of having to post this material again and again, but it’s a job.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Joel

      Arab ‘students’ co-opted by Hamas and trained in terror.

      Hamas..”in Turkey is engaged in part in locating West Bank and Gaza Strip residents who are studying in Turkey, Jordan, Syria and other Arab countries, with efforts also being made to recruit students from among the Israeli Arab population”.


      Reply to Comment