Friday, April 15

MCC Palestine Update #108

MCC Palestine Update #108

15 April 2005

Gaza: “One Big Prison”

We recently returned from spending almost a week in Gaza. The time was good, meeting some incredible people, especially at the Culture and Free Thought Association ( in Khan Younis, an MCC partner. But no time in Gaza is without some incident. This time it was the news of three children in Rafah who were killed by Israeli military gunfire. Reports we heard there were that they were simply playing soccer. The Israeli military is investigating the matter.

Last Tuesday morning we were in Rafah and saw the funeral procession of one of the boys who was killed. It was so heart-breaking. All of Rafah is. The day before, visiting families in the refugee camps of Khan Younis, they were still fearful from the previous night when apache helicopters were swarming overhead. When this happens, families typically grab what they can and head towards a family member’s home further away from such activity. And all of this in the context of a “cease-fire.”

Imagine, waking up in the middle of the night to such a sound over your head—a sound that often means death to those who hear it—and having to wake and gather up your children to move them to hopefully what is a safer place.

So much of this kind of uncertainty exists right now in Gaza, especially with the upcoming Israeli "disengagement." Palestinians really don't know what to expect. What if there are closures? Where will their food come from? How will they access needed medical care or other services? Such uncertainty is a key ingredient for fear.

However it all happens, what is certain is that the occupation will still exist in Gaza, with Israeli control over all borders, the coast, and airspace. (A recent report by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, titled "One Big Prison" offers a good perspective on the near future of Palestinians in Gaza; you can find a summary of this report attached below and online at

You may be wondering, “Aren’t the Israeli settlers supposed to leave Gaza this summer?” “Isn’t that a good thing?” “Aren’t the Israelis holding up their end of the deal?” “Aren’t they sacrificing a lot for peace with the Palestinians?” The short and honest answer? “No.” Yes, the settlers are to depart from Gaza, but Palestinians in Gaza fear what will come next. Even if they are left to themselves, they will still be closed in like one big prison. Businesses will suffer more difficulty, as Israel will still have control of sea, land and air space for “security.” Gaza may turn into one big humanitarian crisis—that is, if you don’t think it is one already. Even in the absence of Israeli soldiers and settlers, Palestinians in Gaza have undergone such severe psychological damage that they will continue to live with the occupation inside of themselves for a long time to come. In addition to this, these settlers will move to the West Bank, carrying with them more problems here. Stated bluntly, words of peace and progress from Israelis still mean harsh realities for Palestinians.

Please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers.

More on Exploring Alternative Pressures: Sabeel’s Statement on Morally Responsible Investment

In last month’s update, we heard the perspectives of some Jewish voices that were calling for the consideration of economic pressures to compliment political and legal mechanisms to end the Israeli occupation.

An additional voice in this discussion is MCC partner organization the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center ( Sabeel has recently released a statement titled “A Nonviolent Response to the Occupation: A Call for Morally Responsible Investment.” While appreciating the political and legal reasons for pursuing these kinds of actions, Sabeel offers something unique with this theological and moral reflection.

"Furthermore, God in Christ has given us life…Jesus said, “I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). For people to enjoy life in its fullness, they must live in peace and justice, in dignity and harmony with each other. Their God-given human worth must be respected. We must do everything we can to remove any obstacles that prevent human beings from achieving life in its fullness. God must be sovereign over all aspects of our lives including our politics, work, and investments."

To this end, Sabeel states

"The churches repeatedly and categorically have stood on the side of a just peace for the Palestinians in accordance with UN resolutions and International Law. International, regional, and national councils of churches around the world have asserted this same position. Through their statements and representations, the churches were encouraging their national governments to pressure Israel to implement International Law, all to no avail. Indeed, the international community has been helpless to prevail upon Israel to halt its oppression of the Palestinians.

"As churches examine their own investment policies and show willingness to take moral and ethical investment decisions, they pick up where the political global community has failed to date. It is important to demonstrate by our own example that, just as we are prepared to bear burdens to maintain our own respect for international law, so Israel must accept these same burdens. Churches, by moving from statements to direct action and adopting appropriate financial policies that are in line with their moral and theological stance, create an example for the international community, even if it means incurring and absorbing some financial loss."

Sabeel is an important voice for Palestinian Christians and all of those seeking a just peace in the Occupied Territories. Will we heed their call?

Sabeel’s complete statement can be found online at

Palm Sunday March

In an act of nonviolent resistance against the occupation, MCC partner Holy Land Trust ( organized a march on Palm Sunday that was to go from Manger Square in Bethlehem to the Old City of Jerusalem. For Palestinians living in Bethlehem, or anywhere else in the occupied territories, it is not possible to travel to Jerusalem, even on such special occasions as Palm Sunday or Easter, without special permission from the Israeli government.

The procession made it as far as the Bethlehem checkpoint where they were stopped by the Israeli military. After some time of standing, and then sitting in front of the soldiers, a statement was read to the soldiers declaring the right of all people of faith to journey to Jerusalem. Though they were not allowed to travel to Jerusalem, a strong point was made and fundamental injustices of the occupation exposed.

For more information on the event, please visit

Zochrot to Deir Yassin

On Thursday April 7th, MCC partner the Zochrot Association ( and Deir Yassin Remembered organized an event to commemorate 57 years since the massacre at the Palestinian village Deir Yassin. The massacre at Deir Yassin in particular holds great significance in the Nakba as it was used as a tool of fear by the Israeli forces driving out Palestinians and destroying the over 500 Palestinian villages between 1947 and 1949. After a procession, signs were posted bearing the names of 93 out of 110 to 140 people who were killed at Deir Yassin. The names were read aloud by a number of participants, including Israeli peace activist Mordechai Vanunu. (To see photos, please visit and

We also celebrated with Zochrot on the evening of Thursday April 14th as they held an opening for their first official office in Tel Aviv. In addition to being a meeting place for Zochrot events and activities, this office will also provide a resource center for educating Israelis about the Nakba of 1948 and the ongoing reality of Palestinian dispossession. Congratulations, Zochrot! Mabrook!

Our Challenge: A Call to Action…

As we often try to do at the end of these updates, we would like to close this one with a plea and a challenge from Sabeel:

"We are, therefore, pleading with our brothers and sisters all over the world to invest their God-given material resources in morally responsible activities that would contribute to the achievement of a just peace in Israel-Palestine. Furthermore, we ask them to continue to pray for all the inhabitants of our land so that peace will be achieved and the way for reconciliation will be opened. We are reminded of the words of the Latin American theologian, Leonardo Boff: 'If we want to serve the true God, we must break out of the circle of self-absorption and pay heed to the bloodied faces of our fellow human beings. If we do not share life with the oppressed, we do not share life with God.'"

Peace to you all,

Christi and Timothy Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine


· Jeff Halper, “E-1: The end of a viable Palestinian state,” The Electronic Intifada, 31 March 2005
· Amira Hass, “Palestinians also sleep in the day,” Haaretz, 31 March 2005
· B'Tselem/HaMoked Report Warns Against Continued Strangulation of Gaza Strip after Disengagement, 29 March 2005…“Gaza Prison: Freedom of Movement to and from the Gaza Strip on the Eve of the Disengagement Plan”


The Electronic Intifada
E-1: The end of a viable Palestinian state

Jeff Halper

31 March 2005

The fatal flaw in most analyses of the Israel-Palestine conflict is the assumption that if the Palestinians can just get a state of their own, then all will be fine. A state on all the Occupied Territories (UN Resolution 242), on most of the Occupied Territories (Oslo and the Road Map to the Geneva Initiative), on even half the Occupied Territories (Sharon's notion) - it doesn't matter. Once there's a Palestinian state the conflict is over and we can all move on to the next item on the agenda.

Wrong. A Palestinian state can just as easily be a prison as a legitimate state that addresses the national aspirations of its people. The crucial issue is viability. Israel is a small country, but it is three times larger than the Palestinian areas. The entire Occupied Areas - the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza - make up only 22% of Israel/Palestine. That means that even if all of the territories Israel conquered in 1967 were relinquished, it would still comprise a full 78% of the country.

Would the Palestinian areas constitute a viable state? Barely. Just the size of the American state of Delaware (but with three times the population before refugees return), it would at least have a coherent territory, borders with Israel, Jordan, Syria and Egypt, a capital in Jerusalem, a port on the Mediterranean, an airport in Gaza, a viable economy (based on Holy Land tourism, agriculture and hi-tech) and access to the water of the Jordan River.

An accepted member of the international community enjoying trade with its neighbors - and enjoying as well the support of a far-flung, highly educated and affluent diaspora - a small Palestinian state would have a shot at viability.

This is what Israel seeks to prevent. Ever since becoming the head of the Ministerial Committee on Settlements in the Begin government back in 1977, Ariel Sharon has been completely up-front about his intention of securing the entire Land of Israel for the Jewish people. “Security” has nothing to do with Israel's expansionist policies.

Successive Israeli governments did not establish 200 settlements because of security. Nor did they build a massive infrastructure of Israeli-only highways that link the settlement blocs irreversibly into Israel for security reasons. Nor can the route of the Separation Barrier, nor the policy of expropriating Palestinian land and systematically demolishing Palestinian homes be explained by “security.” They all derive from one central goal: to claim the entire country for Israel. Period.

Still, Israel cannot “digest” the 3.6 million Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. Giving them citizenship would nullify Israel as a Jewish state; not giving them citizenship yet keeping them forever under occupation would constitute outright apartheid.

What to do? The answer is clear: establish a tiny Palestinian state of, say, five or six cantons (Sharon's term) on 40-70% of the Occupied Territories, completely surrounded and controlled by Israel. Such a Palestinian state would cover only 10-15% of the entire country and would have no meaningful sovereignty and viability: no coherent territory, no freedom of movement, no control of borders, no capital in Jerusalem, no economic viability, no control of water, no control of airspace or communications, no military - not even the right as a sovereign state to enter into alliances without Israeli permission.

And since the Palestinians will never agree to this, Israel must “create facts on the ground” that prejudice negotiations even before they begin. Last week's announcement that Israel is constructing 3500 housing units in E-1, a corridor connecting Jerusalem to the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, seals the fate of the Palestinian state.

As a key element of an Israeli “Greater Jerusalem,” the E-1 plan removes any viability from a Palestinian state. It cuts the West Bank in half, allowing Israel to control Palestinian movement from one part of their country to another, while isolating East Jerusalem from the rest of Palestinian territory. Since 40% of the Palestinian economy revolves around Jerusalem and its tourist-based economy, the E-1 plan effectively cuts the economic heart out of any Palestinian state, rendering it nothing more than a set of non-viable Indian reservations.

If there is any silver lining in the E-1 plan, it is that it has highlighted American complicity in Israel's settlement expansion. The Bush Administration, while calling the E-1 plan “unhelpful,” nevertheless formally recognized the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement bloc, together with E-1, in last year's agreement between Bush and Sharon - a fundamental American policy change that was ratified almost unanimously by Congress. This puts the US in the very uncomfortable position of undermining its own Road Map initiative, which stems from the “Bush vision” of an Israeli-Palestinian peace. It also neutralizes completely America's role as an honest broker, and pits it against the other three members of the Road Map Quartet - Europe, the UN and Russia - who deplore the change in American policy.

Most tragically, American support for Sharon's settlement project destroys forever the possibility of a viable Palestinian state, dooming the peoples of Israel-Palestine to perpetual conflict. How this squares with American interests in a stable Middle East is anybody's guess.

Jeff Halper, Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)


Palestinians also sleep in the day

Amira Hass

31 March 2005

"The Israelis don't sleep at night, and we, the Palestinians also sleep in the day time."

So said an East Jerusalemite Palestinian recently. He was referring to the submission with which the Palestinian public in general and its leadership in particular accepts the progress of the Israeli plan to cut off East Jerusalem and its residents from the rest of the West Bank. The saying is more than just an expression of sorrow mixed with anger, and it goes beyond the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian situation. It contains within it the viewpoint that an oppressed public that doesn't merely passively collect victims has the ability to act and make a change to improve its situation; and that not every plan to dispossess them is a guaranteed success. If you want, it's an optimistic-humanistic view. But it needs supporters.

About two months ago, Israelis and Palestinians were shocked to read the news item that said that starting in July, when the separation wall is completed in the area of Qalandiya, East Jerusalemites will have to ask for permits to go to Ramallah. After the initial shock, there were Israelis who began to doubt the veracity of the report. Palestinians, scared of course, were heard to say that "meanwhile, those are only rumors."

The facts: Two months ago, soldiers indeed prevented East Jerusalemites in their cars from entering Ramallah through the Qalandiya checkpoint, based on an order signed by the major general of the Central Command that prohibits Israelis from entering Palestinian Authority areas. But that phenomenon has ceased.

But now some worrisome signals are coming from the checkpoint on the southern side of Jerusalem, between Abu Dis and Wadi Nar - the only road that Palestinians are allowed to use to travel from the northern part of the West Bank to the southern part. East Jerusalemites are "trapped" when they leave the Bethlehem area through that checkpoint, and receive a summons to report to the police so they can be questioned about their violation of the order prohibiting their travel.

It's still a trickle. There is a huge gap between the fact that Border Police troops at the checkpoint detained East Jerusalemites, and a formal statement by the spokesman for the Judea and Samaria police that the major general's orders do not apply to the East Jerusalemites but only to Israeli citizens. Most of the East Jerusalemites meanwhile make their way to Bethlehem other ways, and without permits.

The shock is understandable but infuriating. Understandable because anyone who knows just how much East Jerusalemites are connected to Ramallah and Bethlehem can imagine the intensity of the blow that landed on those communities. Infuriating, because it shows ignorance of the steps Israel has been taking for years, paving the way for this highest level of disengagement of East Jerusalem and its residents from the rest of the territories occupied in 1967. After all, the unceasing expansion of Ma'aleh Adumim, with or without the 3,000 new apartments planned for area E1, is an inseparable part of the plan.

The Israeli skepticism is outrageous because it exposes the blindness of the Israelis to all the facts that have accumulated over recent years: According to all the army statements, the major general's order also covers Jerusalemite Palestinians, who carry blue ID cards. Leaving Nablus, for example, they are asked for their "permit." Soon, the separation wall will be completed. Then, when the crossing from Jerusalem to the rest of the West Bank, including next door neighborhoods, is only possible through special gates and terminals that are dressed up to look like international border crossings, the occupation bureaucracy will find it easier to enforce the administrative prohibitions.

Palestinian doubts are saddening and frustrating, because it is an escape from taking action. The East Jerusalem experience shows that patient, coordinated action can stop dispossession plans. Two campaigns conducted at the end of the 1990s won relative success: against lifting of residency from East Jerusalemites, and against house demolitions. The campaigns were an example of joint Palestinian-Israeli-international efforts, a combination of grassroots, legal, political, diplomatic and media efforts.

Indeed, with the outbreak of the intifada, Jerusalem city hall resumed its policy of demolishing houses that were built without permits, because Jerusalem municipalities have always severely limited house construction for East Jerusalemites.

After the Interior Ministry was forced to reinstate the residency of many East Jerusalemites, the harm done to their rights as residents continued in various ways. Nonetheless, there is much to learn from the relative successes of those campaigns as opposed to campaigns that failed - against the Judaization of lands and homes in Palestinian neighborhoods, against ceaseless discrimination between Palestinians and Jews in East Jerusalem. There is no doubt that one of the factors in the success was the Palestinian-Israeli cooperation, and the way the campaign departed from merely making statements and issuing condemnations.

After the first reports, there began to be heard semi-official Israeli statements about how the matter of the permits to travel to Ramallah was not a settled matter. That's a signal. There is a chance to block the move if the occupation bureaucracy encounters real resistance. And for that, much more than for the playing of songs on the Voice of Palestine and Army Radio, real Israeli-Palestinian cooperation is required.


New Report Warns Against Continued Strangulation of Gaza Strip after Disengagement

29 March 2005

Israel has cut off the Gaza Strip from the rest of the world to such an extent that it is easier for Palestinians in Israel or the West Bank to visit relatives in prison than visit a relative in Gaza.

This is one conclusion of the 100-page report that B’Tselem and HaMoked publish today. One Big Prison documents the ongoing violations of human rights and international law resulting from Israel’s restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank, Israel, and the rest of the world. The report also warns against Israel’s attempt to avoid its responsibility toward residents of the Gaza Strip following disengagement.

Despite the easing of restrictions that Israel declared following the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in February 2005, there has been almost no improvement in the movement of Palestinians to and from Gaza, nor in the movement of goods. The report illustrates the extent to which Israel treats many fundamental human rights – among them the right to freedom of movement, family life, health, education, and work – as “humanitarian gestures” that it grants or denies at will.

Report Highlights:

As a result of the economic siege on Gaza, more than 77 percent of Gazans (1,033,500 people) now live below the poverty line - almost double the number before the intifada. Some 23 percent of Gazans (over 323,000 people) are in “deep poverty,” meaning that they do not reach the subsistence poverty line even after receiving aid from international agencies.

The forced isolation of Gaza tears many Palestinians from their families, and in some cases even separates spouses. The report includes the testimonies of a woman whose husband was expelled from the West Bank to Gaza, and of a mother whose son has never seen his father.

Almost all the restrictions on movement are imposed on entire categories of people, based on sweeping criteria, without checking if the individual poses a security risk, and without weighing the harm the person will suffer, or if less harmful alternatives are available. In most cases, where Israel denies a permit and human rights organizations intervene, Israel reverses its decision to avoid an embarrassing legal challenge.

Most components of the policy of strangulation are illegal under international and Israeli law.

The strangulation of the Gaza Strip increased following Palestinian attacks against civilians in Israel and the Occupied Territories over the past few years. Targetting civilians is a “war crime” and never justified. Israel is entitled, even obligated, to protect its citizens. However, Israel’s right to self-defense does not permit it to trample on the rights of an entire population.

Israel declared that “completion of the disengagement will invalidate the claims against Israel on its responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” In the report, HaMoked and B’Tselem emphasize that all the suffering described in the report is likely to continue, and even worsen, after disengagement, for which Israel will be continue to bear legal responsibility.

Gaza Prison: Freedom of Movement to and from the Gaza Strip on the Eve of the Disengagement Plan


For the past four and a half years, Israel has severely restricted freedom of movement to and from the Gaza Strip. These restrictions further strangled the Gaza Strip, so much so that the area resembles one gigantic prison. Israel’s policies have reduced many human rights – among them the right to freedom of movement, family life, health, education, and work – to “humanitarian gestures” that Israel sparingly provides.

Following the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, in February 2005, Israel took measures that significantly improve the human rights situation of Palestinians. However, there was little change in movement to and from the Gaza Strip, including the import and export of goods.

This report documents the ongoing breach of human rights and international law inherent in Israel’s restrictions on the movement of people and goods between the Gaza Strip and the rest of the World, including to Israel or the West Bank. The report warns against Israel’s attempt to disavow its responsibility for the residents of the Gaza Strip following disengagement.

The Gaza Strip and the West Bank: Are they really “a single territorial unit”?

The closing of the “safe passage” between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in October 2000, marked the beginning of a new separation regime between the two areas, unprecedented in its severity in the course of Israel’s occupation. In the Oslo Agreements, Israel undertook to treat the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as a “single territorial unit.” In closing Gaza, Israel flagrantly breached this commitment.

The manner in which Israel decides to grant or deny permits to move between Gaza and the West Bank is completely arbitrary and non-transparent, and has harsh effects on all areas of life relating to reciprocal relations and mutual dependence among residents of the two areas. For example, Israel’s policy impairs family life, and the ability of residents of Gaza to gain an education and receive medical treatment.

Contrary to the state’s contention that every request is examined “on its merits,” many requests are summarily rejected, based on sweeping criteria of age and family status, though the defense establishment has no actual suspicions against the individual applicant. Since the beginning of the intifada, travel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank declined by ninety-eight percent. In most cases, where the authorities deny a permit, and a lawyer or human rights organization later intervenes, the authorities reverse their decision. This fact clearly indicates that most of the rejections are made arbitrarily.

One of the gravest manifestations of the separation policy is the practice of expelling Palestinians who have moved from Gaza to the West Bank, based on their claim that they residing illegally in the West Bank. Israel has no authority to take this action, and does so in violation of the Oslo Agreements. Palestinians are removed from their homes, families, and jobs in the West Bank, without warning and without being given the opportunity to appeal the expulsion.

Rafah Crossing and preventing residents to go abroad

Since September 2000, Israel has placed heavy restrictions on residents of Gaza wanting to travel abroad. Israel only allows Palestinians to exit Gaza through the Rafah Crossing. As a result, whenever Israel decides to close the Crossing, it literally seals Gaza off from the outside world. In 2004, operations at Rafah Crossing were suspended for a total of sixty-six days.

Israel also prohibits individuals and entire age groups from leaving Gaza. In April 2004, Israel prohibited all residents of Gaza aged 16-35 from going abroad. This blanket restriction was cancelled following the Sharm el-Sheikh summit. However, tens of thousands of Gazans are labeled “denied exit abroad for security reasons.” An individual receives notice that he or she is so labeled orally and with no explanation. Here, too, the “security reasons” disappear in most cases following the intervention of an attorney or a human rights organization.

Among the many implications of this policy, preventing Gazans from going abroad restricts their ability to obtain proper medical treatment. The Palestinian health system in Gaza is substandard and depends on external medical services that are unavailable in Gaza. The long waits combined with the nerve-wracking uncertainty as to whether a person will be able to leave increase the suffering of the sick and their families. Many Palestinians who required urgent treatment abroad had to petition the High Court of Justice to get Israel to admit that it does not, in fact, object to their going abroad.

Families torn apart: Travel between Gaza and Israel

From the beginning of the occupation until 2000, there was regular traffic between the Gaza Strip and Israel. One reason is the extensive family ties between residents of Gaza and Arab citizens and residents of Israel.

In September 2000, Israel imposed an almost complete prohibition on Gazans from entering Israel for family visits. It also drastically restricted Israelis’ ability to enter the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Gaza; permits to enter Gaza fell by ninety-eight percent.

The permit system for Israelis wanting to visit family in Gaza manifests disregard and unreasonableness, and blatantly violates the right to family life.

In addition, since the beginning of the intifada, Israel has made it difficult for couples, one of whom is Israeli and the other a resident of Gaza, to live together under one roof, and consequently for their children to live with both parents.

A common obstacle that Israel places on divided families is to suspend the permits of Israelis to enter Gaza, generally following Palestinian attacks or during extensive military operations. Israel suspends the permits in a wholesale manner with no notice of the decision or how long it will be in effect. The vast majority of those holding such permits are women with Israeli citizenship or residency who are married to Gazans. Women who left Gaza for a brief visit in Israel, become “stuck,” and are unable to return to their homes, husbands, and children. In January 2002, Israel decided to shorten the period of the entry permits for divided families, from three months to one month. In January 2002, Israel decided to shorten the validity of the entry permits for divided families, from three months to one month. Women who wish to obey the law must travel to the Erez checkpoint, during military operations and other harsh conditions, twelve times a year to renew their permits. Owing to these conditions, many women do not reach Erez to renew their permits on time. When they later try to get a new permit, their application is rejected on the grounds that they had “stayed illegally in the territory of the Palestinian Authority.”

The economic siege on the Gaza Strip

Israel’s almost complete control over the economy of the Gaza Strip is reflected in two primary areas: control of the movement of Palestinian workers employed in Israel, and control over the movement of goods to and from the Gaza Strip.

To obtain a permit to work in Israel, Palestinians have to pass certain conditions established for security reasons. However, Israel also places quotas on the number of permits it issues to those who pass the security checks. These quotas are set by the political echelon, for reasons unrelated to security. As a result of the quotas and the closures, since the beginning of the intifada, there has been a sharp drop in the number of workers from the Gaza Strip who were employed in Israel. Whereas on the eve of the intifada (the third quarter of 2000), some 26,500 residents of the Gaza Strip entered Israel to work every day, the average number in the third quarter of 2004 was one thousand, a drop of ninety-six percent.

With the outbreak of the intifada, Israel prohibited the movement of goods through the Erez Checkpoint, directing all exports and most imports to the Karni Crossing. This decision results in the almost complete paralysis of foreign trade whenever Israel decides to close the Karni Crossing. In addition, the procedures and methods for checking goods and transporting them in and out of Gaza impair the ability of Palestinian merchants to keep to a reasonable schedule even when the Karni Crossing is open. Some of these procedures and methods are patently unreasonable and needlessly harm the movement of goods.

Goods are unloaded and go through security checks that cause damage. Most of the goods that originate in Gaza or are destined for it are checked more than once until they get to their final destination. Even if the security check is necessary, there are technologies to make such a check possible without causing damage and delays. As a result of the range of obstacles Israel places on the movement of goods, Palestinian manufacturers find it difficult to compete for both existing and potential customers. This has drastically reduced the scope of economic activity in the Gaza Strip.

The cumulative effect of the restrictions on the movement of goods, and on the entry of workers into Israel, brought about a sharp increase in unemployment and poverty in the Gaza Strip. In September 2000, unemployment was 26.9 percent (71,000 persons). At the end of 2004, the number stood at 39.4 percent (115,000 persons). The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics sets the poverty line for a family of two parents and four children at net expenditures of less than NIS 1,850 a month. By this definition, at the end of 2004, 77.3 percent of Gaza’s population was living in poverty, a total of 1,033,500 persons. Prior to the intifada, the figure was 42 percent. According to a research project of the PCBS and the World Bank, 23 percent of the residents of Gaza, 323,000 persons, suffer from “deep poverty,” and do not reach the minimum subsistence level, (NIS 205 per person per month), even after calculating aid they receive from international organizations is taken into account.

The Disengagement Plan: Does it really end Israel’s responsibility?

Following disengagement, Israel is expected to retain control of key areas that directly affect the residents’ ability to exercise their rights, particularly in the areas discussed in this report. Despite this, the government declared in its decision on the disengagement that, “completion of the plan will invalidate claims against Israel on its responsibility for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” and that as a result of implementation of the plan, “there will be no basis for the contention that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory.” These statements are baseless, according to international law.

According to international humanitarian law, a situation of occupation is created when, as a result of an armed conflict, one state acquires “effective control” of territory beyond its sovereign borders. Effective control does not require a permanent military presence in all parts of the area.

Even after redeployment of its armed forces and evacuation of its settlements, Israel will maintain complete control of all of Gaza’s land borders, its air space, its coastline, and its territorial waters. Israel’s control directly and clearly affects the local population’s ability to conduct many central aspects of their lives. In addition, the government declared its readiness to conduct military operations in the Gaza Strip, not only in response to attack, but as a “preventive measure.” So long as these methods of control remain in Israeli hands, Israel’s claim of an “end of the occupation” is called into question.

Israel’s responsibility for residents of the Gaza Strip after disengagement derives also from its obligations under international human rights law. Contrary to Israel’s traditional position, this law applies not only in its sovereign territory, but in every place in which it exercises its authority. Israel will continue to bear legal responsibility for its acts and omissions that violate the rights of residents of the Gaza Strip even after disengagement. It bears such responsibility regardless of whether its control over Gaza amounts to “effective control” and continued occupation.

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