Israel controls life in Gaza with
an "invisible hand", despite its "disengagement" from the area over a year
ago, according to a new report by an Israeli rights
Despite the removal of illegal settlements and
permanent army bases from Gaza in August 2005, Israel continues a form of
occupation, says the report, released on Wednesday.
has not relinquished control over Gaza but rather removed some elements of
control while tightening other significant controls," says Disengaged
Occupiers: the Legal Status of Gaza, a report by Gisha, the Legal Centre
for Freedom of Movement, a Tel Aviv-based rights
Instead Israel has "changed the way in which such
control is effectuated", says the report.
control over Gaza's air space and territorial waters, its borders, the
movement of goods and people, the taxation system, fiscal policy and the
"Israel controls Gaza through a kind of
'invisible hand', which is hard to see but felt intensely by Gaza
residents, who know that their ability to do basic things – buy milk, turn
on electric lights, travel abroad – depend on decisions made by Israel,"
explained Sari Bashi, director of the institute and co-author of the
The report makes the case that Israel never
disengaged from control over Gaza and is still liable for the welfare of
its residents according to international law.
completed its "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip, a plan masterminded by
Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister, on September 12, 2005
with the removal of illegal Israeli settlements and permanent military
installations from Gaza.
Tel Aviv said the move constituted an end to its military governance of
Gaza and Sharon declared it "the end of Israeli control over, and
responsibility for, the Gaza Strip", in a speech to the
But Israeli control and closure policies have only grown
tighter and more rigorous since that time, and the occupation is far from
over, according to Bashi.
"A Gaza university cannot receive
visits from a foreign lecturer unless Israel issues a visitor's permit; a
Gaza mother cannot register her child in the Palestinian population
registry without Israeli approval; and a Gaza fisherman cannot fish off
the coast of Gaza without permission from Israel," she
Bashi says Gisha's 100-page report, which is based on
internal and public Israeli military documents and extensive interviews,
"challenges an assumption held by Israelis and even some international
policy-makers that Israel's disengagement plan ended the occupation of
disengagement from Gaza, the Israeli government's position has been that
Israel is no longer in control of the territory and so bears no legal
responsibility for the welfare its residents, leaving them in legal and
It is a situation that Bashi says is no
can't have it both ways. Israel is keeping quiet about its declaration
that Gaza is no longer occupied, in part to avoid questions about its
continued control over Gaza - control which has contributed to the current
humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
controls Gaza through a kind of 'invisible hand', which is hard to see but
felt intensely by Gaza residents"
director of Gisha
"The European community and many
in the international community operate on the assumption that Gaza is
still occupied, which explains Israel's control over it. Israel's position
– that it no longer controls Gaza and owes no obligations there – should,
I think, spark questions among foreign policy makers and
"In the current political context, Israel's
position means Gaza is cut off from the West Bank,
Gaza's main commercial crossing has been closed more
than half the time since disengagement, according to a UN estimate, and as
a result only 4 per cent of Gaza's harvest has been
The report cites the example of Yunis Abu Shabana,
a Palestinian farmer who exports cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers to
Europe, as an example of how the closure affects
Shabana said: "Last January, I had 40 tonnes of
produce waiting to be transported at Karni crossing … after 20 days of
waiting, the produce was destroyed.
"Right now, my workers
are not working and I am supposed to destroy the produce that remains in
the factories and greenhouses."
In addition, Israel maintains control over
Gaza resident's only passage in and out of the territory - the Rafah
This has been open less than 14 per cent of the
time since June, 2006, and its use is restricted to holders of Gaza ID
cards – the issuing of which Israel continues to control despite
The report examines the cases of Palestinians living in Gaza who "do
not exist", since Israel will not recognise them as residents and issue ID
cards or family re-unification permits.
Tens of thousands of
Palestinians fall into this category, according to the Palestinian
Ministry of Civil Affairs.
One such Palestinian is Mirvant
Alnahal, a 31-year old lawyer and mother of three who entered Gaza on a
visitor's permit in 1994.
"My husband's ID card says he is
married, but the box for 'spouse's name' is blank. My children were born
in Gaza to a mother who, officially, does not exist," she is quoted as
saying in the report.
Israeli authorities have refused to
extend Alnahal's permit or issue her residency status in
"Since I came to Gaza, I am trapped here. I cannot
leave, for fear that I won't be allowed to return," she
Travel between Gaza and the West Bank has also been
The report says these actions, including
Israel's withholding of Palestinian tax revenues, have caused an
unprecedented economic and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
report concludes that since Israel maintains effective control over the
Gaza Strip Israel continues to owe Gaza's residents certain obligations
under international law, until such time as it cedes complete control over
Tags: Laila El-Haddad Israel Gaza