Wednesday, December 9, 2020. To mark International Human Rights Day (December 10), Gisha is proud to release a gender analysis of Israel’s permit regime in Gaza. Israel’s official policy on travel by Palestinians to and from the Strip is detailed in the “Status of Authorizations,” a document produced by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). The criteria listed in the document and its numerous ancillary procedures dictate the few and narrow circumstances in which Palestinians are eligible to apply for a travel permit from Israel.
For years, Palestinian residents of Gaza have been confined by sweeping, arbitrary travel restrictions imposed by Israel, in violation of basic human rights. Israel limits movement to and from Gaza to a minimum, isolating the Strip and deepening the separation between Gaza and the West Bank. In a new report, Discrimination by Default, Gisha analyzes how the Status of Authorizations, which bars the vast majority of Gaza’s residents from travel, ignores women’s needs for travel, and discriminates against them de facto, particularly in regard to economic access and access to family.
- Harm to family life: Israel only allows Palestinian women from the West Bank or Israel who marry a Gaza resident to live with their spouses in Gaza, cutting them off from their families outside the Strip. Travel for visiting a first-degree relative outside the Strip is only permitted in the event of a wedding, death, or serious illness. Even when women do receive travel permits for such a visit, they are often forced to leave some of their children behind due to arbitrary restrictions on the age of children who can accompany their parents. The criteria for permits overlook major events in women’s lives; pregnancy and childbirth, for example, are not recognized as warranting travel by family members to support expectant mothers. In order to continue living with their families in Gaza, Israel forces women with West Bank residency status to waive their protected residency – an act of “forcible transfer,” which is considered a war crime under international law.
- Harm to education, livelihoods, and professional development: Unemployment among women in the Gaza Strip stands at 65%. Nearly all women who are employed (94%) work in service-related professions such as in teaching, nursing and other jobs in the third sector. Women also work in trade and industry. Israel’s criteria do not recognize the need of people working in these sectors for work-related travel, including for training and professional development. The criterion for “trader permits” excludes most women working in Gaza by default, and restrictions on exit of commercial goods via Erez Crossing and via mail harm trade by small businesses, where women are more likely to work.
Since March 2020, Israel has tightened the closure on Gaza even further under the guise of the coronavirus pandemic, and the already sparse movement through Erez Crossing has ground to a virtual halt. In the coming year, as the world hopefully begins to emerge from months of debilitating movement restrictions, there can be no justification for leaving Gaza behind and resuming the oppressive and discriminatory policy laid out by the Status of Authorizations. Israel must meet its duty to protect the rights of Palestinians in Gaza, including both men and women.
To read Discrimination by Default, click here.