Largest Prison in The World

Israeli authorities claim “broad powers and discretion to decide who may enter its territory” and that “a foreigner has no legal right to enter the State’s sovereign territory, including for transit into the West Bank or aboard.”

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Palestinians are seen at a temporary shelter in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, Dec. 13, 2023. (Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)

The UK Guardian reported in March 2024 that Cruising south along Israel’s coastal highway, there are almost no signs that one is approaching Gaza. Two million people live trapped on a thin slice of land along the Mediterranean, but someone could easily drive past and miss it altogether. For visitors to the strip, restricted mainly to diplomats, aid workers, and journalists, the last stop in Israel is a service station, where Red Sea-bound tourists and commuters sip lattes and eat chocolate croissants at an American-style coffeehouse. Walking back to their cars, they may glimpse the only hint of Gaza’s existence – a white orb high in the southern sky, a tethered surveillance balloon that provides the Israeli army with a 24-hour overhead view of the enclave.

A REPORT BY HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTED ON HOW ISRAEL’S TRAVEL BAN CRUSHED THE DREAMS OF THE PALESTINIANS IN GAZA. ISRAEL’S OBLIGATION TO GAZA UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW

 Israeli authorities claim “broad powers and discretion to decide who may enter its territory” and that “a foreigner has no legal right to enter the State’s sovereign territory, including for transit into the West Bank or aboard.” While international human rights law gives wide latitude to governments about the entry of foreigners, Israel has heightened obligations toward Gaza residents. Because of the continuing controls Israel exercises over the lives and welfare of Gaza’s inhabitants, Israel remains an occupying power under international humanitarian law, despite withdrawing its military forces and settlements from the territory in 2005. Both the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the guardians of international humanitarian law, have reached this determination. As the occupying power, Israel remains bound to provide residents of Gaza with the rights and protections afforded to them by the law of occupation. Israeli authorities continue to control Gaza’s territorial waters and airspace, and the movement of people and goods, except at Gaza’s border with Egypt. Israel must respect the human rights of Palestinians living in Gaza, including their right to freedom of movement throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory and abroad, which affects both the right to leave a country and the right to enter their own country. Israel is also obligated to respect Palestinians’ rights for which freedom of movement is a precondition. The UN Human Rights Committee has said that while states can restrict freedom of movement for security reasons or to protect public health, public order, and the rights of others, any such restrictions must be proportional and “the restrictions must not impair the essence of the right; the relation between the right and restriction, between norm and exception, must not be reversed.” While the law of occupation permits occupying powers to impose security restrictions on civilians, it also requires them to restore public life for the occupied population. That obligation increases in a prolonged occupation, in which the occupier has more time and opportunity to develop more narrowly tailored responses to security threats that minimize restrictions on rights. In addition, the needs of the occupied population increase over time. Suspending virtually all freedom of movement for a short period interrupts temporarily normal public life, but long-term, indefinite suspension in Gaza has had a much more debilitating impact, fragmentating populations. The impact is particularly damaging given the denial of freedom of movement to people who are confined to a sliver of the occupied territory, unable to interact in person with the majority of the occupied population that lives in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and its rich assortment of educational, cultural, religious, and commercial institutions. After 55 years of occupation and 15 years of closure in Gaza with no end in sight, Israel should fully respect the human rights of Palestinians, using as a benchmark the rights it grants Israeli citizens. Israel should abandon an approach that bars movement absent exceptional individual humanitarian circumstances it defines, in favor of an approach that permits free movement absent exceptional individual security circumstances.

 YOUNG PALESTINIANS GROWING UP IN ISRAELI PRISON

 Most Palestinians who grew up in Gaza under Israeli closure have never left the 40-by-11-kilometer (25-by-7 mile) Gaza Strip. For the last 25 years, Israel has increasingly restricted the movement of Gaza residents. Since June 2007, when Hamas seized control over Gaza from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA), Gaza has been mostly closed. Israeli authorities justify this closure on security grounds, in light of “Hamas’ rise to power in the Gaza Strip,” as they lay out in a December court filing. Authorities highlight in particular the risk that Hamas and armed Palestinian groups will recruit or coerce Gaza residents “for the commission of terrorist acts and the transfer of operatives, knowledge, intelligence, funds or equipment for terrorist activists.” Their policy, though, amounts to a blanket denial with rare exceptions, rather than a generalized respect for the right of Palestinians to freedom of movement, to be denied only based on individualized security reasons.

SEPARATION BETWEEN GAZA AND WEST BANK

As part of the closure, Israeli authorities have sought to “differentiate” between their policy approaches to Gaza and the West Bank, such as imposing more sweeping restrictions on the movement of people and goods from Gaza to the West Bank and promoting separation between these two parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The army’s “Procedure for Settlement in the Gaza Strip ” published in 2018, that “in 2006, a decision was made to introduce a policy of separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in light of Hamas’ rise to power in the Gaza Strip. The policy currently in effect is explicitly aimed at reducing travel between the areas.” In each of the 11 cases Human Rights Watch reviewed of people seeking to reach the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, for professional and educational opportunities not available in Gaza, Israeli authorities did not respond to requests for permits or denied them, either for security reasons or because they did not conform to the closure policy. Human Rights Watch also reviewed permit applications on the website of the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, or screenshots of them, including the status of the permit applications, when they were sent to the Israeli authorities and the response received, if any. In short, one may easily conclude that Benjamin Netanyahu has to disappear from Israeli politics for the sake of Israel to exist as an entity and as Senate Majority Leader in the US and Pope Benedict’s most recent advice to Ukraine to surrender to the Russians for the world to live in peace.

Kazi Anwarul Masud

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a retired Bangladeshi diplomat. During his tenure, he worked in several countries as the ambassador of Bangladesh including Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Germany

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