Entitled ‘Forget About Him He’s Not Here’, Human Rights Watch today published a 90 page report on the blanket security policies Israel has been carrying out on the residents of Gaza and the West Bank. The report mainly outlines the origins and social consequences on one side and then goes on to add recommendations for the Israeli and Egyptian governments, the Palestinian Authority, the Quartet and third party states.
According to the report when travelling internally residents of the West Bank are required to have their Israeli issued ID with them and Gaza residents are being denied access to the West Bank by security forces even if they were previously residents. Furthermore, Palestinians (mainly West Bank residents) who have travelled abroad have also been restricted from re entering the area. The report also touches upon the southern border of Gaza which is controlled by the Egyptian forces, residents there continue to be asked to show their credentials upon leaving and entering the territory.
The document highlights the origins of the problem dating it back to 1967 when Israel conducted a census after seizing the West Bank and Gaza that only accounted for those that were physically present. Almost 300,000 residents were not present at the time, for reasons such as the war or studying abroad and so were not counted. Men aged 16 to 60 who were not present at the first registry were deemed not eligible for residency. Further restrictive measures were taken when residents of the West Bank were removed from the registry because they had left the area for lengthy period of time.
The report states that these strict rules are in part a response to the second intifada which led to a decline in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority. Before the second intifada the PA was responsible for conveying registration documents to the Israeli’s for authorisation. It is added that the PA did not hinder the process but continued to transfer the documents and that there are almost 120,000 unprocessed applications with the Israeli government. As a gesture of good will during the peace talks in 2007, Israel processed 33,000 of these and then in 2010 permitted the relocation of 2,800 Gaza residents to the West Bank.
The report questions the Israeli rationale for these measures: if it is a matter of security then why aren’t reunification applications processed and assessed individually.
In a quote Sarah Lee Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, calls for a fairer ‘more rights based , and transparent process’ to evaluate personal cases of the residents that have been ‘unfairly stripped of their legal residency.’ The report also urges the Palestinian Authority to keep their records up to with addresses and names having papers in order in case Israeli authority resumes its task.