Middle East Monitor / March 2, 2022
Requests from Palestinians attempting to leave or enter the Gaza Strip through the Israeli-controlled Erez Crossing are being rejected by the Israeli government if the required documents are headed “State of Palestine”.
Tarabin Asana, 60, tried to visit Gaza following her father’s death. However, Israel’s military liaison officer to the Palestinians, known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), refused to approve her request due to the heading on the form labelled the “State of Palestine”.
According to Haaretz, the response that she received explained that Israel does not accept documents from the “State of Palestine”. The officials said, “Legible documents should be submitted that do not have this heading or its equivalent in any language.”
In another case, a petition filed at Jerusalem District Court by the Israeli human rights organisation Gisha sought permission for a Gaza resident and her three children to visit her husband undergoing life-threatening surgery in the West Bank.
During a court hearing, the Israeli government instructed Gisha to submit an official medical document issued by the Palestinian Health Ministry to COGAT proving the husband’s critical condition. However, the government insisted that the document could only be submitted via the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee in Gaza. “Israel doesn’t transfer documents with the heading ‘State of Palestine’.”
Haaretz said that following a number of such cases, the Hamoked Centre for the Defence of the Individual contacted the head of COGAT at the Erez Crossing demanding that a stop be put to this practice.
“Gaza Strip residents’ right to a family life is reduced to the most exceptional circumstances: a wedding, serious illness or a relative’s funeral,” Hamoked’s executive director, Jessica Montell, pointed out. “But even at such sensitive moments, the army is mistreating people who need the approval and is refusing to permit people to attend the funeral of their mother or sister only because a logo that bothers the soldiers appears on the document that proves the urgent need for the visit. That’s outrageous and completely illegitimate conduct.”
In response, COGAT claimed that it had been contacted only recently on the issue and that it would be “considered and responded to by the relevant officials, as is customary.”