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The Impact of the Conflict on Daily Life

One Big Prison

New Report Warns Against Continued Strangulation of Gaza Strip after Disengagement

Download the Report, “One Big Prison”

B’Tselem and HaMoked
March 29, 2005

Palestinian mother and daughter
A Palestinian woman stands with her daughter inside her damaged house at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, May 25, 2004. The Israeli army destroyed 45 Palestinian buildings, making 575 people homeless, during a six-day operation in the refugee camp, the U.N. relief agency UNRWA said.
Photo by Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Israel has cut off the Gaza Strip from the rest of the world to such an extent that it is easier for Palestinians in Israel or the West Bank to visit relatives in prison than visit a relative in Gaza. This is one conclusion of the 100-page report that B’Tselem and HaMoked publish today. One Big Prison documents the ongoing violations of human rights and international law resulting from Israel’s restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank, Israel, and the rest of the world. The report also warns against Israel’s attempt to avoid its responsibility toward residents of the Gaza Strip following disengagement.

Despite the easing of restrictions that Israel declared following the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in February 2005, there has been almost no improvement in the movement of Palestinians to and from Gaza, nor in the movement of goods. The report illustrates the extent to which Israel treats many fundamental human rights – among them the right to freedom of movement, family life, health, education, and work – as “humanitarian gestures” that it grants or denies at will.

Report Highlights:

  • As a result of the economic siege on Gaza, more than 77 percent of Gazans (1,033,500 people) now live below the poverty line – almost double the number before the intifada. Some 23 percent of Gazans (over 323,000 people) are in “deep poverty,” meaning that they do not reach the subsistence poverty line even after receiving aid from international agencies.
  • The forced isolation of Gaza tears many Palestinians from their families, and in some cases even separates spouses. The report includes the testimonies of a woman whose husband was expelled from the West Bank to Gaza, and of a mother whose son has never seen his father.
  • Almost all the restrictions on movement are imposed on entire categories of people, based on sweeping criteria, without checking if the individual poses a security risk, and without weighing the harm the person will suffer, or if less harmful alternatives are available. In most cases, where Israel denies a permit and human rights organizations intervene, Israel reverses its decision to avoid an embarrassing legal challenge.
  • Most components of the policy of strangulation are illegal under international and Israeli law.

The strangulation of the Gaza Strip increased following Palestinian attacks against civilians in Israel and the Occupied Territories over the past few years. Targetting civilians is a “war crime” and never justified. Israel is entitled, even obligated, to protect its citizens. However, Israel’s right to self-defense does not permit it to trample on the rights of an entire population.

Israel declared that “completion of the disengagement will invalidate the claims against Israel on its responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” In the report, HaMoked and B’Tselem emphasize that all the suffering described in the report is likely to continue, and even worsen, after disengagement, for which Israel will be continue to bear legal responsibility.

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Videos & Multimedia

Amnesty International Video:
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Video – Soldiers Force a Palestinian to Play Violin at Roadblock

UN Presentation of Right to Food Report

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Additional Resources

A Book Uncensored: Checkpoint Syndrome

B’Tselem Report – Restrictions on Movement

Palestine Monitor – Curfews and Checkpoints

Amnesty International – Surviving Under Siege

World Bank Report – Twenty-Seven Months – Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis

UN Report – The Right to Food

Organizations

Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch

The World Bank

The CIA World Factbook

MIFTAH

The Palestine Monitor

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