Erez border
Erez border, June 3, 2003. Photo by Uriel Sinai
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For the past several years, the Interior Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories have been preventing an Israeli citizen, who was born in Rehovot, converted to Islam, who now lives with her family in Gaza and whose mother resides in Israel, from entering Israel. As Amira Hass reported on Sunday ‏(“State plans to demand tissue tests from Israelis in Gaza who want to cross border,” March 2‏), the woman has appealed to the Be’er Sheva District Court against her exclusion from Israel. He co-appellant in the case is Gisha − Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. During the hearing, it became apparent that the state has started to formulate a policy whereby Israeli citizens living in the Gaza Strip must undergo tissue-culture testing to confirm their identities before being granted permission to enter the country.

No one knows how many Israelis are currently living in Gaza; the Population Administration refused Haaretz’s request to reveal this information, despite its legal obligation to do so. But no matter how many or how few Israeli citizens there are in Gaza, it is obvious that this new policy which the authorities want to implement will start with the handful of Israelis in Gaza and later be applied to larger groups. This dangerous step could even be implemented for Palestinian residents of Gaza who want to enter Israel. Then Israel could make a similar demand of any Palestinian seeking to enter its territory − and who knows where it will end?

Democracies do not subject those seeking to enter their territory to tissue-culture testing. That would be invasive, extreme and awfully worrisome; it would be a highly problematic policy that would violate fundamental human rights. There are other ways to ascertain an individual’s identity without conducting such tests. In this case, no effort has even been made to find an alternative method, as Gisha testified in court.

As an Israeli citizen, the woman in question has every right to visit her country whenever she so desires. The fact that Israel demanded that she return her Israeli identity card once she was given a Palestinian ID card − which was the root cause of this entire bureaucratic mess − does not mean that her citizenship has been revoked, and it cannot prevent her from exercising her full civil rights. The demand that she undergo tissue-culture testing is an insult. Israel has enough resources to ascertain who she is. But the real danger being posed to human rights in Israel stems from the reasonable assumption that this is nothing more than a test case and that others will follow. We must nip this plan in the bud before it has a change to grow.