Tissue Test Requirement for Israelis Living in Gaza Goes Back to Court

The state is demanding three sisters who want to visit Israel to provide tissue samples, though testing can be inconclusive, says NGO representing them; Israeli judge: Request for genetic testing inappropriate in response to petition.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

A Jerusalem District Court judge on Sunday lambasted the Interior Ministry suggesting that three sisters living in Gaza undergo genetic testing to prove their Israeli citizenship in response to their petition to pass through the border despite not having Israeli documents.

Judge Yoram Noam leveled his criticism during a preliminary debate on the petition submitted by the Dabas sisters, who were born in Israel and are Israeli citizens, and who now live in Gaza and have sought to enter Israel since 2012.

The Interior Ministry claims that since the Dabas sisters have no Israeli documents, they might be asked to undergo tissue testing in order to apply for a passport that would enable them to leave Gaza through the Erez checkpoint.

A sister of the three petitioners, who returned to live in Israel in 2007, attended the hearing and requested that her sisters be enabled to enter the country the same way that she had: At the Erez checkpoint, she identified herself using her Palestinian identity card and then applied for an Israeli identity card at an Interior Ministry office

Judge Noam told the Interior Ministry during the deliberation that it would have been better to leave the demand for tissue testing out of the response to the sisters' petition, and ordered the sides to resolve the issue via presentation of documents and statements.

The Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, headed by executive director Sari Bashi, submitted the petition on the sisters’ behalf. The state responded that they were supposed to submit requests for a passport or travel document, and if they did not have sufficient documentation to prove their identity, they would be asked to undergo a tissue test. During the deliberations on Sunday, Judge Noam supported this assessment, saying that to the best of his knowledge, Palestinian identity cards are issued only with Israeli approval.

Gisha officials said that since tissue tests among siblings can prove inconclusive, as proved by the recently reopened case of Alexandra Brandt, the testing of the Dabas sisters could require the exhumation of their mother’s remains.

In a similar petition that was heard ten days ago in Be’er Sheva, the court’s vice president, Sarah Dovrat, gave the state two weeks to return with a practical solution.

Three sisters of the Dabas family were born to an Israeli mother and a Palestinian father between 1979 and 1984. Their mother died when they were children, and they continued living with their father in the Gaza Strip. They have two sisters who live in Israel. Until 2005, they visited Israel, but after the disengagement Israel tightened restrictions on Gaza and denied them permission to leave until 2011.

In 2011, they received a one-time permit – as Gaza residents - to attend their sister’s wedding in Israel. Since August 2012, when they became aware that as Israelis they had a basic right to leave, they have been trying to enter Israel as citizens.

Sari Bashi, executive director of Gisha, representing the Israelis living in Gaza at the Jerusalem court, Feb. 28, 2013.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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