State Drops Plan to Conduct Tissue Testing of Israeli Citizens Living in Gaza Strip

Court orders Interior Ministry to find other ways to ascertain identity of Israelis crossing border and renewing ID papers.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The Interior Ministry has decided to drop a plan to compel Gaza residents with Israeli citizenship to go under tissue testing as a condition for visiting Israel or renewing their identity papers.

The decision follows a legal battle that was waged by Gisha-the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, and two appeals filed with district courts in their capacity as administrative courts: one in Be'er Sheva, on behalf of a Ms. Al-Wahidi, whose mother is an Israeli citizen living in Israel, and the second, in Jerusalem, on behalf of three sisters from the Dabas family, whose sisters still live in Israel.

Although both the Interior Ministry and the Civil Administration conceded that the four women are all Israeli citizens, they were refused entry to Israel because they now hold Palestinian residence permits.

When the appeals were heard in court, it emerged that the ministry was formulating a policy that would require Israeli citizens living in Gaza and their relatives to undergo tissue testing to prove their identities.

Gisha, a co-appellant in Wahidi's petition, argued that tissue testing is an invasive, extreme measure that should be taken only when all other means of identification have failed. In neither of these two cases were all other means of identification even attempted, Gisha said.

Gisha's attorneys, Nomi Heger and Sari Bashi, also argued that the complexity of the tissue-testing procedure and its prohibitively high cost were liable to discourage many people from exercising their rights as citizens to enter Israel.

The courts ordered the state to instead interview the women and their Israeli relatives to confirm their identities and indeed, the relevant parties met with Interior Ministry clerks and answered questions to the ministry's satisfaction. Al-Wahidi received her new Israeli passport three weeks ago, and has already met with her mother for the first time since 1999. The three Dabas sisters were told Sunday that they will be getting their passports shortly.

Another woman who was not involved in the court proceedings was recently allowed to enter Israel solely on the basis of her Gaza residence permit, and returned to Gaza with her Israeli passport.

Last week, Be'er Sheva District Court Vice President Judge Sarah Dovrat ordered the state to pay Gisha NIS 7,000 in court costs for the Wahidi appeal. She also stressed that the problem was resolved only because the appeal had been filed. Dovrat criticized the ministry for "not hastening to conduct the questioning, to say the least, and for conducting the questioning only after the court set a deadline for doing so."

Over the past several years, it has come to Gisha's attention that many Israeli citizens who, since 1967, had married Palestinians and moved to the Gaza Strip are not aware that their move to Gaza does not void their rights to enter Israel regularly to visit their families, and that they are not bound by the same travel restrictions that are imposed on native Gazans. These restrictions became more acute after the disengagement in 2005 and Hamas' subsequent seizure of control in the Strip.

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