Opinion |

Israel Will Continue Its Campaign of Dividing and Conquering Palestinians, Annexation or Not

Israel doesn’t even bother hiding behind the sacred cow of ‘security’ anymore to justify controlling Palestinians’ lives. Even three year-old kids are a threat to its demographic and political goals

Tania Hary
Tania Hary
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Annexation or not, Israel will still control the fate of millions of Palestinians, in Gaza and the West Bank: al-Shati camp in Gaza City, January 9, 2020
Annexation or not, Israel will still control the fate of millions of Palestinians, in Gaza and the West Bank: al-Shati camp in Gaza City, January 9, 2020Credit: AFP
Tania Hary
Tania Hary

Adam Hemo was just three-and-a-half years old when a petition was filed in his name to the Israeli High Court. The petition asked the court to grant Adam permission to move to the West Bank from Gaza with his mother and four older siblings.

His mother and siblings were registered as "West Bank residents" in the Israeli-controlled Palestinian population registry, meaning that according to Israel’s criteria for travel, they could request to move back to the West Bank. But Adam was registered as a "Gaza resident."

Fifty-three years into the occupation, 27 years since Oslo, and 15 years since the disengagement from Gaza, and Israel still has the exclusive power to decide who is considered a resident of Gaza and who is a resident of the West Bank. Residents of Gaza need Israel’s permission to live in the West Bank, without which they are considered "illegal aliens" there – even three-year-olds.

Israel’s ongoing control over the Palestinian population registry and its control over movement grant it power to determine the fate of millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza – everything from the mundane to the profound.

The ability to move impacts who you can love, where you can live, which groceries reach your market shelves and which businesses manage to operate in your community, as most of the world is now realizing more acutely under the pandemic lockdown. Whether annexation stays de facto or becomes de jure, whether the Trump plan is adopted or not, Israel’s control over movement will persist.

Adam Hemo in 2019: There's no security rationale in blocking a three-year-old from moving from Gaza to the West Bank, but a system bent on reducing the number of Palestinians living in the West BankCredit: Hemo family

Over the past two decades, especially, Israel has wielded this control in the service of its goal to isolate Gaza and separate it from the West Bank. In recent years, the policy was given a name, "the separation policy," and without ever being formally explained or its objectives published, it is defended in court with fervor by state representatives in case after case just like Adam’s.

Sweeping security arguments about minimizing contact and travel to prevent “transfer of terrorist infrastructure” fall flat when the petitioner is a three-year-old or when even cookies can’t be marketed from Gaza City to Ramallah.

Adam’s story is like so many told about the conflict, its details so absurd that they belie how emblematic it is. Adam’s mother, Kawthar, originally from the West Bank, moved to Gaza in 2000 following her marriage to a resident of the Strip. In 2012, she managed to register her children, like herself, as West Bank residents.

Israel refused to let Kawthar register Adam, the youngest, who was born in 2013, as a West Bank resident, which left Kawthar with a Sophie’s choice. She could either provide her four older children a chance at a better life in the West Bank, free of rampant poverty and repeated military operations, by abandoning her youngest child in the Strip, or keep the family united but remain in Gaza.

That’s how, in 2017, Adam became one of the youngest petitioners to Israel’s High Court. After a legal battle that lasted over two years, inquiries by members of the Israeli parliament and media, Israel finally agreed to grant Adam permission to transit to the West Bank with his mother and four siblings, just a few weeks shy of his sixth birthday.

Israeli border police officers overlook the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiyah. December 10, 2017Credit: Oded Balilty/AP

The occupation has lasted so long that its bureaucracy has taken on a life and logic of its own. Those continuing to search for a security rationale to justify it do so in vain. You won’t find any security rationale in blocking a three-year-old from moving from Gaza to the West Bank, but what you will find is a system bent on keeping as few Palestinians as possible from living in the West Bank.

The state’s territorial claims and goals in the West Bank are clearer than ever. The settlements aren’t in the West Bank for security, they’re there because a portion of society with a disproportionate amount of power believes it should be able to lord over the land without consequences or obligations to the Palestinians living nearby without equal rights.

The settlers and their allies are no longer even hiding behind the sacred cow of "security" and are making every effort to cement a reality in which Palestinians are divided and conquered indefinitely so that the status quo remains in their favor.

It’s time to wake up and realize that Gaza’s isolation, and the endless suffering that comes with it, is driven primarily by these same goals for territorial control in the West Bank, and it must end.

Tania Hary is the executive director of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. Twitter: @taniahary

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage

Flame and smoke rise during an Israeli air strike, amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in Gaza City August 6, 2022.

Israel Should End Gaza Operation Now, if It Can