PCHR Condemns Israeli Authorities Denial of Gaza Muslims’ Freedom of Worship

Gaza Strip, Israel / OPT, Statement

On 7 August, 2012 the Israeli Supreme Court approved a state policy that prevents Muslims from the Gaza Strip from accessing holy sites in Israel and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during religious holidays.

Six Muslim women from the Gaza Strip and the human rights organization Gisha appealed last year’s ruling by the Beersheva District Court declining to interfere in the state-approved prohibition on Gaza Muslims access to Holy sites in Jerusalem for worship. It is noted that this blanket prohibition does not apply to Muslims from the West Bank or Christians from the Gaza Strip. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal and accepted the state argument that travel to Israel and West Bank for Gaza civilians is allowed only in exceptional humanitarian cases exclusively set by the administration.

This decision, and Israel’s blanket prohibition, constitutes discrimination on the basis of religious belief and violates Gaza civilians’ freedom of movement and religion, as guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a State party. As authoritatively stated by the International Court of Justice, Israel is under a legal obligation to fully and in good faith implement the entire spectrum of Palestinian civilians’ human rights.

However, PCHR notes that Israel has consistently enforced measures and policies – often with the approval of its courts – which are at odds with its legal responsibilities vis-á-vis the civilian population of the oPt. For example, the closure of the Gaza Strip – tightened in mid-2007 and widely considered as an illegal measure of collective punishment, including by the International Committee of the Red Cross – clearly evidences Israel’s longstanding disregard for the rule of international law.

In light of the above, PCHR:

1. Condemns in the strongest possible terms the denial of Gaza Muslims’ freedom of movement and worship by the Israeli authorities; and

2. Condemns the ‘legitimisation’ of these policies by Israel’s courts;

3. Calls for holding accountable those who carry individual criminal responsibility for implementing and maintaining the illegal closure and persecution policies against the population of the Gaza Strip.