The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement today launched the first computer game of its kind in Israel: “Safe Passage” allows the user to experience interactively the restrictions on movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank through innovative use of animation, flash documents, video clips and a blog. The game includes an archive of dozens of legal documents that shed light on military legislation and legal rulings since the 1990s, when Israel began imposing increasing restrictions on movement between the two parts of the territory.
Users can play the role of one of three characters– a student, a businessman and a family man – trying to reach their chosen destinations. When the player enters the role of the student, she will be asked to try to convince a military mailbox to examine her request to study using a flying hat, whereas the family man finds himself sitting one moment on a bench outside his home in the West Bank and in the next being catapulted to the Gaza Strip because of a magic key. The businessman, meanwhile, contends with giant coins threatening to prevent him from manufacturing and selling ice cream, driving him to seek creative solutions on land and in the air.
According to the animator, Gilad Baker: “We faced a challenge – how to make military documents accessible to the public. Our solution was to integrate them into the personal stories of real people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, to help people understand the policy”.
Israel’s present policy prevents a Palestinian resident whose address is registered in Gaza from entering the West Bank even if he or she manages to leave Gaza through Egypt at the Rafah crossing and arrives at Jordan’s border with the West Bank. This is because Israel has declared the West Bank a “closed military zone” and does not allow Palestinian residents with registered addresses in Gaza to enter it, irrespective of the travel via Israel. This policy violates Israel’s commitment in international agreements to view the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as “a single territorial unit” inside of which freedom of movement should be allowed. The restrictions undermine the possibility of a two-state solution by splintering the societies in each part of the Palestinian territory. The relaxation in the closure of Rafah Crossing over the past few weeks therefore does not solve the problem of Gaza-West Bank access.
The policy of separating the two parts of Palestinian territory has worsened considerably since the nearly hermetic closure of the Gaza Strip imposed by Israel in June 2007, which prevents the movement of people and goods between the two regions as part of a declared policy of “economic warfare” against the Hamas government. The closure prevents, among other things, the passage of goods from Gaza to markets in the West Bank, the entry of raw materials into Gaza from the West Bank, and the free movement of people in and out of Gaza, including businesspersons. Furthermore, as part of its policy of separating the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, Israel has imposed a sweeping ban since 2000 on the passage of Palestinian students enrolled in academic studies at Palestinian universities in the West Bank, contrary to an Israeli Supreme Court recommendation. Israel also forbids Palestinians whose registered addresses are in Gaza from being present in the West Bank, even if they have lived there for decades, and takes measures to forcefully remove them from the West Bank to Gaza. Likewise, Israel almost completely prevents the possibility of family reunification between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Adv. Sari Bashi, Director of Gisha: “This week’s announcement of ‘easing’ the closure of Gaza fails to end the ban on export or on travel between Gaza and the West Bank. Israel should allow the free passage of goods and persons between Gaza and the West Bank as the basis for a healthy and prosperous society – subject only to individual security checks”.
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