WATCH: Bringing Israelis face to face with Gaza closure

12:00 Apr 10 2014 Gaza

Although the Gaza Strip is only about 50 kilometers from the city of Hebron in the West Bank, few people are given permission to travel this short distance. One Israeli filmmaker decided to bring Gaza’s separation policy to the heart of the Israeli mainstream.

By Tania Hary for 972Mag

Any illusions that Israel’s policy on Gaza is only about security surely should have been dispelled by the events of this week.

Israel’s highest court struck down the petition of Gaza’s only Olympian runner, Nader al-Masri, who had asked to be able to travel to Bethlehem to race in the second annual Palestine Marathon. Ironically enough, the marathon is meant to be a celebration of freedom of movement.

The state rejected Nader’s request to travel as it didn’t conform to the army’s criteria. Namely it wasn’t considered humanitarian enough and because allowing access for plain old professional opportunities runs counter to “the separation policy.” No one argued that the 34-year-old runner, undoubtedly a role model in Gaza, posed a threat to Israel. And with regard to the separation policy, it’s hard to follow the logic that somehow not allowing one of Palestine’s most accomplished athletes to reach the West Bank contributes to any long-term security goals.

A new short film by Israeli filmmaker Itamar Rose, in cooperation with Israeli NGO Gisha , brings the Gaza policy to the streets of Tel Aviv and Bat Yam. Rose asks average Israelis to play the role of a soldier at Erez Crossing who has to decide whether to allow a young girl out of Gaza to visit her sick grandmother in Ramallah.

n reality, decisions like this aren’t made by individual soldiers but rather in the high offices of Israel’s defense ministry, far from the reach or oversight of Israeli citizens, let alone the people impacted by them most – Palestinian residents of the occupied territory.

If there’s any glimmer of hope for Gaza, it’s in the realization of the people in Rose’s film who struggle to defend the criteria they are fictitiously handed. There’s possibility in the “hold on” moment that people experience when they hear about Nader al-Masri or that a girl can visit her sick mother or another immediate relative but aunts, uncles, grandmas – out of the question. In other words, there’s hope when Israel realizes that no purpose is served by blocking travel for the everyday reasons that make a society function, prosper, and thrive.

Tania Hary is the Deputy Director of International Relations at Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. Gisha is an Israeli non-profit organization founded in 2005 whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents.
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