Call from Gaza: Open Rafah Crossing Permanently

By Gazan Civil Society and Grassroots Organizations

Today, a call demanding the re-opening of the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Palestine has come from Gaza. It is propelled by support from Egypt and has been endorsed by dozens of organizations, citizens’ groups, associations and coalitions in many countries, as well as by distinguished international personalities.

The call to action underscores the Geneva Conventions which entitle all people to freedom of movement and protection from collective punishment such as the arbitrary closure of the Crossing. Fulfilling a demand of the Egyptian revolution, supporters urge their governments to re-open the gates that have turned Gaza into an ‘open air prison’.

The Rafah Crossing is Gaza’s only exit to the external world.  Israel’s continued siege of Gaza includes closure of its six other crossings.

Building on the year’s momentum to break the deadly siege of Gaza, supporters of the call to action include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Laureate; Richard Falk, Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University; Ronnie Kasrils, former South African Chief of Intelligence and Justice Minister; Egyptian novelists and activists Ahdaf Soueif and Radwa Ashour; author Tariq Ali and others.

To sign the petition, please click here.

Signatories will be updated on further actions in support of this campaign as they are announced.

The full text of the petition is included below:

Call from Gaza: Open the Rafah Crossing Permanently and Unconditionally

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine

Article 13 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

This article follows others that unequivocally recognize the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of ALL members of the human family, which naturally includes Palestinians. The inalienable right to freedom of movement of the more than 1.5 million Palestinian men, women and children who make up the population of the Gaza Strip has been denied by successive Israeli governments and the Mubarak regime which imposed a barbaric siege. Mainstream human rights organizations describe the Gaza Strip as the “largest open-air prison on earth.”

This deadly siege should have ended when the revolutionary Egyptian movement ousted Hosni Mubarak and his murderous regime during which Egyptians in their millions made clear that their emancipation and the freedom of Palestine were their joint and connected goals.

This raised the hopes of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, 1948 Palestine and the shatat (diaspora), as well as millions of others around the world, that the Egyptian government and the Supreme Military Council would finally break the blockade of Gaza, as Egyptians clearly wanted. We expected the Rafah Crossing to be treated as a sovereign border between two states, as open as all other Egyptian border crossings, including those with Libya, Sudan and Israel. This would ensure the dignity and free movement of Palestinians, and all travelers, to and from the Gaza Strip.

Former Egyptian Foreign Minister, Dr. Nabil Al-Arabi, made very encouraging initial statements that the previous Egyptian government’s treatment of Gaza was “disgraceful” and that the Rafah Crossing would be opened permanently. On 25 May 2011, Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency announced the permanent opening of Rafah. The former rules at the Crossing were to be reinstated, thus allowing Palestinians with passports to cross into Egypt every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Fridays and holidays. According to a statement issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Palestinian women and children would be able to leave Gaza without restrictions, while men between the ages of 18 and 40 would have to obtain visas to enter Egypt. Thus more than 60 per cent of Gazans would be able to cross without requiring visas. 

This decision of the government post-revolution was implemented for just two days: 28-29 May 2011, and this Rafah Crossing policy was in reality retracted without any formal announcement. The current number allowed to pass each day has been reduced to an arbitrary figure of between 160-300 travelers.

The sudden about-turn comes in the midst of the worst medical crisis that Gaza has ever suffered. Most operations have been put on hold as needed basic supplies are not available. Thousands of students have lost the opportunity to further their studies abroad because they have not been able to travel to their universities. Residency permits for Arab and foreign countries of thousands of other Gazans expired when they couldn’t leave Gaza.

The current system requires every potential traveler to register online with the Gaza Ministry of Interior and confirm this registration with the Ministry of Transport. The number registered to cross as of the end of June exceeds 20,000, and with the daily rate of travelers at the Crossing restricted to a maximum of 300, the possibility of crossing before mid-September is almost nil.

Those who travel via Rafah face inhumane conditions: standing for long hours in the heat, then escorted by police to Cairo airport, and then waiting in a holding cell until departure. No other citizens in the world have to endure this humiliation, uncertainty and indignity by another country when they choose to exercise their right to leave their own country.

Palestinians demand freedom of movement now!

These restrictions should no longer be imposed on Palestinian people. It is an offense to the immense ongoing struggles of the Egyptian people in pursuit of human rights for the present Egyptian authorities to so quickly break promises made to them.

Under the Geneva Conventions we are all entitled to freedom of movement and protection from collective punishment such as the arbitrary closure of the Crossing.

Our demand, therefore, is the permanent and free movement of Palestinians, without distinction or limitation of any kind, through the Rafah Crossing.

Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine (UTAP)
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
General Union of Youth Entities (GUYE)
Palestinian Youth Against Israeli Apartheid (PYAIA)
Arab Cultural Forum
One Democratic State Group (ODSG)

Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, Palestine
Campaign for the Right to Enter the Occupied Palestinian Territory
Karama Campaign for the Free Movement of Palestinians
Palestine Justice Network
Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People (Beit Sahour)
Al-Rowwad Center (Aida Refugee Camp)

Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, Egypt
People’s Socialist Alliance Party (PSAP), Egypt
Democratic Workers Party, Egypt
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
The Free Egyptian Movement
National Front for Justice and Democracy, Egypt
Popular Democratic Movement for Change, Egypt [HASHD]

ElNadim Centre for the psychological rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture, Egypt
Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Egypt
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Egypt

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with this demand for basic human rights of the people of Gaza and Egypt:

Tariq Ali, author and activist, UK
Radwa Ashour, author, Egypt
Mona Baker, St. Jerome Publishing, UK
Oren Ben-Dor, School of Law, Southampton, UK
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, US
Haim Bresheeth, University of East London
Martin Caton, Member of Parliament, UK
Richard Falk, Professor of International Law, Princeton University
James C. Faris
Bill Fletcher, Jr., BlackCommentator.com editorial board
Keith Hammond, University of Glasgow
Nelly Hanna, American University in Cairo, Egypt
Richard Hudson, FBA, London
Colin Imber
Najaty Jabary, Medico, Spain
Fanny and Sonja Karkar, Australia
Ronnie Kasrils, former South African Government Minister, author and activist
Muhammad Ali Khalidi, York University, Toronto
Erwin Lanc, ret. Federal Minister of the Republic of Austria, Yosefa Loshitzky, London
Ian Macdonald, London
Mike Marqusee, author
Nur Masalha, St. Mary’s University College and SOAS, University of London
Hajo Mayer, Holland
Christl Meyer, Women In Black, Vienna, Austria
Gail Miller, Women of A Certain Age, U.S. Boat To Gaza
Fanny-Michaela Reisin, International League of Human Rights-FIDH, AEDH German
Section (President), Jewish Voice for a Just Peace (EJJP Germany)
Dalia Said Mostafa, University of Manchester
Mai Perez Apraiz, Empresaria, Spain
Steven Rose, Open University, UK
Ibrahim Jabary Salamanca, Empresario, Spain
Pilar Salamanca, Escritora, Spain
Waltraud Schauer, Austria
Suleiman Sharkh, University of Southampton, UK
Lidon Soriano, Spain
Ahdaf Soueif, author, Egypt
Baroness Jenny Tonge, UK
Waltraud Torossian
Desmund Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town
Peter & Joan Unterweger
Angela Waldegg, Austria

Organizations:

Al-Awda, Palestine Right to Return Coalition
Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
Americans Against the War, France
American Muslims for Palestine
Arab Resource and Organizing Center, USA
Artdialog, Italy
Artists Against Apartheid, South Africa
Association Des Univirsitaires Pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine, France
Australians for Palestine
Bay Area Coalition to End Israeli Apartheid, USA
Bethlehem Group, Glasgow, Scotland
Black Alliance for Just Immigration
BRICUP- British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWISP)
Canadian Boat to Gaza Campaign
Caribbean Labour Solidarity
Catalyst Project, USA
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), USA
Center for Encounter And Active Non-Violence, Austria
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA)
CODEPINK, USA
Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Paix- Strasbourg, France
Comitato Varesino per la Palestina, Italy
Comite De Solidariedade Com A Palestina (Committee for Solidarity with Palestine), Portugal
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
Davis Committee for Palestinian Rights, USA
En Nuestro Nombre No- Tucum

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