Israel’s Supreme Court recently held an urgent hearing on a petition filed by the NGO “Gisha” – The Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement – on behalf of employees of the Gaza branch of “Right to Play,” an international humanitarian organization that promotes treatment and rehabilitation of children facing adversity through educational play.
The petition was filed following rejection of permit applications submitted by three staff members wanting to exit Gaza to participate in a short professional workshop in Ramallah, as they have done every year for the past five years. Israel made no claim of there being security preclusions against the three individuals involved.
At the hearing, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut voiced harsh criticism of the state’s position. She proposed that the hearing be adjourned to give state counsel the opportunity to consult with the officials responsible for the decision and return with a satisfactory response. Following a short consultation, state counsel returned and said that the petitioners would be allowed to attend the workshop, subject to individual security screenings.
In a radio interview conducted shortly before the hearing, Adv. Osnat Cohen-Lifshitz, director of Gisha’s legal department, stated that Israel must enable the activity of professionals assisting children who live in unbearable conditions, particularly in light of its call for investments and warnings against pending humanitarian disaster in Gaza.
Gisha maintains that Israel must allow movement of people from Gaza to the West Bank, the other part of the Palestinian territory, subject to individual security screenings. Furthermore, it should permit employees of civil society organizations to access professional training, especially given the repeated assertions made by senior Israeli officials of Israel’s intention to support improvement in the living conditions of Gaza’s residents.