The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, in a new report documenting Israeli harassment at Erez border crossing, has stated that an increasing number of Palestinian businessmen are being detained while attempting to cross into Israel, via the Erez checkpoint, for routine trips.The number of businessmen detained while traveling into Israel has reached 19 to date, in 2015, compared to only one during the same period last year, according to Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency. While two of the businessmen were released, says the Geneva-based organization, 17 were still in detention at the time of publication.
“These incidents raise doubts about Israeli intentions,” says Ihsan Adel, Euro-Mid legal advisor. “Frequent detentions are blatant intimidation, and delays of several hours or longer also disrupt their ability to make their appointments. Despite their statements to the contrary, one has to wonder if the Israel government is deliberately trying to prevent the Gaza economy from recovering.”
The report point out that a number of the detained merchants import products that fill daily needs of families in Gaza.
According to Euro-Mid researchers, one common precept used to detain Palestinian businessmen is accusations of buying “multi-use” products that can then be used by “hostile groups” in Gaza to replenish their resistance capabilities. For example, cement can be used both for homes and businesses or to fortify bunkers, so goes the charge. However, all imports into Gaza are subject to strict Israeli monitoring, in which all products and materials are subjected to intensive examination. These same items were formerly brought into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt.
However, Egyptian security forces’ has since destroyed the tunnels, making the Israeli crossings the only alternative. Erez now is the only corridor through which Gaza’s businessmen can travel to Israel on business, and Kerem Shalom is the only gateway for goods.
Businessmen are not alone. Israeli authorities deliberately limit every Palestinian’s access to Erez, even though it is the only crossing point established for individuals, including merchants, students, persons with medical problems or others.
“There is no justification for punishing Palestinian businessmen, or anyone else, for merely trying to make a living and support their own families and others in Gaza,” says Adel.