“A large prison camp”?
Gaza following Israel’s pullout

Published: 18 September 2005
Briefing Number 155

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The accusation against Israel

“The Gaza Strip is one large prison…” (Mahmoud Abbas, News agencies, 12 September 2005). 

“Israel’s pullout from Gaza must include the full opening of all crossing points and freedom of movement….” (Marwan Muasher, Deputy Prime Minister, Jordan (Associated Press, 12 September 2005)).   

Virtually every time a Palestinian or other Arab leader is interviewed, the same accusation is made: that because Israel does not permit “freedom of movement” in and out of the Gaza Strip, it remains a “prison camp”. The implication is that Israel is to blame for Gaza’s continued plight.

The reason for Israel’s Gaza crossing point controls
Israel continues to check Palestinians entering Israel from Gaza via the Erez crossing point, and other crossing points. “Freedom of movement” is, indeed, limited.  But here are some reasons why:-

  • These measures are needed to prevent Palestinian bombers and gunmen from infiltrating into Israel

  • Many attacks have been prevented. As an example, on 21 June 2005 a Palestinian woman was arrested at the Erez crossing point wearing a bomb. She was a patient at Israel’s Soroka Hospital and had planned to bomb it (see Beyond Images Briefing 146

  • Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip state they plan to resume terrorist attacks against civilians inside Israel (see Beyond Images Briefing 154).  Israel counters this threat by maintaining the crossing point controls 

  • Crossing points have repeatedly been bombed, including at times when Israel was attempting to relax its procedures (see Beyond Images Briefing 126).   It is the Palestinian groups who carry out these attacks who prevent “freedom of movement” and frustrate economic recovery

  • The collapse of Egyptian security arrangements at the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt during early September 2005 has enabled thousands of people chaotically to enter into Gaza. Israeli officials are concerned that Al Qaeda cells have used this opportunity to enter Gaza. Israeli security measures at the crossing points are needed to prevent Al Qaeda from using Gaza to carry out atrocities against Israel

  • Israel is reported to be investigating involving Europeans or other third parties in checking those entering Israel from Gaza 

Conclusion and Key Messages 

Israel’s crossing points out of the Gaza strip cause frustration and inconvenience for Palestinians. They reduce “freedom of movement”.

But it is the Palestinian record of violence and their continued threats which have made them necessary. If the violence curbed, Israel’s measures would no longer be necessary.

Israel’s pullout presents the Palestinians with another opportunity for constructive building of society, rather than alleging that Gaza is a prison camp, and perpetuating the Palestinian sense of blame and victimhood.