The role of politics, policy and law in shaping migration and mobility in the occupied Palestinian Territory (2012)

هذا مشروع بحثي تم قبوله للمشاركة في دورة متخصصة في جامعة براون في الولايات المتحدة في العام 2012 (لم أتمكن في حينه من الحضور بسبب قلة الوقت للحصول على فيزا). ومن حينها وأنا أنتظر الوقت المناسب للعمل على هذا الموضوع مستفيداً من الأبحاث التي قمت بها في الماضي حول قضايا اللجوء والهجرة في الحالة الفلسطينية.

أشارك هذا المقترح على أمل أن يتسنى لي أولاً العمل عليه وأيضاً للمهتمين للإنضمام معي للعمل على هذا المشروع.


The role of politics, policy and law in shaping migration and mobility in the occupied Palestinian Territory

Asem Khalil (14 May 2012)

Statement of the problem and its significance

Since the signing of the Oslo agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, hopes for the establishment of a Palestinian state side by side Israel has been occupying a dominant place in international politics and discourse – although Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, and Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem, persists up till this day. The Palestinian Authority remained without effective control over the borders of the occupied Palestinian territory, without control over the population register, and with no power over internal borders. This situation left Palestinians in a disconnected state, with no (or very limited) access between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and between East Jerusalem and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In addition, most Palestinians still live outside the occupied Palestinian territory. The reasons for their displacement and uprooting vary. Some were forced to leave Palestine – and since then denied reentry – as a result of the events that accompanied the UN partition plan (1947), and the establishment of the state of Israel (1948). Others were displaced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as a result of Israeli occupation in 1967. Many others were denied reentry as a result of the many Israeli military orders that impose restrictions on their mobility or force them to leave the country by issuing deportation orders. The most recent Israeli military order (2010) even considers a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who is staying in the West Bank without (Israeli) permit as an infiltrator, subject to imprisonment, fines and deportation orders.

Law (through military orders) shape people’s legal statuses, and restrict their choices to move within, exit from, and reenter to, their country of origin and/or the territory of their choice.  In the case of Palestinians, mobility for economic, family or other reasons could not be separated from mobility motivated by political reasons. The existence of free will to move or migrate or the lack thereof, are extremely difficult to determine in the case of Palestinians. The ability of Palestinians to enter and leave host Arab countries is also dependent on a host of restrictions imposed by host authorities. As a result, many Palestinians have chosen to migrate to non-Arab countries in search for better opportunities.

Although the Palestinian Authority in general has been active in adopting new laws and bylaws, it has shied away from adopting new laws to regulate mobility and migration issues, or even explicitly state their policies with regards to certain phenomena of concern related to migration and mobility of the population. This may continue to be the case in the short term in the absence of Palestinian sovereignty and effective control over internal and external borders.

Despite these limitation, several issues are increasingly becoming of concern for the Palestinian Authority, even in the absence of full sovereignty, including the mobility of people and goods between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (or the lack thereof); the immigration of youth and skilled Palestinians; the concentration of human and financial capitals in some cities (Ramallah for the West Bank, and Gaza city in the Gaza Strip); the inadequacy of the infrastructure therein; and the increasingly polarized relationship between local  and Diaspora Palestinians; between West Bank Palestinians and Gazans, between town and country, between refugee camps residents, and those Palestinians residing in nearby cities and villages, etc.

In such a context, the Palestinian Authority may well need to reconsider its inattentive approach towards migration and mobility issues – which is largely defined by populist reflections of and reactions to popular anxieties regarding immigration, poverty, crime, labor shortages, etc. – by adopting medium term decisions by local and central authorities that reflect well determined policies, and despite lack of full sovereignty. In the long term, clear legal regulation may well be needed too, to correct the existing inequality and discriminatory attitude towards Palestinians as a result of foreign occupation.

Overall Objective

Assessing the existing relation between politics, policies and law in shaping populations’ choices to move internally and externally; and suggesting policy and legal interventions necessary to adopt by various Palestinian governmental bodies, even in a context of limited or absent sovereignty, so as to deal with pressing problems related to migration and mobility.


Specific Objectives

Assess the ways in which legal enactments of Israeli occupation authorities and of host countries prompted Palestinians to leave their country of origin or country of first refuge status to third countries; and to stay in or move away from a refugee camp; to make choices as to level and place of education, and higher education in particular, with special focus on gender differences, and the impact on career choices, and on family unity, as a result of de jure or de facto separation.

Suggest policy and legal recommendation to redress abnormal and distorted attitudes towards people’s choices to move or migrate, and give due consideration to both positive and negative aspects of migration and mobility, whether internal or external.


Collection of Data:

  • Collecting military orders, constitutional provisions, laws and bylaws, regulations related to migration and mobility adopted historically in Palestine, by various authorities governing historical Palestine, starting from British Mandate till the Palestinian Authority.
  • Collecting official declarations and governmental plans in which issues related to migration and mobility are dealt with.


In-Depth Analysis:

  • Analysis of the legal enactments and official statements issued by various authorities and identify a possible continuum of regulations and actions by various foreign authorities governing part of historical Palestine and affecting internal and external migration, and how the Palestinian Authority deals with such heritage.
  • Analysis of existing data related to Palestinian mobility and migration so as to be able to show linkages and possibilities to address the problem of migration and t adopted legal enactments and explicit and implicit policies of governing authorities.


Formulation of policy recommendations:

  • Suggesting scenarios for possible Palestinian Authority intervention in areas of migration and population’s mobility.
  • Suggesting policy recommendations aiming at redressing abnormality in the way populations’ choices are determined by colonial and occupation interests, to those serving human and economic developmental which is a sine qua non for a successful state building process, if any.

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