Palestine: International call to open crossing between Gaza and Egypt

Crowded buses at one of the rare
times Rafah Crossing has been open.
(Photo: Muhammad Sabah/B'Tselem)

Source: International Solidarity Movement

Dozens of Arab and international organizations and leading personalities have joined this week an urgent call launched from Gaza to permanently re-open the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, which remains tightly restricted despite the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February. 

The call to action is based on the Geneva Conventions, which entitle all people to freedom of movement and protection from collective punishment such as the arbitrary closure of the Rafah 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 momentum of a year’s international activism 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.

The international call to action, open for the signing of organizations, institutions and individuals, reads as follows: 

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 everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state and 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 ofGaza, 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 organizations

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)

Egyptian organizations

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, UK

Martin Caton, Member of Parliament, UK

Richard Falk, Professor of International Law, Princeton University, USA

James C. Faris

Bill Fletcher, Jr.,BlackCommentator.comeditorial board, USA

Keith Hammond, University of Glasgow, Scotland

Nelly Hanna,American University in Cairo, Egypt

Richard Hudson, FBA, London, UK

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, Federal Minister of the Republic of Austria,

Yosefa Loshitzky, London, UK

Ian Macdonald, QC, UK

Mike Marqusee, author, UK

Nur Masalha, St. Mary’s University College and SOAS, University of London, UK

Hajo Meyer, Holland

Christl Meyer, Women In Black, Vienna, Austria

Gail Miller, Women of A Certain Age, U.S. Ship 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, UK

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, South Africa

Peter & Joan Unterweger

Angela Waldegg, Austria

International 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 Universitaires 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, UK

Catalyst Project, USA

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), USA

Center for Encounter And Active Non-Violence, Austria

Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA)


Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Paix- Strasbourg, France

Comitato Varesino per la Palestina, Italy

Comite De Solidariedade Com A Palestina, Portugal

Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)

Davis Committee for Palestinian Rights, USA

En Nuestro Nombre No-Tucumán, Argentina

Farrah France-Strasbourg, France

Frantz Fanon Foundation, France

Frauen in Schwarz (Wien) - Women in Black, Vienna, Austria

Free Palestine Movement

Friends of Deir Ibzi’a, USA

Gaza Foundation-Rotterdam, Holland

Global Compliance Research Project

Global Exchange, USA

Global Women’s Strike, (GWS)

Goldsmiths College (University of London) Students’ Union, UK

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, USA

Hadeel Palestinian Fair Trade, Scotland

Handicap Solidarité- Strasbourg, France

Headlines Theatre, Canada

International Forum for Secular Bangladesh, UK

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, France

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, UK

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), USA

Independent Jewish Voices, Canada

International Payday Men’s Network

International Solidarity Movement

International Solidarity Movement - Northern California, USA

International Solidarity Movement – Chicago, USA

Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC)

Israel Divestment Campaign (California), USA

Italian Peace Research Institute - Net for Civil Peace Corps, Italy

Kritische Jüdische Stimme (Österreich) - Critical Jewish Voice (Austria)

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), UK

Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost, EJJP (Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East) , Germany

Jewish Voice for Peace, USA

Jews Say No! USA

Justice for Palestinians, USA

LA BDS for Justice in Palestine

Labor for Palestine, USA

Leeds Palestine Solidarity Campaign, UK

Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, USA

Merseyside Jews for Peace and Justice, UK

Middle East Children’s Alliance

Middle East Crisis Committee Of Connecticut, USA

New York City Labor against the War, USA

Netherlands Palestine Committee (NPK)

NION - Not in our name - Jews opposing Zionism

Our Developing World, CA, USA

Palcrafts Charity, Scotland

Palestine Action Group, Corvallis, Oregon, USA

Palestine Solidarity Campaign, UK

Palestine Solidarity Committee, South Africa

Palestine Solidarity Alliance, South Africa

Palestine Solidarity Committee (PKR)-Rotterdam, Holland

Peace for Life, Johannesburg

Red Internacional Judía Antisionista (IJAN), Argentina

Red Thread, Guyana

RESCOP, the Spanish network of organizations in solidarity with Palestine:

Asociacion Al Quds (Malaga)

Asociacion Hispano Palestina Jerusalen (Madrid)

Asociacion Paz Ahora

Asociacion Paz con Dignidad

Castello per Palestina

Coordinadora de apoyo a Palestina Rioja (La rioja)

CSCA (Comite de Solidaridad con la Causa Arabe)

Ecologistas en Accion (Madrid, Valladolid)

Grupo de ONG por Palestina (Plataforma 2015 y Mas y Federacion de Asociaciones deDefensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos- Espana) + ACSUR

ISM Cataluna/Valencia

Interpueblos (Cantabria)

Izquierda Anticapitalista

Komite Internazionalistak (Euskadi)

MEWANDO (Euskadi)

Mujeres en zona de conflicto (MZC)

Mujeres por la Paz- Accion solidaria con Palestina (Canarias)

Palestinarik Elkartasuna (Euskadi)

Plataforma Palestina (Ibiza)

Plataforma Solidarida con Palestina (Sevilla)

Red de Jovenes Palestinos

Red de Judios Antisionistas (IJAN)




Sodepaz Balamil- Valladolid

Talua Per Palestina (Baleares)

Xarxa d’enllaC amb Palestina (Barcelona)

Xarxa Solidarida Palestina (Valencia)

Right to Return, (DAR), France

Sabeel-DC, USA

Sacramento Regional Coalition for Palestinian Rights, USA

Scottish Friends of Palestine

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Committee (Edinburgh)

Siege Busters Working Group

Silicon Valley De-Bug, USA

SOAS Palestine Society, UK

Stop Agrexco Roma

Stop the Jewish National Fund Campaign, UK

South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU)

Trade Union Friends of Palestine (ICTU), Ireland

Un ponte per, Italy

US Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

US Citizens for Peace & Justice

US Palestinian Community Network

Vic to Gaza first Convoy, Italy

War Times/Tiempo de Guerras, USA

Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace, USA

WESPAC Foundation, NY, USA

Women in Black- Strasbourg, France

Women of Color in GWS

Women for Justice and Peace, UK

Women for Palestine, Australia

14 Friends of Palestine, Marin, California, USA