HaMoked to the Military: cancel the arbitrary demand that owners of land in the "Seam Zone" undergo an expensive bureaucratic process in order to be issued new entry permits
Since 2003, the Israeli military has imposed a draconian permit regime in the West Bank areas trapped between the separation wall and the Green Line (the armistice line between Israel and the West Bank), an area it refers to as "the Seam Zone". The permit regime applies to Palestinians only; Israelis and tourists do not require a permit to enter the Seam Zone or stay in it. Palestinians who live in the Seam Zone or wish to enter it in order to tend to their lands, visit relatives or conduct business, are forced to obtain a permit, subject to the regulations of a stifling and highly bureaucratic military mechanism, which dictates a myriad of conditions for the receipt of permits to enter and stay in the Seam Zone.
For years HaMoked has appealed to the military time and again, demanding the removal of unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles put in the paths of Palestinians who must apply for permits in order to live in their homes or cultivate their own land, in their own homeland, in the Seam Zone.
A new obstacle appeared in the first half of 2017, when the Israeli military suddenly began demanding that inheritors of lands registered in the Tabu (the land registry) register the lands under their own names, if they wish to be issued with new permits to enter the Seam Zone and cultivate their lands there. Registration entails the payment of a fee amounting to a percentage of the land's value, in addition to legal expenses. Until 2017, the inheritors of such lands proved their ownership by presenting an inheritance order for the land and the land's deed. However, in the past year, the Military suddenly started rejecting requests for permits submitted by Palestinians who had already proven their ownership of the inherited lands, or only issuing permits for short periods of time, demanding that the applicants regulate the registration of the lands in the Tabu.
On May 9, 2018, HaMoked sent a letter
to the military on behalf of five Palestinians whose requests for entry permits to the Seam Zone for agricultural purposes were rejected or approved for periods shorter than two years – the time period defined in the military's own orders
for such permits. In the letter, HaMoked asked the military to cancel its new policy, and challenged its strange claim
that the source of the policy is in the Ottoman Land law of 1869. Such an old law, claimed HaMoked, cannot explain the change in the military's policy of the past 15 years. Additionally, HaMoked claimed, the Israeli military's harm to Palestinians living in the occupied territories cannot be justified by a 150-year-old Ottoman law. Further, the military's own ordinances, as well as judgments by Israeli courts, indicate that there is no requirement, in Israeli or military law, that inheritors register inherited lands in their names in the Tabu
. Even the Ottoman law states that these lands pass to their inheritors with the death of the previous owner, with no requirement that the inheritance be registered in the Tabu
According to HaMoked's claims, the new demand to regulate the lands in the Tabu
contradicts a judgment by the High Court of Justice
, and mounts additional difficulties that harm the fabric of life in the Seam Zone. Any obstacles added to the procedure for receiving permits to enter the Seam Zone make cultivating land there less viable for landowners, and could prevent people from submitting requests for permits, thus contributing to the disconnection of farmers from their lands. It is clear that this new obstacle, which seriously harms the basic rights of Palestinians living in the occupied territories to property and freedom of movement, has no security justification, in light of the fact that the Military was satisfied, until 2017, with the proof of ownership that was submitted to it, and customarily issued permits every two years for the landowners addressed in HaMoked's letter.