Center for the Defence of the Individual - Denial of access to private lands without explanation or due process; in one Separation Wall case, when HaMoked insisted on receiving the reason for the “security" entry ban, the military said that the landowner “makes extremist statements”
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Denial of access to private lands without explanation or due process; in one Separation Wall case, when HaMoked insisted on receiving the reason for the “security" entry ban, the military said that the landowner “makes extremist statements”

On January 30, 2020, HaMoked petitioned the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of a Palestinian man who owns four agricultural plots of land inside the Seam Zone – as Israel calls the West Bank areas trapped between the separation wall and the Green Line. The man’s permit to reach his farmlands expired in December 2017 and his requests to renew the permit were repeatedly rejected by the military, on various pretexts. Thus, for the past two years the man has been fighting for his right to reach his land, while his olive groves remain untended.

In June 2019 the man was notified that his request had again been refused, this time on the grounds that his plot was “tiny” and therefore he did not require a farmer permit. Following the efforts of the man and HaMoked acting on his behalf to reverse this decision, on November 11, 2019 the military suddenly announced that a “security” entry ban had been imposed on the man by the Israel Security Agency (ISA), which would remain in force until October 2020. No justification was provided for this “security” refusal, in line with the September 2019 revision of the military procedures governing the draconian permit regime in the Seam Zone.

The revised procedures include various changes for the worse, including with relation to security refusals. Before the revision, the military had to provide a brief explanation (referred to by the military as an “open paraphrase”), regarding the “security” grounds for refusal, and as a rule, if the person appealed this decision, a dedicated committee was to hold a hearing and decide the case within 6 weeks from the date of the appeal. However, the new procedures dictate the opposite: “as a rule, in case of a security refusal… the committee will not convene and no hearing is to be scheduled”; no justification for the refusal is to be provided unless the person files an appeal. Once the person receives the justification, he may submit a response, and only then the committee may hold a hearing in the case, but it is no longer obligated to provide its final decision within a defined timeframe and can stall endlessly.

Accordingly, on November 12, 2019, HaMoked filed another appeal to the military on the man’s behalf. On the following day, HaMoked was informed that the justification for the refusal was that the landowner “makes extremist statements”.

HaMoked submitted written arguments against this absurd justification on November 24, 2019. Over two months later, as no response was received, HaMoked had no choice but to petition the court.

In its petition, HaMoked argued that the military’s refusal to allow the petitioner regular access to his plots disproportionately violated his basic rights to property, freedom of occupation and freedom of movement. HaMoked also claimed that it was clear from the disclosed grounds for refusal – extremist statements – that there was no real security danger arising from his entry to the Seam Zone. HaMoked demanded in its petition that the man be given a two-year farmer entry permit, and also the cancellation of the new procedures, which established a multi-phased procedure without a binding deadline for issuing a final decision in such appeals. HaMoked clarified that providing an explanation for a refusal only if and after the person appealed it violated the duty to give reasons for an administrative decision, and extended needlessly and by many months the appeal proceeding.

HaMoked stressed that the new procedures cause additional and unnecessary harm to substantive and procedural rights of Palestinian landowners, and contradict the principles outlined by the High Court of Justice regarding the permit regime instituted by Israel in parts of the West Bank.

* On February 19, 2020, HaMoked received the military appeal committee’s decision to return the farmer’s Seam Zone entry permit. The decision stated that as a result of HaMoked’s petition, security officials re-examined his case and lifted their objection to his permit request. However, the decision stated that the permit would be issued according to the new – and infuriating – regulations limiting the number of entries.

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