Only following HaMoked’s petition and court pressure: the military agrees to follow its own regulation and provide a written receipt to people applying for Seam Zone entry permits
Since 2003, the Israeli military has been imposing a draconian permit regime
in the West Bank areas trapped between the separation barrier 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 trade, 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. As a result, the basic rights of millions of protected persons living under prolonged occupation are violated, among them the rights to dignity and freedom of movement inside one’s own country and often also the rights to property and the right to work.
On September 6, 2020, HaMoked petitioned the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of a father and son who have an olive grove in the Qaffin village farmlands, which are trapped inside the Seam Zone” (HaMoked’s petition to remove the Separation Wall from this area
– given the absence of a security need that justifies the harm caused to farmers – is yet to be heard). In the petition, HaMoked demanded that the military give the son a two-year entry permit, to allow him regular access to the land registered in his father’s name. HaMoked also demanded that the military abide by its own regulations and provide a written acknowledgment of receipt to people who apply for a Seam Zone entry permit directly at the Israeli District Coordination Office (DCO), as required in Sec. 12 of the “General Guidelines” of the Seam Zone regulations.
The petition details the protracted bureaucratic obstacles faced by the father and son, who for the past five-and-a-half years have been struggling to get the military to reverse its refusals to allow the son to access the family’s olive grove or simply respond to his requests for an entry permit. The petition describes how, since 2015, time and again, the son had been denied access to the family’s plot for protracted periods, and how, at the end of each round of the struggle, all he received was a short-term permit – which means he had to almost immediately resume the struggle with the military bureaucracy to get a new permit, however short.
The petition concerns the military’s infuriating conduct regarding the son’s most recent permit request, submitted June 2020. In blatant disregard of their own regulations, when the son filed his request at the DCO, the soldiers returned it to him, saying there was a “security preclusion” against him, and gave him no further explanation or even confirmation of receipt. The military’s response of July 2020 to HaMoked’s appeal on his behalf, was contradictory, claiming both that the petitioner had never submitted a request, and that his request “had been transferred” to the DCO commander, and that the man should contact him to “clarify the details…”. HaMoked has dealt with other cases where the military falsely claims an applicant had not submitted a request.
HaMoked argued that the military’s conduct in this case, which went against the military regulations for handling such requests
, constituted another measure in the intricate apparatus designed to drive farmers to despair and effectively dispossess them of their lands. This in violation of the High Court of Justice (HCJ) case law, whereby farmers’ access to their trapped lands must be made as easy as possible.
Following the comments of Judge Sobel during the hearing of December 30, 2020, the military agreed that the petitioner file a new request which would be decided upon “as soon as possible”. It was further agreed that the military would direct the DCOs to give written confirmation of receipt to applicants submitting request at the DCO itself (rather than via the Palestinian Authority). These undertakings were recorded in the judgment. It should be noted that during the hearing, Justice Sobel addressed the military’s initial objection to supply written confirmations, by saying this was a basic principle of administrative law, and that resolving this issue in the framework of the petition, was likely to render unnecessary similar proceedings on behalf of others in the future. HaMoked deplores, but is hardly surprised (given its extensive experience in this area), that a court ruling is needed to get the military to comply with its own regulations, even on such a trivial matter.
Thus ended another proceeding in the family’s endless Seam Zone saga.