Only following HaMoked’s petition: the military issued permits of “permanent residence in the Seam Zone” to two brothers who live in the Barta’a area, entirely fenced off by the Separation Barrier
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. Some 11,000 people live in the area defined as the Seam Zone
and require a “permanent resident of the Seam Zone” permit simply to live in their home, further violating their rights to family, home and privacy.
The following case concerns two brothers in their early 20s who were left for some 18 months without permits of “permanent resident of the Seam Zone”, although they had been living in the Barta’a “enclave” for years, with their parents and minor siblings. In September 2019, shortly after their previous permits expired, their father requested via the Palestinian coordination office to have their permits renewed, and also supplied all the necessary documents. As no response arrived, the father tried to file the requests directly at his local Israeli District Coordination Office (DCO). But the soldiers there refused to accept them and told him that the earlier requests had been denied, but gave him no written refusal or any justification. Thereafter, for several months, the DCOs suspended their work in connection to the Coronavirus pandemic. As soon as they resumed working, the father succeeded to submit new requests on behalf of his sons, but was told on the spot that the new requests were also rejected, again without any justification and without informing him of the possibility to challenge the decision.
In mid-June 2020, HaMoked wrote to the military to demand the brothers’ requests be reconsidered in the framework of a “Review by the Head of the DCO” – the first of two military procedures for reconsideration of rejected Seam Zone requests (the second being an appeal hearing, available if the rejection is upheld in the Review). The questions presented during the Review focused on matters unrelated to the brothers’ place of residence (such as the movements of their sick maternal grandfather). At the end of the Review, the military officers said the brothers would receive temporary permits for “personal needs” for a two-month period, during which the military would conduct a site visit to their home in order to reach a final decision. The military did nothing to arrange this visit during these two months and neither did it answer HaMoked’s letters in the matter – or even the request for an urgent appeal hearing, sent once the temporary permits expired.
Therefore, on September 7, 2020, HaMoked petitioned the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs to demand the two brothers be given permits of “permanent Resident of the Seam Zone” without further delay. HaMoked clarified that as a result of the military’s flawed handling of their case, the brothers were prevented from living their life as they choose, without fear of arrests or delays. And that their ability to pursue an education and a profession was being undermined (one brother had to give up his academic studies in the field of education and the other brother’s training in nursing was at jeopardy). The delays in handling the matter continued: for some three months, and contrary to its declarations, the state failed to give the brothers additional temporary permits pending the as yet unscheduled home visit.
Finally, during the hearing in the petition, held February 15, 2021, the military announced the visit would be conducted on February 22, 2021, at 09:00 am. In a typical show of disregard for Palestinians’ time, the military conducted the visit around noon on the scheduled date. Inexplicably, as before, during the visit the father was repeatedly asked unrelated questions, which this time focused on why the family lived in Barta’a rather than outside the Seam Zone, in the father’s place of origin. At the end of the visit, the officer “offered” to give the brothers temporary permits once more.
However, in its updating notice to the court, the state announced that “having considered the findings of the visit, it was decided to give the petitioners certificates of permanent resident of the Seam Zone”. On March 11, 2021, the brothers received the permits, valid for four years. Thus ended a year-and-a-half-long administrative and judicial battle, necessary simply to compel the military to “allow” two young men to continue to live in their own home, in their ancestral village, in their own country. Needless to say no one will compensate the brothers for their sufferings and losses, and no public official will be held accountable for their failed conduct in the case.