HaMoked to the High Court of Justice: Israel must open the “Magen Dan” gate year-round as promised or dismantle the separation barrier in the area of a-Zawiya, where the gate is located
Ten year ago the High Court of Justice (HCJ) approved the military permit regime enforced in the West Bank areas that are trapped between the Separation Wall and the Green Line
– areas Israel calls the Seam Zone. This regime applies only to the Palestinian population of the oPt, bars most of them from entering the Seam Zone, and compels those who seek to go there to obtain a permit in advance, subject to the military’s draconian bureaucracy. In the judgment of 2011, the court recorded the state’s undertaking
“to enable, to the maximum extent possible, an easy entry of the inhabitants to the seam zone areas”, particularly farmers whose lands are trapped there, in the absence of any individual security preclusion.
However, over the years this permit regime has become steadily more restrictive, deteriorating into de facto dispossession
. It seems its purpose is to reduce to the minimum access to the agricultural lands inside the Seam Zone, regardless of any security needs. Consequently, fewer and fewer farmers manage to obtain from the military the required permit to access their lands; less and less agricultural plots are classified by the military as “warranting cultivation”; and the overall time farmers are allowed to access their plots in practice keeps dropping.
As part of its ongoing battle against the permit regime and the separation barrier, HaMoked filed on April 13, 2021, a petition to the HCJ to demand that the agricultural gate known as “Magen Dan” – one of the few dozens installed in the separation barrier – be opened daily and for the daily durations (morning, midday and evening) established in the framework of its previous petition on this matter
In the previous petition, filed on December 2019, HaMoked demanded that the military desist from its routine and lengthy delays in opening this gate which leads to the trapped lands of the Palestinian communities of a-Zawiya and Mas’ha. HaMoked explained that the delays in the scheduled opening of the gate caused significant damage to the daily routine of the local farmers, who had to wait in uncertainty and without shelter from the sun or rain, simply to realize their basic right to access their plots of land. On September 10, 2020, the state notified the court about the decision to transfer to the military police the responsibility for opening the gate, in the hope it would solve the problem of delays. It was further announced that the gate’s opening hours would be slightly extended and that the gate would also be opened on Fridays and Saturdays, as in the past. However, the state added that it might convert this gate into a seasonal gate – meaning it would only be opened a few weeks every year. HaMoked responded that problems remained, and expressed concern about the possibility the gate’s schedule of operation would be changed. In the judgment, the HCJ adopted the state’s position, recorded its undertaking and deleted the petition, noting that HaMoked reserved the right to turn to the court again on this matter should the need arise.
Just one month after the original judgment was issued, the routine of delays in opening the gate resumed, compelling HaMoked to petition the court once again. Moreover, since January 2021, the military no longer opens the gate daily, but only on Mondays and Wednesdays. This, on the deceptive claim that the majority of those crossing the gate abuse their seam zone entry permits by illegally entering the State of Israel – although, according to the military itself, most of these people also have permits to enter Israel for work, which means there is no substantive problem in their being inside the country. Later on, HaMoked was also informed that it had been decided to turn the gate into a seasonal gate as of May 2021, which means it will only be opened during “relevant agricultural seasons”, as deemed by the military.
In the recent petition, HaMoked added an alternative remedy: if the gate is not returned to daily operation, the separation barrier in this area must be dismantled. This, based on the 2006 judgment in HCJ 6027/04, in which the barrier’s route was approved on the presumption that the local farmers would “have reasonable access to their lands via reasonable passage arrangements”, but should this fail to happen, the judgement states that the court could be petitioned anew on this matter.