Center for the Defence of the Individual - For months, the military failed to open the Far’un agricultural gate on schedule, preventing farmers from reaching their lands trapped beyond the Separation Barrier; some improvement following HaMoked’s petition
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For months, the military failed to open the Far’un agricultural gate on schedule, preventing farmers from reaching their lands trapped beyond the Separation Barrier; some improvement following HaMoked’s petition

For years HaMoked has been battling against the draconian military permit regime enforced in the West Bank areas trapped between the separation wall and the Green Line (the armistice line between Israel and the West Bank) – areas Israel calls "the Seam Zone". This discriminatory permit regime applies only to the Palestinian population of the oPt. It bars most Palestinians from entering the Seam Zone, and compels those who seek to go there to obtain a military permit in advance, subject to the military’s labyrinth bureaucracy, which is antagonistic to their rights and traditions. The Seam Zone permit regime was approved by the High Court of Justice (HCJ) despite the severe violation of Palestinians’ rights to dignity and to freedom of movement inside one’s own country, as well as the rights to property and freedom of occupation. Moreover, over the years the permit regime has become steadily more restrictive, deteriorating into de facto dispossession of large swaths of farmland belonging to people living on the other side of the Separation Barrier – as described in HaMoked’s new report “Creeping Dispossession: Israeli Restrictions on Palestinian Farming Beyond the Barrier”.

 Farmers who receive a permit can access their farmlands in the Seam Zone via daily and weekly “agricultural” gates, which the military opens twice or three times a day, morning, noon and late afternoon, for a period of 10-45 minutes each time. These brief opening times significantly burden the farmers and compel them to arrange their schedule and routine according to the short intervals during which they can either access their lands or get back to their homes. Despite the farmers’ obvious dependency on this military’s gate-opening schedule, often soldiers do not adhere to it and either arrive late or not at all – displaying utter disrespect for the farmers’ time and dignity. Time and again HaMoked has had to petition the court in cases of excessive and routine delays simply to get the military to uphold – at least minimally – the opening times it itself had set.

 Thus recently, On July 12, 2021, HaMoked had to file a petition regarding the failure to open the Far’un gate on schedule. The gate is supposed to be opened three times a week, thrice a day, at 6:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 16:00 PM, for 10-20 minutes each time. But from the beginning of 2021, repeatedly the military did not open the gate at all and at other times opened it late, delaying by an hour or more. HaMoked described how its staff had to persistently contact the military on behalf of farmers who were waiting in frustration and even despair for the gate to open. HaMoked argued that this objectionable conduct constituted a violation of the military’s commitment to the HCJ to implement passage arrangements along the Barrier so as to minimize damage to farmers.    

 In its preliminary response to the petition, dated September 13, 2021, the state announced that in recent months the military had taken steps to reduce the delays and that in this framework a dedicated briefing would be conducted and personnel allocated to ensure the gate’s opening on time. Therefore, and as it became clear that delays occurred less often and were shorter in duration, HaMoked asked to have the petition deleted. HaMoked noted in this context that the gate itself was kept locked and instead the soldiers were directing farmers to pass through breaches in the fence – a small one for pedestrians and a large one for tractors.   

 After the petition was deleted, farmers complained to HaMoked that again soldiers were not arriving on time and telling the farmers the gate’s opening hours had been changed. On October 31, 2021, the military responded to HaMoked’s enquiry that “In the framework of preparations for the olive harvest period, the opening hours of the Far’un gate have been changed temporarily” and that the public had been informed about this via the Palestinian Liaison Office.