Center for the Defence of the Individual - Bureaucratic ordeal to operate a business behind the Separation Barrier: Only following HaMoked’s petition, the military issued a commerce permit to enter the Seam Zone
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Bureaucratic ordeal to operate a business behind the Separation Barrier: Only following HaMoked’s petition, the military issued a commerce permit to enter the Seam Zone

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”.

 On September 9, 2021, HaMoked petitioned the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs on behalf of a Palestinian man seeking an entry permit for “commercial needs” to operate his printing business located in Barta’a in the Seam Zone. The petition was filed after the man was told in August 2021 that his request had been denied by the Israel Security Agency (ISA).  The man received nothing in writing and was not given the slightest justification for the refusal. This contrary to Israeli case law that requires the authority to disclose all possible details leading to its decision, even when some information is classified. HaMoked added that the military completely ignored the appeal filed on the man’s behalf. HaMoked asserted that the unexplained refusal constituted a violation of the petitioner’s rights, among them, the right to choose his employment and the right to plead his case, and that it also caused him growing financial damage.

 It soon turned out the security claim had no substance. In its response of October 18, 2021, the state announced that “having reviewed the petitioner’s appeal, it was established that he should be issued the requested permit”, that would be valid until the end of 2021, according to his lease for the printing business’ premises. Following the October 20, 2021 hearing, it was agreed that the permit would be extended until the end of 2022, as the petitioner had renewed his lease for another year. In the judgment issued that day, the court criticized the military’s conduct: “in the petition we see again the phenomenon of the Respondent’s failure to provide a decision on time… It is to be hoped that this and other proceedings will contribute to stop this conduct from recurring”. It was also ruled that the permit must be issued “within a few days (no more than ten days)”.

 But the man’s permit ordeal did not end with that and on October 31, 2021, HaMoked had to request the court to compel the military to issue the permit for the current year (as he had already received the permit for 2022). HaMoked wrote “it is unclear why the state cannot properly comply with the judgment. The state’s conduct causes severe harm to the man’s basic rights...  and also leads to his being repeatedly delayed at the checkpoint and the District Coordination Office. This surely also does not contribute to the public’s trust in the authorities”.

 On November 4, 2021, the petitioner finally received the permit.

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