Center for the Defence of the Individual - HaMoked to the High Court of Justice: Allow Palestinian farmers to harvest their crops in West Bank lands trapped beyond the Separation Barrier
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חזרה לעמוד הקודם

HaMoked to the High Court of Justice: Allow Palestinian farmers to harvest their crops in West Bank lands trapped beyond the Separation Barrier

On November 12, 2023, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice to allow Palestinians to reach their farmlands beyond the Separation Barrier, which the military has prevented them from accessing since the start of the war on October 7, 2023.

The Palestinians concerned are West Bank residents who hold military permits allowing them to cultivate their lands inside the “Seam Zone”, i.e. West Bank areas trapped between the Separation Barrier and the Green Line border, in which Israel has been implementing a harsh permit regime for over a decade, with the HCJ’s approval. 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 reach these parts of the West Bank to obtain a permit in advance, subject to the military’s draconian bureaucracy.

Since the war broke out, following the vicious Hamas attacks on communities in southern Israel, the military has sweepingly denied entry into the Seam Zone for landowners of trapped plots, their family members and laborers who assist them, preventing them from doing necessary agricultural work. (In a marginal number of cases, the military allowed access for a single person to tend large plots with greenhouses or fruit trees requiring daily cultivation). HaMoked wrote that the ban on farmers’ entry came about just at the start of the most significant farming season of the year – the harvest season of olives and fruits. Unless farmers are allowed access to their lands soon, most of them will lose the entire year’s crop at a great financial cost. It should be noted that on October 2, 2023, HaMoked petitioned the Court to lift the restrictions on access to the Seam Zone for commercial purposes, as well as on people who live there.   

HaMoked reasserted that the construction of the Separation Wall inside the West Bank and the establishment of the Seam Zone in and of itself has caused substantive and ongoing harm to the landowners’ rights and that this harm should be limited to the minimum necessary also at this time. HaMoked reminded the court that previous rulings stipulated that the legality of the route of the Wall and the Seam Zone regime is predicated on balancing security considerations with protection of Palestinians’ rights.  

HaMoked clarified that the harm to the farmers’ rights to freedom of movement, property and freedom of employment is disproportionate, harming those few who have already undergone meticulous procedures and security checks in order to get permits to enter the Seam Zone. HaMoked stressed that the ban on their entry constitutes de facto collective punishment of innocent people. HaMoked added that according to the media, since the start of the war, some 9,000 Palestinian farm-workers have been allowed into Israel and the entry of thousands of others has been approved for work in other sectors. It is therefore doubly clear that Palestinian farmers should be allowed to access their own lands inside the West Bank.

* The petition was considered jointly with the other petition filed by HaMoked against the limitations on entry into the Seam Zone imposed following the outbreak of the war. In its response of November 29, 2023, the State claimed that “the Military Commander does the utmost possible to allow the fabric of life in the Seam Zone [to continue]. Thus, the fabric-of-life gates continue to operate with considerable allocation of resources and despite the risk to the forces operating in the Zone. Thus also with regards to agriculture in the Seam Zone, the Military Commander is acting these days to enable to the extent possible the entry of farmers for the [olive] harvest in the Seam Zone”. Therefore, the State claimed, the petitions should be dismissed given the absence of grounds for intervention and “the change in the factual infrastructure” concerning the entry of farmers.  

In the hearing, HaMoked said the petition was as pertinent as before, and stressed that according to reports from the individual petitioners and others in their situation, only a small minority of farmers had been allowed to enter the Seam Zone, and only for just a few days.

In the judgment issued December 13, 2023, the Court accepted the State’s position and rejected the petitions, while the situation on the ground remains largely the same as described in the petition.

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