I wrote to you last month about the Palestinian olive harvest, now underway, and the challenges many farmers were facing due to Israel’s restrictions on access to farmlands throughout the West Bank.
HaMoked’s olive harvest hotline has received dozens of calls from farmers trying to access their groves across the Separation Barrier. We contacted the military each time people complained they were waiting at a gate which soldiers had failed to open; or any time farmers were told they couldn’t cross the Barrier with vehicles to help transport their yield, or that they didn’t have the right type of permit to pass. The very blatant disregard for the value of Palestinians’ time makes this an infuriating exercise, even when we succeed in helping people.
The Coronavirus pandemic and the freeze in coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, are making it even more challenging for farmers to get the permits they need to access their lands. We have written to the military repeatedly regarding the severe overcrowding at the offices that process permit requests, demanding that it find an immediate solution so that Palestinian farmers do not have to risk their health by waiting in crowded queues to apply for permits to harvest their annual yield. I’m pleased to inform you that following our interventions, the military announced it would automatically re-issue olive harvest permits for all Palestinians who had them last year.
These seemingly small victories make all the difference to the thousands of farmers whose lands are trapped behind the Barrier. We celebrate them, though we know that the only way to truly ensure Palestinians can realize their rights is for Israel to dismantle the Separation Barrier. Until that happens, we will continue to challenge the military’s arbitrary restrictions on access to these lands.
Executive Director of HaMoked