Zahia Subeh, a grandmother of two, grows lima beans, barley and olives in the plot she inherited from her father. Her plot is inside “the seam zone” – the West Bank lands trapped behind the Separation Barrier. So like many other Palestinians, Mrs. Subeh is forced to navigate Israel’s stifling permit bureaucracy in order to reach her lands. Recently, she was left without a Seam Zone permit for a year and four months, while the military forced her to jump through repeated bureaucratic hurdles to prove ownership of her land.
Although Mrs. Subeh needs a military permit to access her privately-owned land inside the West Bank, she does not need one if she wishes to enter Israel. Like all Palestinian women aged over 50 (and men over 55), Israel does not deem Mrs. Subeh a security threat, and she can therefore enter Israel freely.
Last month, HaMoked, Mrs. Subeh and four other Palestinian farmers aged 57 to 74, petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to rectify this absurd situation. We demanded that all Palestinians in this older age group be allowed to access the Seam Zone freely, without any permits. The bureaucratic struggles of the five petitioners are detailed in the petition at length, to illustrate the challenges so many Palestinians face.
Adnan Kabha, a grandfather of 19, also joined the petition. Like Mrs. Subeh, Mr. Kabha is forced to conduct never-ending battles with the Israeli military each time he needs to renew his Seam Zone permit. Even after he gets a permit, Mr. Kabha is frequently denied passage by the soldiers at the Seam Zone gate, whenever he tries to bring his horse and cart or agricultural equipment to his land. Mr. Kabha told HaMoked that he is reconsidering whether it is even worth his while to continue planting seedlings in his land, knowing he may not be able to harvest his crops.
Of course the root of the problem is the route of the Separation Barrier itself, built mostly inside the West Bank. We are working to dismantle some sections of the Barrier that isolate Palestinian lands, and constantly strive to chip away at the very discriminatory Seam Zone permit regime. Until the Barrier is dismantled, however, Israel must exempt older Palestinians from the permit regime, and allow them unrestricted access to those parts of the West Bank.
Executive Director of HaMoked