The Permit Regime – Human Rights Violations in West Bank Areas Known as the “Seam Zone”

Researched and published by Hamoked (Center for the Defence of the Individual) March 2013.  مركز الدفاع عن الفرد

This very short book can be read in one sitting, but its contents are going to stay with me for a very long time.

HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual founded by Dr. Lotte Salzberger, is a human rights organization which was established in order to assist Palestinians subjected to the Israeli occupation which causes severe and ongoing violation of their rights. HaMoked works for the enforcement of the standards and values of international human rights and humanitarian law.

The researchers have amassed a gargantuan amount of facts and figures to support the conclusion that Israel is maintaining an illegal permit regime in the “seam zone” —- that area located inside the Occupied West Bank between the Green Line and the separation wall.   Others have written about this “seam zone” but this report provides the most comprehensive set of data and stories about how the permit regime actually impacts Palestinians caught in Israel’s bureaucratic military system.

I may be too angry to write a decent review.  The fact that Israel’s High Court of Justice concluded in April 2011 that everything is honky-dory (“the decision to close the seam zone and apply the permit regime in the area meets the tests of constitutionality”) means Palestinians who live, work or farm in this “seam zone” must endure the hardships and injustices of this demeaning permit regime.

To be clear —- the “seam zone” is located in Palestinian territory (not the state of Israel) and the people prevented from entering the “seam zone” are Palestinians, not Israelis, Jews, tourists or anyone else.  Only Palestinians must secure a permit to travel to their homes, businesses and farms.  OK, now my blood pressure is rising again!

The report includes quite a few personal stories of how the permit regime in the “seam zone” impacts people whom HaMoked assisted.

A.A. is a Palestinian farmer who wishes to cultivate his family’s farmland which is located west of the separation wall (in the “seam zone”). He requires  military-issued temporary permits to enter the area. Until 2009, A.A. had filed many applications for a “seam zone” permit, but the military never issued him one. In early 2010, he contacted HaMoked for help.

HaMoked contacted the military with a demand to issue A.A. a permit or, alternatively, to allow him to present his case.  Indeed , the military held an oral hearing and, in August 2010, issued A.A. his first permit to access his land for three months. At the end of this period, A.A. filed an application to renew the permit, but, again, did not receive an answer from the military. HaMoked had to write the military again and A.A. was summoned for a hearing committee once more, after being denied access to the “seam zone” and his land for seven months. A few days after the hearing, in July 2011, A.A. received another three-month permit.

In October 2011, A.A. submitted an application to renew the permit, but the military did not bother answering. This time, HaMoked’s letters were also to no avail and it had no choice but to file a petition with the Supreme Court requesting it to instruct the military to respond to the application.  In December 2011, two weeks after the petition was filed, the State Attorney’s Office notified HaMoked that the permit had been renewed for an additional three-month period.

What followed seems to be self-evident. In February 2012, A.A. once again tried to renew the permit and was once again met with silence from the military. Two more months went by before he was allowed access to his land. Of the 42 month-period between early 2010 and mid-2012, the military denied A.A. access to his land, located, as recalled, inside the West Bank, for 18 months — not because of security considerations or any pertinent reason, but simply due to arbitrary bureaucracy. (Case 65808)

QUESTION:  How does a farmer cultivate his fields if he is prevented from accessing his land?

S.K. and R.K., a couple from the Jenin area, were married in early November 2009.  The distance between their childhood homes is no more than a few hundred meters, but the wall Israel built separates them. The two sought to make their new home in the wife’s village, west of the wall. Immediately after the wedding, the husband updated his address in the population registry to his wife’s address and applied for a “new seam zone resident certificate.” The military rejected the application on the absurd claim that the applicant “is not a permanent resident.” In other words, he was denied a permit because he did not have one. Another application received the same answer.

At the same time, in order to see his new wife, the husband requested a permit to visit the “seam zone.” In late February 2010, the military issued him a “personal needs permit” which allowed him to visit his wife for three days over a period of three months, and only during the day.

In July 2010, HaMoked filed a third application for a “new seam zone resident certificate.” Due to further delays in processing, HaMoked contacted the Israeli Coordination Officer at the Jenin DCO by phone, but the latter replied: “I know him … It’s not urgent. He’s not living on the streets. He can wait.”

When no answer came for three weeks, HaMoked petitioned the Supreme Court requesting it to instruct the military to issue a “new seam zone resident certificate” for R.K.  In the petition, HaMoked argued that preventing the couple from living together was a severe violation of their right to family life and of the petitioner’s right to freedom of movement in his country. In October 2010, ten months after the first application was filed, the husband received a six-month entry permit for the “seam zone” as the first stage in the graduated process toward becoming a “permanent seam zone resident.” Six months later, after the many required documents were filed once again, the military renewed the permit for six more months. Yet, the legal-bureaucratic battle got the best of the couple and as of the summer of 2012 they have been living in the husband’s home, east of the separation wall. The wife splits her time between her home in her husband’s village and her parents’ home in the “seam zone.” (Case 65164)

QUESTION: Isn’t the goal of Israel’s permit regime in the “seam zone” — to force the Palestinians off of their land which Israelis want for the State of Israel?

This report is depressing, but a necessary resource for anyone who wants a good understanding of the legal bureaucratic BULLSHIT that Palestinians must live with day-in-and-day-out.

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