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The military to HaMoked: your arguments regarding the new “Seam Zone Standing Orders” are petty and rehashed

Since 2003, the Israeli military has been implementing a draconian permit regime in the West Bank areas trapped between the separation wall and the Green Line Border, calling them the “seam zone”. The regime applies to Palestinians only; Israelis and tourists need no permit to enter the “seam zone” or stay there. The regulations governing Palestinians’ entry to and stay in the “seam zone” are detailed in a military document called “The Seam Zone Standing Orders”, which spans dozens of pages, contains numerous guidelines and charts, and is updated occasionally. Under the Standing Orders, the lives of thousands of Palestinians are subjected to a unique and stifling bureaucratic mechanism managed by the military, dictating when a person may be deemed to have an “affinity” to a place inside the “seam zone”, how many laborers are allowed to work in each farm plot, how long must a person wait for a permit, the length of the permit and so on.

On March 9, 2017, the military published the fifth and latest version of the Standing Orders, which continues the negative trend of the previous version, restricting further the already limited rights of the Palestinians to work and travel in the “seam zone” areas and cultivate their farmlands there. This, despite the state’s undertaking before the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to minimize as much as possible the damage caused to Palestinians harmed as a result of the wall’s construction, and in disregard of HaMoked’s letter to the civil administration, sent January 4, 2017, which listed various objections to the preceding Standing Orders, and demanded the wrongful policy effected thereby.

Following the publication of the new Standing Orders, HaMoked contacted the civil administration again on June 13, 2017, demanding the reexamination and alteration of the regulations set therein according to needs of the Palestinian population. HaMoked stressed that the complex bureaucratic mechanism established by the military, allegedly in order to regulate access to the “seam zone”-trapped areas, actually led to a drastic drop in the scope of cultivation of agricultural lands as well as severe economic losses to the farmers and business owners there; the outcome being irreparable harm to the local customs and fabric of life existing there for generations.

In a response from July 16, 2017, the civil administration public liaison officer ignored HaMoked’s principle arguments, attributed the adverse changes in the Standing Orders to “security circumstances”, and some he even presented as “improving the service provided to the residents”. Thus for example, regarding sheep and goat grazing, now restricted to the specific grazing area owned by the livestock owner, it was claimed that “together with the preservation of the tradition and culture, the regulations were meant to preserve the rights relating to the private property of others”.

In another response of the same date concerning HaMoked’s earlier letter, the public liaison officer said “the letter’s style and content are petty”, and even blamed HaMoked for “recycling claims”. In both responses, it was mentioned that an official Arabic translation of the Standing Orders had been published on the COGAT website recently – finally, after years of ignoring HaMoked’s demand that it be done. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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