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The Disappearing Plot of Land: the state issued an entry permit to "the Seam Zone" to a Palestinian to tend his lands, after insisting for two years that his plot is not there

Since 2003, the Israeli military has imposed a draconian permit regime in the West Bank areas trapped between the separation wall and the Green Line (the armistice line between Israel and the West Bank), an area it refers to as "the Seam Zone". The permit regime applies to Palestinians only; Israelis and tourists do not require a permit to enter the Seam Zone or stay in it. Palestinians who live in the Seam Zone or wish to enter it in order to tend to their lands, visit relatives or conduct business, are forced to obtain a permit, subject to the regulations of a stifling and highly bureaucratic military mechanism, which dictates a myriad of conditions for the receipt of permits to enter and stay in the Seam Zone.

In March 2016, a Palestinian resident of the village Qaffin submitted a request for an entry permit to the Seam Zone for agricultural purposes, in order to cultivate land owned by his family for generations. The man, who had previously received a number of permits for the very same plot, received no response to his request for several months. He was finally issued a permit valid for two weeks only – a timeframe that does not enable ongoing cultivation of the land. As such, on December 29, 2016, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on the man's behalf, demanding that he be issued an entry permit to the Seam Zone for the maximum amount of time possible, and that the state be obligated to comply with the timeframe set in its own procedures, and respond to requests for permits on time.

In its response from June 8, 2017, the state suddenly claimed that the man's family's lands are not located in the Seam Zone at all. This, despite the fact that the state had previously recognized the man's, and his family's, ties to the very same land, and over the years issued no less than 12 permits to him and his father for the purpose of cultivating it. The state based its new position on a tour conducted in the area of the plot, claiming the name of the plot the man indicated he owns, which is referred to by the military as "al-Wakr", differs from the name as it appears in the deed of ownership and the inheritance order presented by the man, which refers to a plot by the name of "al-Morady".

On October 15, 2017, HaMoked submitted a response, claiming that the map of the area, which was relayed to it by the Qaffin municipality, clearly shows a plot by the name of "al-Morady", which is in fact a sub-plot of the "al-Wakr" plot. HaMoked further claimed that the inheritance order issued to the man's father, which refers to the "al-Morady" plot as located in the lands of the village Qaffin, was issued by the Israeli military itself. The military issued permits for the Seam Zone to the man and his family for years based on this document. HaMoked claimed that the state's new position, according to which it does not recognize a plot by the name of "al-Morady" in the Seam Zone, is contradictory to its previous position, and puts the burden of proof on the man to prove that the plot is in fact where it is.

On February 11, 2018, two years since the man submitted his permit request, the state provided a response, according to which "without conducting a comprehensive mapping of the al-Wakr plot […] it cannot be definitively stated that there is no sub-plot by the name of al-Morady within the al Wakr plot". As such, the state decided to issue the man a permit, valid for six months, and simultaneously stated that it reserves the right to cancel his permit or refuse his future requests for new permits, should any new information arise indicating there is no sub-plot by the name of "al-Morady" in the area. In an additional response from July 29, 2018, the State committed to summon the man for a hearing before deciding to revoke any permits issued to him, and announced he would maintain a right to appeal any decisions to revoke his permit. In addition, the state announced it would positively consider approving future requests submitted by the man, if no new information regarding his lands arises. As such, the petition was withdrawn, and the man was able to access and cultivate his lands.

In this case, the military posed absurd demands of a Palestinian whose sole wish was to access his own lands. A man who had proven his ties to a plot in the Seam Zone for years, was suddenly demanded to prove that his lands are the same lands that appear in maps of the area and in his inheritance order. All the while, for two whole years, the man was denied access to his lands, leaving them completely neglected. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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