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12.11.2018

At the height of the olive harvest: the military issued entry permits to "the Seam Zone" to Palestinian farmers, valid for less than two months

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.


Palestinians who own agricultural land in the Seam Zone are granted, according to the military's regulations, "farmer permits" valid for two years. If the landowners wish to employ additional laborers to help cultivate their lands, they must submit separate requests for "agricultural employment permits" on their behalf. The military sets caps for this type of permit based on the size of the plot and the crops grown. But during the olive harvest, which takes place between October and December, the military's regulations allow for additional permits to be issued beyond the normal caps, due to the increased need for helping hands.


On August 12, 2018, HaMoked submitted a request to the head of the Civil Administration, as it does each year, demanding that the military prepare for the olive harvest in advance in order to prevent harm to the right to livelihood of Palestinians who own land in the Seam Zone. HaMoked demanded that the military ensure the automatic extension of "farmer permits" and "agricultural employment permits" due to expire close to or during the harvest. HaMoked further demanded that new permits issued for the harvest be granted for long enough periods to prevent the need to extend them in the middle of the season.


But HaMoked's letter received no response, and worse: the military issued many landowners, who submitted permit renewal applications close to the beginning of the olive harvest, special "olive harvest permits" valid for less than two months, and did not review their requests to renew their farmer permits. As such, on October 11, 2018, HaMoked contacted the military asking why 28 Palestinian farmers, who have received two-year farmer permits for the Seam Zone for years, were issued permits for such a short time. HaMoked clarified that the landowners submitted requests to renew their permits several months previously – the first among them in May 2018 – and received no response to their requests until the time of writing.


In an outrageous response from October 22, 2018, the military claimed that all 28 farmers had submitted requests for "olive harvest permits", and not requests for "farmer permits", and further stated that "all complaints should be brought by the Palestinians to the Palestinian coordination office".


As such, on October 29, 2018, HaMoked submitted a complaint to the military regarding its inadequate handling of permits for agricultural purposes during the olive harvest, stressing that not only did the military not act leniently with Palestinian landowners during this period, it burdened them even more than usual and tightened its policy on the matter. HaMoked claimed that during the olive harvest, permits were issued negligently and without individual review of requests. HaMoked further claimed that the military's own orders for granting entry permits to the Seam Zone state that farmer permits should be issued for two-year periods, and in cases where permits are issued for shorter periods than those stated in the orders, a reason for the decision must be provided.


But the military continued to dig in its heels, and refused to review the requests submitted by the landowners individually. In a response from November 11, 2018, the military claimed that, following a review in its computer system, it found that all the landowners mentioned in HaMoked's letters had submitted requests for olive harvest permits, and not requests for farmer permits. The military repeated its demand that the farmers submit new requests "with all the relevant documents attached, at the end of the olive harvest".


Thus, many Palestinian farmers will remain without permits at the height of the olive harvest, and will be forced once again to begin the exhausting bureaucratic process of submitting a request for a farmer permit. This, though their sole request is to access their own land and cultivate it, and though they have already submitted requests for new permits, which received no response.


mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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