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16.12.2020

Order nisi in HaMoked’s HCJ petition: the state must show why the “tiny plots” criterion should not be cancelled as a reason to deny Palestinian farmers access to lands in the Seam Zone areas of the West Bank

On November 23, 2020, HaMoked submitted a response in the framework of its High Court petition to cancel harsh new military restrictions on Palestinians’ access to the Seam Zone, i.e., West Bank lands that are trapped between the Separation Barrier and the Green Line. In its response, HaMoked reiterated its demand to stop the denial of permits on the outrageous claim of a “tiny plot” which allegedly does not require cultivation. This claim, introduced in 2017, is used by the military mainly to infringe on the right of farmers to access large plots that are jointly owned by extended family, and could result in a denial of virtually all Seam Zone farming permits.

HaMoked further argued that in 2011 the HCJ approved the Seam Zone permit regime solely on security grounds, specifically the mass-casualty bomb attacks of the second intifada; and as the security situation had significantly improved since then, there was no justification to establish even harsher restrictions on farmers’ access to their lands. Accordingly, there was no reason to deviate from the 2011 High Court judgment whereby people with ties to land in the Seam Zone are entitled to access this area so long as there is no individual security preclusion. HaMoked demonstrated that that data provided by the state in its updating notice of October 26, 2020, did not address the court’s concerns and in fact substantiated HaMoked’s claim about a significant drop in the number of permits issued to farmers over the years, in comparison to the early years of the permit regime and contrary to the state’s claim about an increase in permits.

It seems that the HCJ found HaMoked’s arguments persuasive. On December 10, 2020, the court issued an order nisi directing the state to respond within 60 days as to “why should Art. 14(A)(7) [concerning the “tiny plot”] of the Seam Zone Set of Regulations not be cancelled… and/or replaced by another arrangement which provides for the joint owners of rights in plots”.

It should be noted that in the framework of its updating notice, the state announced its intention to cancel the “punch card” permit – which restricts the access of most farmers to the Seam Zone to just forty days per year – the cancellation of which was also sought as part of HaMoked’s petition.
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