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HaMoked to the HCJ: Palestinians over 50 must be allowed to freely access West Bank lands trapped behind the Separation Barrier; more so given that they are allowed free access to Israel

Since 2003, the Israeli military has been imposing a draconian permit regime in the West Bank areas trapped between the separation barrier 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 trade, 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. As a result, the basic rights of millions of protected persons living under prolonged occupation are violated, among them the rights to dignity and freedom of movement inside one’s own country and often also the rights to property and freedom of occupation.

On January 21, 2021, HaMoked filed a principled petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to demand that Palestinians in their sixth decade – women aged 50 and up and men aged 55 and up – be allowed to enter the Seam Zone without special permits. The petition was filed after the military failed to provide a substantive response to HaMoked’s letter on this issue, sent May 2020. HaMoked argued in the petition that the resultant harm to this group was unreasonable and disproportionate, and concerned not only their rights to freedom of movement, dignity, property and freedom of occupation, but also the right to equality – given that Israelis, tourists and others were exempt from the ban on entry to the Seam Zone and may enter these areas freely. HaMoked also stressed that Palestinians in these older age groups can freely enter Israel and so there could be no justification to bar them from reaching parts of the West Bank. Even those who are able to prove a specific tie to the Seam Zone – either proprietary, agricultural or otherwise – which according to the military warrants allowing them access, are forced to undergo protracted and exhausting struggles in order to get and periodically renew the necessary permit.

HaMoked stressed that time and again, the state declared before the HCJ that its decisions to construct the separation barrier and impose a permit regime in those parts of the West Bank were based solely on weighty security considerations and nothing else. As it is clear that there is no security benefit in including the older demographic in the ban on Palestinian access to the Seam Zone, they must be exempted from it. “Thus will it be possible to realize the principle of minimizing the Separation Barrier’s harm to the Palestinian population” – as obligated by HCJ case law – “and avoid a needless infringement to the basic rights of innocent people”. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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