Center for the Defence of the Individual - HaMoked to the High Court of Justice: Allow Palestinian farmers to cultivate their West Bank lands trapped beyond the Separation Barrier
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חזרה לעמוד הקודם

HaMoked to the High Court of Justice: Allow Palestinian farmers to cultivate their West Bank lands trapped beyond the Separation Barrier

On May 23, 2024, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to demand that the military revoke or at least mitigate the sweeping limitations on the entry of Palestinians to their farmlands trapped beyond the Separation Barrier. Tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians who hold military permits to cultivate their lands in the “Seam Zone” (the West Bank areas trapped between the Separation Barrier and the Green Line border) have been barred from reaching their lands for over seven months.

Israel has been implementing a harsh permit regime in the Seam Zone for over a decade, with the HCJ’s approval. However, the current restrictions are unprecedented. Since the war broke out, following the October 7 Hamas attacks on communities in southern Israel, the military has sweepingly denied entry into the Seam Zone for landowners, their family members and agricultural laborers, preventing them from harvesting crops and doing necessary agricultural work. 

The petition was filed as nothing had changed on the ground some five months after the HCJ rejected HaMoked’s previous petition on this matter, ruling that “the military considers the overall circumstances and strikes the required balance… [including] the possibility to coordinate the entry into the Seam Area via the District Coordination Offices…”. The judgment, issued December 13, 2023, was based on the State’s claim that it assessed daily the restrictions on access of farmers (and others) into the Seam Zone, and that under a special framework, it was possible to issue “temporary needs” permits to farmers whose crops require cultivation on a daily basis.  

However, in practice, the sweeping limitations remain the same, some six months after the judgment. Only a handful of farmers have been able to receive special coordination to access their lands. The overwhelming majority of farmers are still not allowed to access their lands. This is the case even when HaMoked files individual applications for farmers with crops that require daily cultivation: the various military entities to whom HaMoked has appealed for these special permits deny responsibility for the matter, even following legal proceedings initiated in individual cases, which clearly indicates that the military does not act to implement the special framework it devised, based on which the HCJ rejected the initial petition.     

In the current petition, HaMoked argued that the construction of the Separation Wall inside the West Bank and the establishment of the Seam Zone in and of itself has caused substantive and ongoing harm to the landowners’ rights and that this harm should be limited to the minimum necessary also at this time. HaMoked reminded the Court that the permit regime is intended to enable entry into the Seam Zone of farmers and others regardless of the security situation, as these are people who have undergone lengthy individual background checks,. But now, argued HaMoked, farmers have been denied access for months due to general security considerations, without any suspicions against any of them. Therefore, HaMoked clarified the entry arrangements being applied to the farmers since the start of the war “disproportionately harm their rights to freedom of movement, property and freedom of employment… [and even] … amount to de facto collective punishment”. HaMoked asserted that farmers should be allowed access to their lands on an individual basis, not least, given the fact that since December 2023, the military allowed some 10,000 Palestinians to work in Israeli settlements and factories in the West Bank.