security fence 298 88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court on Tuesday rejected a petition filed by NGOs against the
government and the military for what they called the “permit regime” practiced
in closed military zones adjacent to the security barrier.
The Bil’in Demos
Palestinians fire at Defense Ministry workers near Gaza security fence
The NGOs – the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Moked: Center for the Defense
of the Individual – claimed that “the selective entrance policy discriminates
against Palestinians, forcing them to obtain special and provisional permits
from the army to access their own lands, but allowing Israelis and Jews from
across the world to enter and exit the area freely.”
The NGOs also argued
that subjecting residents to this impossible bureaucracy was intended to prevent
them from accessing their lands, and eventually to expel Palestinians from
“While Israel increased over the years the scope of the territories
trapped west of the separation barrier by 30 percent, there has been an 87%
decrease since 2007 in the number of permanent permits given to farmers wishing
to access their lands,” argued the groups.
The state argued in response
that the policy was necessary to ensure security and that they were doing
everything possible to ease the hardships of those affected by it, by
introducing new practices and regulations.
In her ruling, Supreme Court
President Dorit Beinisch wrote that the “permit regime” was a byproduct of the
barrier’s path, which in itself caused harm to the rights of the Palestinian
“The limitations placed by the regime make the leading of a
normal life difficult for the residents of the seam zone and their brothers who
live in the rest of the West Bank. The petitions present a grim picture of a
harsh daily reality that these residents have had to live with since the permit
regime was put in place,” wrote Beinisch.
“We do not dispute these
hardships, and it seems the state is well aware of them, too,” she continued.
“That said, this time, too, we cannot ignore the necessary security purpose that
was the basis for closing off the seam zone, and therefore used the legal tools
available to us to determine whether the military commander had done everything
possible to reduce the harm to the residents by the closure regime.”
light of the evidence placed before the court, the judges determined that
barring several small corrections to the procedures, closing off the seam zone
was legal, and they rejected the petition.
Following the trial, the NGOs
harshly criticized the court’s ruling.
“The policy turns Palestinians’
human rights into a privilege, dependent on the whim of army commanders and
reliant on a complex and non-transparent bureaucratic system that needs to be
approached time and again.
Coercing Palestinians to this system
constitutes a severe infringement on freedom of movement and access to land and
livelihood, and also limits their access to emergency services,” read a
statement by ACRI.
“The severe harm suffered daily by tens of thousands
of Palestinians in the seam zone in utterly unnecessary,” said ACRI’s Limor
Yehuda. “Security needs could have been met through other means, such as
inspections carried out in gates located along the barrier and in checkpoints
located on the Green Line itself.”
Yehuda added that “this unfortunate
verdict is another example of the way in which any so-called security claim is
used to strip people of their dignity, disturb their way of life, and take away
their source of livelihood.”
Attorney Michael Sfard, who represented
Moked in the petition, said, “The permit regime has always been and will remain,
unfortunately, a monstrous legal tool to discriminate between individuals based
on their national identity. It is a system that limits the entrance of some
nationals to a defined territory while providing limitless access to other
This type of arrangement is known by a specific name it was
given in International Humanitarian Law.”
He added, “We deeply lament the
High Court decision to uphold such a regime, which violates and the basic
principles of human morality.”