Security fence permits for Palestinians petition rejected

High Court says it "cannot ignore the necessary security purpose that was basis for closing off the zone" despite "harsh daily realities" for residents.

By RON FRIEDMAN
April 6, 2011 00:46
3 minute read.
Security fence permits for Palestinians petition rejected

security fence 298 88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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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 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.”

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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 them.

“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 residents.

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“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.”

In 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 nationals.

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.”

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