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From the field

Not All it Seems: Preventing Palestinians Access to their Lands West of the Separation Barrier in the Tulkarm-Qalqiliya Area

June 2004, Summary

As B'Tselem has previously highlighted, the separation barrier causes severe human rights violations affecting tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank. This report discusses the restrictions on movement of Palestinians living in villages situated close to the eastern side of the barrier in the area between Tulkarm and Qalqiliya. These restrictions make it difficult for them to reach their farmland and impair their ability to make a living.

The findings of the report include the following:

  • The current route of the separation barrier is the primary cause of human rights violations in the area. Although the route was ostensibly based on security considerations, extraneous reasons, among them the desire to route the barrier east of the settlements and land intended for their expansion, also played a role. These extraneous considerations are improper and cannot justify the violation of Palestinian human rights.
  • Since October 2003, Israel has implemented a new system of permits, through which it restricts Palestinians' access to their farmland situated west of the barrier. This system flagrantly discriminates between Palestinians and Jews and breaches Israel's obligations pursuant to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect the right of residents of the Occupied Territories to freedom of movement (Section 12) and not to discriminate against them (Section 2).
  • Israel rejects about twenty-five percent of the applications to obtain entry permits into the Seam Area.
  • The complexity and difficulty involved in obtaining a permit raises the suspicion that the policy is intended to create despair among the farmers, hoping that they will cease working their land west of the barrier.
  • Israel restricts the freedom of movement of farmers holding permits to enter their land. It has done this by reducing the number of gates through which they can enter their land from twelve gates, as stated in the order setting up the permits system, to the five gates that are operational. Israel places further restrictions on movement by opening the gates only two or three times a day and for short periods (up to ninety minutes total). Operation of the gates in this manner severely impairs the Palestinian farming sector.
  • Israel refuses to compensate Palestinians who are refused access to their lands for their loss of income. In failing to do so, Israel breaches the Fourth Geneva Convention (Section 39), pursuant to which the occupying state must ensure the residents livelihood in cases in which they are prevented from earning a living on security grounds.
  • The harm to the livelihood of many farmers in the area aggravates the economic hardship that has prevailed in the Occupied Territories since the beginning of the intifada, in late September 2000.

In light of these findings, B'Tselem urges the government of Israel to tear down the sections of the barrier that have been built within the West Bank and move them, if Israel continues to think the barrier is necessary in those areas, to the Green Line or inside Israel itself. Until that time, the government should:

  • revoke the declaration of the Seam Area as a closed military area;
  • eliminate the requirement for permits, and keep the agricultural gates open from morning to night;
  • in cases where the state denies persons access to their land for whatever reason, the authorities must state their reasons in detail and in writing, allow the persons to argue their case, and compensate them for their present and future losses.