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PHOTOS: When Israel decides to cut Palestinian farmers off from their land

The Israeli army decided last week to close the main gateway Palestinian farmers from four villages use to access their lands — which Israel cut them off from with the separation fence. After a protest the army re-opened the gate, but the incident shows how Israel controls every aspect of Palestinian life.

Photos and Text: Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

A view on an agricultural gate in the separation fence in Falamya village (Gate number 914), West Bank, May 18, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

A view of an agricultural gate in the separation fence near Falamya village (Gate number 914), West Bank, May 17, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Since Israeli started building its separation barrier in the West Bank, Palestinian farmers living along the fence have been cut off from their agricultural lands t

When Israel started building its separation wall and fence through the West Bank over a decade ago, the route it chose cut many Palestinian farmers off from their lands. As a result of legal appeals and other arrangements, the army built gates in the fence and wall through which it permits the farmers to reach their lands on certain days and during certain hours.

Read also: A journey into the dark heart of Israel’s permit regime

Last week, the Israeli army’s Civil Administration, the military government in the West Bank, informed Palestinian farmers from four West Bank villages — Kafr Jammal, Kafr Zibad, Kafr Abbus and Kafr Sur — that the gate they use to reach their lands, which lie on the other side of the fence.

In order to reach their lands, the army told the farmers that they would have to use another gate near the village of Jayyous, about 15 kilometers from their usual gate near the village of Falamya. Some of the farmers told Activestills they believed the decision was the beginning of an attempt to confiscate their land. Israeli authorities often exploit an Ottoman law that permits the state to confiscate land that hasn’t been cultivated for a number of years.

Palestinian farmers are seen beside the agricultural gate of the separation fence in Falamya village (gate 914), West Bank, May 18, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Palestinian farmers walking through an agricultural gate near Falamya village (gate 914), West Bank, May 17, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Palestinian farmer drive his tractor on the western side of the separation fence in Falamya village, West Bank, May 18, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Palestinian farmer drives his tractor on the western side of the separation fence in Falamya village, West Bank, May 17, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

At 6 a.m. on Sunday the farmers arrived at their usual gate near Falamya, the gate their were told would be closed. They staged a demonstration demanding that the gate be re-opened.

Following the protest, the army decided to re-open the gate, saying that the closure was a pilot program, which was scrapped in light of the residents’ protests.

On a normal day, Israeli soldiers open the gate at 6 a.m. to let the farmers access their lands and reopen it at noon, allowing them to come back. Sometimes, when the farmers finish their work early, they have to wait for hours until the soldiers come to open the gate.

Palestinian farmer stands beside an agricultural gate in the separation fence in Falamya village (Gate number 914), West Bank, May 18, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Palestinian farmer stands beside an agricultural gate in the separation fence near Falamya village (Gate number 914), West Bank, May 17, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

The International Court of Justice has published its opinion that the route of the wall is illegal and called on Israel to cease construction of it. Israel claimed at the time that the route was temporary and did not constitute a change to the Green Line or attempted annexation.

The route of the separation fence/wall, however, does not follow the 1949 Green Line, which most of the world recognizes as the interim border between Israel and the West Bank. It snakes through the Palestinian territory and Israeli officials have even admitted that it is intended to be a future border, which would constitute illegal annexation.

Further, Palestinians whose privately owned land lies trapped on the other side of the separation barrier but still within the West Bank — the seam zone — must obtain permits from the Israeli Civil Administration. Often times such permits are arbitrarily denied, and are often used as leverage — one of many ways that Israel maintains its undemocratic control over the occupied population of Palestinians.

A Palestinian farmer argues with an Israeli soldier on the western side of the separation fence in Falamya village, West Bank, May 18, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

A Palestinian farmer argues with an Israeli soldier on the western side of the separation fence in Falamya village, West Bank, May 17, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

 

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    1. Ben

      “The International Court of Justice has published its opinion that the route of the wall is illegal and called on Israel to cease construction of it. Israel claimed at the time that the route was temporary and did not constitute a change to the Green Line or attempted annexation… [meanwhile] Israeli officials have even admitted that it is intended to be a future border, which would constitute illegal annexation.”

      It’s a temporary future border, you see. That non sequitur sums up the central tactics of the occupation: sneakiness and prevarication. This has never changed. For 48 years now Israel has said that it claims it is in the right legally and morally and has nothing to hide. But what Israel actually DOES is completely at odds with what it SAYS. This has always been the case. An entity that truly says and believes it is right does not sneak around in the middle of the night. Regarding which:

      Gershom Gorenburg:

      “Israel knew all along that settlements and home demolitions were illegal.
      It was March 1968. Yaakov Herzog, director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, received a memo marked “Top Secret” from the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser, Theodor Meron. As the government’s authority on international law, Meron was responding to questions put to him about the legality of demolishing the homes of terror suspects in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and of deporting residents on security grounds.

      His answer: Both measures violated the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in war. The government’s justifications of the measures – that they were permitted under British emergency regulations still in force, or that the West Bank wasn’t occupied territory – might have value for hasbara, public diplomacy, but were legally unconvincing.

      The legal adviser’s stance in 1968 is important today precisely because it is unexceptional. It’s the view of nearly all scholars of international law, including prominent Israeli experts. The memo shows that from the very start of the occupation, central figures in the Israeli government knew that deportations and demolitions violated Israel’s international commitments, and not just in the eyes of outside critics.

      Yet both measures have been used ever since…,

      The discovery of Meron’s memo on demolitions and deportations is additional evidence that the regime under which the West Bank is governed began in deception and has been maintained by self-deception – by the government, by the hasbara machine and sometimes by our Supreme Court….”

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        Who cares what the Kangaroo court which calls itself a court of justice. The proceedings before the court were a travesty. The court did not hear evidence on the separation barrier. It accepted reports from anti-Israel individuals and organizations instead of holding a trial where evidence was presented by experts from both sides who were subject to cross examination. One of the judges himself commented that the court had no evidence before it to make any decision, much less the decision it made.

        The separation barrier was examined by Israel’s Supreme Court which held months of testimony form all parties before reaching its decisions. It concluded that the separation barrier was built for defence of Jewish life and not as a border. In some cases the court has ordered the location of the barrier to be moved when the state could not show that the necessity of the barrier in that location.

        If there was no Palestinian terror, there would be no separation barrier and no gates.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Ye who have a squatter Supreme Court judge living in a particularly aggressively victimizing illegal settlement want to talk about KANGAROO COURTS?! Who do you think you’re kidding?!

          Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            Of course Pedro resorts to smear tactic again, because he has no counter arguments.
            Every civilized state who isn’t violating international law cares for this court. He won’t tell you that it was Israel that refused to cooperate in the proceeding and to present its arguments. He won’t tell you that this one judge made his comments against 14 judges and as he wrote “Court’s sweeping conclusion that the wall as a whole, to the extent that it is constructed on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, violates international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”. He won’t tell you that Israel doesn’t even implement the ruling of its Supreme “Kangaroo court” to move the barrier but keeps shooting at Palestinias who demonstrate against this inactivity.
            He won’t tell you that Israel’s settlers are not considered to be protected persons under international law, but that one of the obligation’s of an occupier is to protect the occupied people against colonialization by citizens of the occupying state. And he won’t tell you that Israel’s Shin Bet has allready declared in 2006 that the main cause for reduced terror is not the wall which doesn’t even prevent thousands of Palestinians to sneak in on a daily basis looking for jobs, but the fact that they maintain a truce.

            Btw. one of the Security Council resolution which wasn’t even vetoed by the US and Israel keeps violating for 35 years:
            “5. Determines that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East;
            6. Strongly deplores the continuation and persistence of Israel in pursuing those policies and practices and calls upon the Government and people of Israel to rescind those measures, to dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem;”
            http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/5AA254A1C8F8B1CB852560E50075D7D5

            Quick Pedro, smear the US and the Security Council!

            Reply to Comment