Miriam S., Miki F. (reporting) Transl. Judith Green
7:30 - Agricultural checkpoint, Far'un. The checkpoint was already open at 7:15, and serves as an agricultural crossing point at Far'un for their fields along the seam line.
There were no particular problems during our shift at the crossing. Before we arrived, according to the farmers, about 30 of them had already entered and we saw a line of another 40 farmers who went through in about half an hour while we were there, after a check of their documents on their way to their fields.
The agricultural checkpoint of Far'un is open 3 times a week, on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, in the morning from 7:15 - 8:00 and in the afternoon, from 12:45-13:30; again, from 4:30-5:15 (the hours occasionally change and should be checked with the DCO before arriving). The farmers own about 2500 dunam and perhaps more along the seam line (the amount varies because of changes in the route of the fence at nearby Jubara). The farmers with whom we spoke asked urgently for our help in opening the checkpoint every day of the week, so they could also plant barley and other crops among the olive trees.
While we were observing, a number of farmers turned to us, hoping to pass through that morning, but their permits expired and they had requested renewals. Two brothers whose family owned 38 dunam and only their elderly mother had a valid permit today. One brother had submitted a request two weeks ago at the Palestinian office, but still had not received an answer. Clarification at the DCO revealed that he had been tagged as not eligible in the GSS computer. So his request is meanwhile delayed and he has to undergo what is called the GSS test and his new permit will apparently be labelled "agricultural permit in spite of non-eligibility".
The second brother submitted his request a few days earlier, so it seems it has not yet passed from the Palestinian office to the Israeli one. The third farmer complained that, a week ago, the soldiers had torn up his ID, on the claim that it was forged. Since then he has entered using his Palestinian passport. In these cases, there is not much to do, since this is his version versus theirs and probably the soldiers will say, even if there are witnesses, that he made up the story and in fact he lost his permit. He was told to go to the Palestinian Authority and get a new document. This costs about 300 NIS and, before that, he has to produce a statement about what happened at the Shar'iya court which also costs a lot of money. Such is life in a place where there is no law and no court. Or, more accurately,life is carried out according to the occupier's system and there is no recourse.
Another farmer told us that he has 2 plots. One next to Far'un and the other at the Jubara checkpoint, about 15 k. from Far'un. He doesn't get to work the plot near Jubara, because the checkpoint there is seasonal, open only twice a year - in the olive harvest season and in the winter. In the plowing season, unfortunately, only 3 farmers, 2 from Jubara and him, have agricultural land remaining after the change in the route of the fence, and the army does not make any effort to compensate them or open the gate near their land. So, he doesn't work that land and the crops diminish every year and they might even lose the plot if they don't manage to get to work it a few times a year.
The farmers continued to complain that, very often, the soldiers are late in opening the gate, by 2 hours or even 3 hours. In fact, sometimes I get phone calls from farmers at the checkpoint waiting for it to open. In these cases, I have been told that the soldiers are late because they are dealing with some security problem along the fence. The army does not have "budget" for alternative jeeps for just opening the gates, and so the Palestinians have to wait almost every week and waste their time in waiting for the checkpoint to open, not to mention the fact that they only get there after leaving at 7:00 in the morning and only return home at 8:00 in the evening.
Furthermore: On neither side of the checkpoint is there a shed in which to sit and wait, so they are forced to wait in the blazing sun in the summer in the afternoon, or in the rain during the winter - they have asked the Palestinian Authority several times and to the DCO staff in Israel, in vain.
Finally - as in the saying, that troubles don't go by ones but are stuck one to the other: the farmers report that, in the previous week, the DCO people and the army made an inspection of the fields and blamed the farmers that they were working on the Israeli side. So, they threatened them that they would stop issuing permits for the farmers at Far'un.
We made an agreement with the farmers that they would let us know if anything like this did happen, because it could be just a rumor that was traveling around but wouldn't happen.
8:00 - the gate closed.
On our way out, we pass a sports field about 50 m. from the fence and the gate. The field was renovated and rebuilt thanks to funds from European foundations. They intended to use them for creating teams for Bnai haCfar and the village children. But then they were not allowed to use the area because of its proximity to the fence. Every time they tried to hold a game, an army vehicle would arrive which chased them away and even used tear gas a few times. About 2 months ago,the village council turned to the Red Cross for help. They got to organize games for one week, but then they were again forbidden and they aren't allowed to play there. (another instance of discrimination against Palestinian sports to report to FIFA?)
8:15 - Visit to the village council. The chairman was not present, but the secretary of the council received us. He pointed out that, in order to follow up on the giving of permits, they had asked every farmer in the village to submit their requests by way of the village council which would then pass them along to the Palestinian office, and from there to the Israeli DCO. That way, he would be able to followup in an orderly way and even check if the farmers or workers who helped them work their fields were refused permits and they could then complain in their names more effectively and prevent the abandonment of the fields along the seam line. Hopefully,they will be able to defeat the bureaucracy of the occupation that touches every aspect of life...