'Atil, Deir al-Ghusun

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Alex Weitzman, Micki Fisher (reporting)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

We went to Deir Al Ghoussoun  to hear and speak with farmers and the village council people about the implications of changing the instructions for crossing the separation barrier checkpoints to the villagers’ lands in the seam-line zone.

Deir Al Ghoussoun town council – 11:30
We met with the town mayor and B. who is responsible for collecting the villagers’ permits and transferring them to the Palestinian DCO.

They said the new problems began immediately following the olive harvest this year. They complained about the tightening restrictions in issuing permits. Many farmers and their family members who until now were issued permits, could no longer renew them. They produced various examples – a grandson of a landowner whose permit was not re-issued, the husband of a woman who inherited land who was rejected on grounds that the land was not his although he was needed for hard physical work. Two brothers inherited land for which their sister received the permit while her brother was rejected with the claim that he did not own land. After another four applications, for each of which the brother needed to pay steep fees, a miracle of sorts did happen although none of the circumstances changed, and the  brother – did receive the permit!

They also had complaints about the Palestinian DCO: they argued that the clerks there only serve as couriers, passing on the applications without sorting them, and without understanding the need for issuing permits to farmers who really need them, to cultivate their land and work in their greenhouses. The applications are rejected or approved without any argument or discussion. Our interlocutors said they expected the DCO people to argue the need for farmers’ permits but all this was not done – the clerks give
in and obey only the instructions of the Israeli DCO.

In spite of our repeated questions, we could not understand from them what new change had been implemented, following which the Palestinian DCO refuses to pass the applications to the Israeli DCO for the past month, and apparently they don’t know the reason either. They do know in general that the conditions stipulated in the orders have worsened. Still they remarked that they plan to think together with the other villages’ representatives and the Palestinian DCO officials how to handle the new situation. We asked to be updated, and informed about procedures which they think could help them in order to change the new instructions, as soon as they have the full picture.

Atil Checkpoint (619) – 13:00

The checkpoint was supposed to open at 13:00 but was actually only opened at 13:15. The farmers told us this happens often, for after all the Palestinians are supposed to have all the time in the world… We watched as about 30 farmers who came back from their fields and greenhouses inside the seam-line zone were not inspected at all but rather streamed through the checkpoint fences into the West Bank – 4-5 tractors with workers and carts, and other farmers crossing on foot. Only 4 farmers went out to the seam-line zone at this time for another 4 hours – until the checkpoint opens in the evening.

2 farmers who already met Machsomwatch volunteers two weeks earlier turned to us and complained about the permit situation – the greenhouse workers’ permits have run out and they cannot renew them because the Palestinian DCO refuses to process their applications.

They visited the Palestinian DCO during the week and learned there that instructions have worsened – and this will enable the Israelis to prevent them from cultivating their lands and greenhouses next year (as if this were different so far…), which will eventually result in the confiscation of such areas and their annexation to Israel. Consequently the farmers were very distressed: they have sown vegetables which are to ripen within 2-3 weeks, and the workers are supposed to come help harvest them. Now they are about to lose their income. They refused out help in this work, saying we’re not professional and would not be of any use, and repeated they needed help with the permit issue.

Deir Al Ghoussoun Gate 624 – 13:45
20 workers return from the fields and greenhouses, again rather quickly without any ID inspections. Here they were in a hurry and did not stop to talk with us.

At home I looked up the instructions regarding seam-line zone procedures for 2017 to try to understand the present worsened conditions and the reasons for not processing applications. I do not exaggerate when I say that I was literally shocked with this legal document for obtaining entry permits into the seam-line zone, filled with a list of conditions going into the minutest details (written only in Hebrew!) regarding the very strict conditions required to reach Palestinians’ lands enclosed beyond the separation barrier and walls. These are lands that provide livelihood and nourishment for the villagers of the West Bank unfortunate enough to own fertile lands the greater part of which has been easily and cunningly robbed from them by the occupation authorities.

At the end of an exhausting list of details and conditions is a warning revealing the intention to make it practically impossible to obtain the desired permit: it says that if certain errors are made in filling out the form, such as mistaken spelling or name, number of plot of land, the halt of a certain worker’s employment etc. – the form would then be returned, requiring to be refilled with the necessary details. Thus an exhausting ritual persists, costing the Palestinians a fortune (in legal fees) – and they can only be admired for not having given up yet.