The “gates” of the Apartheid Wall – promoted by the Occupation as a “humanitarian” initiative – are emerging as Zionismâs main tool to slowly expel farmers from their lands. One by one, Palestinians in the north of the West Bank are being denied access to their isolated lands under the Occupation permit system. Entire villages are now losing their livelihoods, confirming long held Palestinian beliefs that the Wall forms the mechanism to secure the annexation of their lands.
***image2***The Occupation enforces a system of “permits” upon farmers in order for them to pass through the gates. As Wall construction in the north reached completion, farmers were forced to enter into this system and apply for 2 year permits to their lands. Many farmers, and especially farm workers, became barred from accessing their lands as the Occupation granted a limited number of permits.
Most of these permits expired by October 2005. “Seasonal permits” were then issued on an even smaller scale than previous permits, ensuring more Palestinians were cut off from their livelihoods. These permits expired at the beginning of this year. Since then 2 month permits have been deployed, but with only a handful of Palestinians receiving them.
In Jenin district, between January and March, 1490 farmers applied for permits. A total of 185 permits were granted by the Occupationâs administration. These permit-holders were allowed to access their lands during the limited hours maintained by the Occupation. Farmers underwent the daily procedure of humiliation and control at the gates, whilst others denied permits became cut off from their lands altogether.
In Tura around 150 farmers and workers applied for permits. In March, 17 permits were issued, out of which two permits were made out in the names of 2 people that had already died. In April and May, an additional 35 farmers and workers were granted permits. However, from this fraction of Palestinians who had applied, some farmers from Tura received permits which only allowed travel through the gates in Araqa or Anin. This required them to undergo significantly longer travelling distances to reach their lands. Given that taking tractors or other vehicles through the gates requires an additional permit, it has begun to seriously undermine and impede agricultural activity.
Villagers in Anin itself were also denied permits during April and May. Around 400 farmers and workers applied for permits, with only 80 receiving them. In Zububa, Arabone, Faquâa, no permits were issued during these two months.
The Occupation administration appears not to consider the applications but merely works to a progressively dwindling quota system. Even those farmers who have permits today face an uncertain future under this system, and are unsure whether they will be able to access the crops they are currently preparing for summer harvest.
This situation is indicative of the system being imposed across the entire north of the West Bank. In Tulkarem, between January and March, 1500 farmers and workers applied for permits. 870 permits have been issued, 430 refused and the rest remain “pending”. Permits are again being issued for shorter periods. In April, only 30% of the Palestinians that need to pass the gates to reach their lands obtained permits.
Further, application rules are getting more and more complicated and expensive. In Tulkarem, farmers are forced to submit with their application a map of their lands, obtainable only after payment to the Palestinian and the Occupation authorities.
In Qalqiliya district, the percentage of permit holders has recently decreased by 33%, with permits valid for no more than two months.
In Jayyous, in April, out of 500 applications, a total of 445 were refused. Many of the permits – especially issued to the Youth – do not carry the signature of the Occupation military authority. Soldiers on the gates have started to confiscate these permits or to tear them up.
Palestinians are also being forced to sign at the gates in order to restrict them to the use of one gate. With restrictive opening hours some Palestinians have been forced to stay overnight on their lands. This results in automatic confiscation of permits, as the farmers are not allowed to stay more than 24 hours on their land. Meanwhile, one entire family have been refused permits and thus their greenhouses and citrus fruits are doomed to rot in the sun.
In Salfit district the expulsion policy of the farmers is continuing relentlessly in preparation of the annexation of the area and implementation of the “Convergence Plan”. In Masâha, Rafat and Zawiya, none of the farmers and workers could access their lands. In Masâha for example, out of 150 applications, 7 were issued. When these permit holders went to the lands their permits were torn up by Occupation Forces at the gates.
For the Jordan Valley, farmers with residency outside the area have been denied access to their lands for many months. Arbitrary census systems like in Wadi al Maleh, or permit systems for lands stolen by the settlements like in Sahel Libqeyeh, are destroying the possibility for Palestinians to earn their livelihoods from their lands and adding to the de facto theft of the lands.
The gates of the Wall, and the vicious permit system linked to it, complete the control over Palestinian life. The Occupation ensures that it can destroy the livelihoods of entire villages at any given moment. Farmers that invest money and time in the cultivation of their crops are later forced to see their crops ruined as the Occupation denies access during the harvest season. The oppression implicit in applying for the permit and the “opening hours” of the gates guarded by Soldiers who relish any occasion to humiliate and abuse Palestinians, makes farming in the West Bank a daily act of struggle. The systematic destruction of Palestinian livelihoods comes at a moment when Palestinians see more than ever the vicious mechanism of control installed by the Occupation and its allies.
Denial of “permits” further points to the gradual Occupation aim of permanently annexing lands West of the Apartheid Wall, whilst ensuring the ghettoization of Palestinians to the East.