By EA Hannah
Jalal is a farmer in the North West Bank. His grandfather owned 75 dunams (18.5 acres) of land, which Jalal inherited along with his siblings and cousins. Here they grow many vegetables including cucumbers, aubergines and courgettes. The farm used to provide a good income and allowed Jalal’s family to live a fairly comfortable life in their small village.
In 2002, however, following the second intifada (a Palestinian political uprising, which turned violent on both sides) the Israeli government decided to build a barrier through Jalal’s farm. Jalal’s land is within the 1948 UN-declared border that marks the division between Israel and Palestine, known as the Green Line. Under international law, Jalal’s land is therefore Palestinian land. But the Israeli government built the barrier a few kilometres into the Palestinian side where Jalal lives. This land between the wall and the Green Line has become known as the Seam Zone.
Jalal can still access five acres on the side of the wall where his village is, but in order to access the remaining 13.5 acres he has to enter through an agricultural gate, also built on his land. This gate is only open three times a day: 6:15-6:45am, 11:30-11:40am and 3:00-3:40pm. By 3:40pm all farmers must be back through the gate or they risk losing their permits altogether for spending the night in Israel. The gate opening times are decided by the Israeli government, without consultation with the farmers.
In order to pass through the agricultural gate Jalal must obtain permission from the Israeli government. When the barrier was first built every person in the village was automatically issued with a permit to enter the land, whether or not they owned land there themselves. But each year access to land becomes more difficult. Now Jalal has to be able to prove the land belonged to his grandfather, and that he is the rightful owner. An area of 13 acres can be difficult to farm alone, so Jalal must apply for permits to take workers through to his own land, and these are becoming harder to obtain. If Jalal wants to take his tractor, he must also ask for permission. If he wants to take small plants through the gate, or water pipes for irrigation, or plastic to cover his greenhouses, he must also ask for permission. Sometimes, even if Jalal has obtained permission from the Israeli office, the soldiers on the gate still tell him he is not allowed.
Another problem that many farmers across the West Bank face is wild pigs. Jalal says that before the Israeli government built the barrier they did have wild pigs, but the pigs could move freely across the land. Now he believes they have got stuck on one side of the barrier, and therefore spend much more time on his land. As Jalal is unable to be on his land in the evening he cannot scare the pigs away. Beside the fence it is very quiet and dark at night time, with no farmers around, so the pigs have made it their home. Jalal tried building a fence around his land but the pigs were able to burrow underneath it. The pigs eat many of his crops, meaning he loses much of his income. Many farmers across the West Bank talk about the problem of wild pigs.
“the yield of olive trees in the area between the Barrier and the Green Line has reduced by approximately 65 per cent in comparison with equivalent trees in areas which can be accessed all year round.”
Jalal’s story is not unique. According to UNOCHA, 85 percent of the separation barrier is inside the 1948 Green Line. This means that large amounts of Palestinian land are caught on the wrong side of the barrier. The lack of access results in huge loss of income. For example, UNOCHA found that, over a three year period, “the yield of olive trees in the area between the Barrier and the Green Line has reduced by approximately 65 per cent in comparison with equivalent trees in areas which can be accessed all year round.”
Israel’s justification for the wall is security. On the Israel Defence Force website it explains that:
“During the Second Intifada (2000-2005), terrorists from Judea and Samaria executed horrific attacks including shootings, suicide attacks, and bombings. The violence proved to be most fatal between 2001 and 2004, when 984 Israelis were murdered. As a direct response to the attacks, the IDF began construction of the security fence.”
In 2004, however, the International Court of Justice released an Advisory Opinion on the wall which found it to be in breach of international law. The route of the wall infringes heavily on the rights of people like Jalal, and for this reason is considered in breach of the UN Charter.
Support the work of Stop the Wall, a Palestinian-led grassroots organisation that aims to stop the building of the wall and return stolen land to its owners.
Read the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Wall and ask your politicians to pressureIsrael to adhere to international law.