Masha, meeting with the DCO head
Translator: Charles K.
Following our letter to the Attorney General, ‘Adel, the head of the DCO, asked to meet the farmers from the various villages and hear about the problems directly from them.
We met with him at 9:00. He arrived along with Tedesa, the crossings officer, Anwar, who’s in charge of permits, and two additional soldiers. From the Palestinian side there were two farmers whose land adjoins the Hani gate and who couldn’t reach their land this year, a representative from the Palestinian Liaison Office, and Elkana’s head of security – who learned Arabic as a child at home, and it was clear that his opinion, and that of his masters, was worth more than that of the Palestinians.
‘Adel said the purpose of the discussion was to understand the problems and prepare for next year’s olive harvest season, so that every family and landowner will be able to harvest their crop. He wanted to understand a number of things: why couldn’t they reach their lands via the northern Maskha gate. Their answer: Because they have to go through the expanding settlement as well as impassable wadis. They also didn’t understand why the gate was closed at the end of October instead of the end of November. Adel replied that by the last week of October almost no one was going through, so the army decided that the harvest had ended.
The head of security added that people with permits for Hani gate – the children among them went into the settlement and stole things and threw stones, so they don’t have to be let in. In reply, one of the farmers said that the head of security had ordered the soldiers at the gate to admit children from a family that didn’t even have a permit because he knew those children would steal and that’s how he could prove he was right.
We added a question: Why is the gate seasonal rather than being open year-round? We didn’t get an answer. We requested that an extended, defined period should be set annually for agricultural activity. Very often these activities can’t be carried out even if the gate is opened briefly in January, etc., because of rain and other reasons.
We said that the Ministry of Agriculture also has a yearly calendar. He said they use the calendar prepared by Samir Mu’adi, the Civil Administration’s Agricultural Officer.
‘Adel asked the farmers for two things: a list of the actual owners of each plot in order to prepare permits. He also asked them not to include all the family members and others , but only those who will actually be doing the work. He also said that as soon as he receives the list he’ll go into the field to see the problems, how each farmer will be able to reach his land, and through which gate. The farmers said they’d prepare a list and transmit it via the Palestinian liaison office.
We raised an additional problem: the harvest season is also a traditional activity in Palestinian culture, a family event. Why deny it to them? Even though the DCO head is familiar with this from his village, and as a farmer, and from the agricultural traditions of the country’s Druze and Arab villages, he said that it wasn’t possible to do so as a rule, and it looks like he’ll impose restrictions.
Our view is that the fence prevents leading a normal life, in which the Palestinians decide when to cultivate their fields according to their own priorities – for example, the order in which they’ll work the plots, which days, to work only on Friday and Saturday, etc. In addition, the request that only a restricted number of names be submitted, and not grant permits to others, is problematic – it implies a recognition of the legality of the fence and of the restriction on their mobility.
Regarding the permits: ‘Adel said they must submit their applications by July, but since they don’t get answers until September they submit new applications a few weeks later and the whole system becomes jammed. On the other hand, he didn’t mention that they don’t know whether they’ll even be given a permit, and often applications get lost, and they’re told at the last minute that no application was ever submitted – incidents we’ve described in our reports in the past. It’s worth keeping track of the applications this year, and what arrangements the Palestinians have made to deal with all our inconsistencies.