Meeting organized by Machsom Watch between Kafr Jimal farmers and DCO officers, Wednesday, 15.2.12
The meeting between DCO officers and Kafr Jimal farmers was held at the Falamya agricultural checkpoint. It was intended to solve problems of farmers’ access to their lands beyond the separation fence. This was a follow-up meeting to one held in Miskha whose participants were the head of the DCO, a representative of the village, Miriam and Mikki, following a letter to the Attorney General on 18.1.12. Participating in the current meeting were the Kafr Jimal council chairman, the Falamya council chairman, five farmers from Kafr Jimal representing additional famers, two representatives of the Palestinian liason office, A’adel the head of the DCO, Tedesa the crossings officer and an additional DCO officer.
Issues raised by the farmers:
1) Kafr Jimal’s lands cover a large area beyond the separation fence. They include olive groves near the Sal’it checkpoint. This checkpoint opens only twice a day for half an hour; it also provides access to land closer to the Falamya checkpoint, a “fabric of life” checkpoint which is open all day, every day.
There are five additional smaller checkpoints along the fence. The Palestinians say they used to be open all the time. Since last summer they’re permanently locked, opening only twice a day during the olive harvest, in the morning and afternoon. Soldiers are supposed to come open them. To access these gates, the farmers must enter and leave via the Falamya checkpoint – with permits, of course. This restriction is very burdensome.
2) As noted, some of the farmers have land near the Sla’it checkpoint, and some also have land near the Falamya checkpoint. The Sla’it checkpoint is intended primarily for people who work in Sla’it, and opens according to their work hours. They ask their entry permits to specify they’re valid for both checkpoints, so they’ll have more flexibility (there’s a precedent; most residents of Jaius have permits valid for both the Jaius agricultural checkpoint and the Falamya checkpoint).
3) They want permits for additional family members during the olive harvest.
The atmosphere in the meeting at the Falamya checkpoint with the DCO head and his officers was good. When the rain became heavier we all moved to shelter inside the checkpoint area. Farmers who happened to arrive joined the discussion; the DCO head let everyone speak. The representatives of the Palestinian DCO arrived ready for the meeting with a list of all who’d applied for permits, most of whom had received them, and also participated in the discussion. Miriam and I couldn’t join in because neither of us speaks Arabic, unfortunately, but it didn’t seem our intervention had been required, which pleased us. Occasionally the Palestinians translated into Hebrew for us, and the DCO head translated the main points and what was agreed on.
He said they can’t station soldiers at all the checkpoints, nor can they reopen the small checkpoints. He said they had been opened in error. After hearing the farmers’ requests he promised to talk to brigade headquarters to see whether things could be improved.
When the meeting ended he drove along the security road with two of the farmers to see the checkpoints and decide together with them where to establish an additional checkpoint that will meet most of their needs.
We’ll wait and see what comes out of this meeting…
Attention colleagues visiting villages in the seam zone:
The DCO head notified municipal council chairmen and farmers of plans for a survey to map agricultural lands in the seam zone – that is, beyond the separation fence. The survey will involve proof of land ownership, crops raised, location of the plot and perhaps additional information. He presented the survey as a tool to deal more effectively with the farmers’ needs.
We suggest keeping an eye on these plans, and whether they might not have additional purposes.
And a comment to those opposed to cooperating with the army: this meeting, during which Palestinians also complained about issues that were specific to them individually, which wasn’t what we had intended, but whose complaints were heard patiently and attentively – even if it doesn’t lead to moving the fence even one inch, was an occasion when people spoke respectfully to each other, and Miriam felt the Palestinians had been appeased somewhat.