Imagine your livelihood is farming. You grow a variety of products that have sustained you and your family for generations. Then imagine that the army decides to erect a long fence that blocks you from accessing your farm. They say you will be able to get a permit to enter your own land, but when you apply you are denied. The only person they will give the permit to is your elderly father, who cannot possible tend the land as needed and support the family. Already poor, your future is grim.
In 2003, the Israeli army built just such a fence/wall in the occupied West Bank village of Jayyus. Today, more than 100 farmers are unable to access their farmland and thus have essentially lost their livelihood, as many rely solely on their olive, citrus, and other trees for income. More than 50 percent of West Bank residents live below the poverty line, with some 26 percent living in extreme poverty. While the fence/wall was being built, the Israeli army promised the villagers free access to their land. They are not following through on this promise, as only 18-20 percent of Jayyus farmers have been granted permits to access their land. Obtaining a permit is time-consuming and expensive and thus prohibitive for many.
On July 9, 2004, the Israeli Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion declaring that the fence/wall does not lie solely on the Green Line but instead some 80 percent of it is on Palestinian land inside the West Bank. This violates the conditions of the 1949 Armistice Line that separates the State of Israel from the occupied West Bank. The court ruled that the placement of the fence is unlawful, as it appropriates large sections of land owned by Palestinian farmers.
Amnesty International USA has called this a human rights violation and is working to help these farmers obtain permits to access their land. AIUSA is also asking that the Israeli government issue permits to all Jayyus residents who have been denied them in the past, with the eventual result of full access to the farmland for all Jayyus farmers.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all people have the human right to freedom of movement and residence. They have the right to own property and cannot be arbitrarily deprived of that right. Please consider contacting the Israeli Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs or your local political leaders to seek justice for the farmers of Jayyus.
Laura Finley, Ph.D, is a Board Member, Amnesty International USA.