Seam zones are sections of Palestinian land within the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) which fall between the illegal Israeli Annexation Wall and the 1949 Armistice Line (The Green Line) and are therefore severed from the OPT. These swaths of land have been designated by Israel as closed military areas. Access to these isolated areas is controlled by an Israeli-controlled permit system thereby severely restricting Palestinian access to their lands. Statistics suggest that approximately 50,000 Palestinians live in fifty-seven communities within these so-called seam zones. These people are defined internationally as Internally Stuck Persons.
[Seam Zone: Khirbet Jubarah.]
Those who live within seam zones must apply to the Israeli Civil Administration for a “permanent resident ID” in order to remain on their own land. Their movement is tightly controlled through the use of checkpoints and a permit regime, which in turn intrudes upon all aspects of their day-to-day activities and greatly compromises the quality of life. Currently there exist 101 different types of permits “governing” Palestinian movement, whether within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Israel, West Bank and other parts of the OPT, or beyond internationally recognized borders.
These restrictions serve to cripple local Palestinian economies, generating growing levels of poverty, which is further compounded by the inadequate or non-existent health, education and sanitation amenities. This is particularly true within seam zones. As such, life for many seam zone residents has become unbearable and many of them have been forced to relocate east of the Annexation Wall. All of these factors together directly contravene the basic human rights of Palestinian seam zone residents.
Controlling Movement and Access to Land
To obtain an access permit, Palestinians are required to meet at least one of the Israeli civil administration`s qualifying criteria. As such, permits are, in theory, to be granted to:
- Those able to prove ownership of a residential property within the zone.
- Those who live within the West Bank, but own agricultural land within the zone, or have a "linkage" to the land.
- Those who have businesses located within the zone.
Palestinians who fail to meet the above are not legally entitled to access seam zone land for any reason. Eligible applicants must wait for weeks for their permit applications to be processed. Even in the event of an individual meeting one or more of the above criteria, there is no guarantee of success. Applications are commonly rejected on the grounds of `security` or insufficient proof of “connection to the land,” with no further information or clarification.
According to Khaled B., who is twenty-two years old from a seam zone village nearby Ramallah:
The village is kind of empty now. At least one thousand people just preferred to leave, especially those who hold Jerusalem ID, as it now takes them more than two hours to reach Jerusalem. The street which used to get us to Jerusalem in ten minutes has been closed, and people who want to go there now use a route which takes them around Ramallah, entering from the Qalandia checkpoint which stands on the northern entrance of Jerusalem. All those who work in Ramallah prefer to live in Ramallah, and maybe return to the village once a week. It is very hard for relatives to visit here and landowners from other villages or those who live in Ramallah or Jerusalem are not able to get a permit to reach their lands. Sometimes, if we can access a piece of land where the owner does not reside, they pay us to go dig it or pick the olives and the fruits. We [the family] also take care of my uncle’s lands. 
Threatening Farmers` Livelihood and Way of Life
Those who own agricultural land within the seam zones but reside within other parts of the West Bank are, in theory, permitted access to their land for the purposes of tending to crops and harvesting. However, this is subject to a number of limitations. For example, the Israeli Civil Administration will often limit the frequency of access to the land based on significant moments within a crop`s lifecycle, such as harvest. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the OPT, reported that approximately forty-two percent of applications submitted for permits to access seam zone areas during the 2011 olive harvest season, were rejected for “security reasons” or lacking the proof of “connection to the land.” In response, many farmers have subsequently turned from the farming of fruit and vegetables to the growing of olives, which, although less profitable, requires less maintenance of the crop throughout the year.
In addition, farmers are required to enter seam zones on foot and are rarely permitted to bring with them farm machinery or additional laborers. Again, this seriously impacts a farmer`s ability to adequately tend to the land, and will have a great influence on the crops that are sown and, therefore, the profitability of the venture. This, along with the difficulty of bringing external laborers to the land, has a detrimental effect on employment throughout the area. According to the Internal Displacement and Monitoring Centre, between 2007 and 2012, the number of permits issued has decreased by eighty-seven percent.
Furthermore, the majority of Palestinians are small farmers who own only small pieces of land and are typically not even registered as such (they have no official records to prove their career) and are unable to provide authorities with the requisite supporting documents. It is therefore impossible for these individuals to “justify” or legalize their request for external workers. As a result, these smaller farmers find themselves unable to derive full benefit from their land. A report published by Human Rights Watch in April 2012 shed further light on the difficulties associated with proving any form of entitlement to the land, observing that “…applications were rejected on the basis that Palestinian applicants could not, as required, meet a burdensome test of proving a “connection to the land” rather than for specific security concerns.”
The reduction in the number of permits granted to farmers allowing them access to work their lands, coupled with the limited nature of such permits in terms of the frequency and duration of permitted access, has resulted in a significant reduction in crop production and forced farmers to focus their efforts on crops which require less maintenance but produce a lower financial yield. “Access to agricultural land through the Barrier is channeled through 80 gates. The majority of these gates only open during the six weeks of olive harvest season and usually only for a limited period during the day.” These restrictions, together with the tightly-controlled movement of goods, machinery, and labor in and out of the seam zones, therefore pose a direct threat to farmers` livelihoods.
Compromising Social Life and Crippling Local Economies as a Method of Forced Population Transfer
The majority of seam zone land has been confiscated by the Israeli occupation administration on the grounds of “security” or for military purposes. Other legal rationales used to effect this land acquisition include a lack of evidence regarding the ownership of the land or application of the 1950 Absentee Property Law, whereby Palestinians prevented from accessing their land are deemed to have forfeited their rights to it. In addition to this express confiscation, Israel`s conduct in preventing Palestinians from accessing their land also amounts to de facto land annexation. This form of confiscation requires no military order, but is instead affected by virtue of the permit regime.
Highly restricted access to land, a deeply compromised social life, and a crippled local economy are just some of the factors which contribute to unbearable conditions for Palestinians within seam zones. These factors are artificially created and maintained by the Israeli authorities with a view to force Palestinians from the land and effect further land acquisition. The hardships experienced by those residing within, or with direct ties to, seam zones are a tool utilized by the Israeli authorities to generate forced transfer of Palestinians out of these areas and into other parts of the West Bank, thereby enabling easy acquisition of this “relinquished land.” Therefore, Israel’s policy of seam zones is one part of a wider regime to colonize the area of historic Palestine; that is, to exert control over the maximum area of Palestinian land while keeping the number of Palestinian residents to an absolute minimum. It exceeds the concept of merely restricting freedom of movement – a fundamental right – and instead regularly results in the complete denial of access to land, which in turn makes human life virtually impossible. As a result, among others, family members are separated from one another and residents of seam zones are isolated from the surrounding communities.
In light of this, the array of hardships that seam zone inhabitants face, including the separation of families, the limitations on frequency of access to the land, and the restricted access to water are intentional results of the Israeli permits regime. They are not isolated incidents, but rather represent a systematic pattern of discriminatory measures and apartheid policies by the occupying power which seeks to make life so difficult for those Palestinians present that they are left with little option but to relocate to other parts of the West Bank. This forced population transfer constitutes a direct contravention of multiple international laws, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. However, it has received scant attention from the international community, and even fewer steps to uphold Palestinian rights. Whilst such a status quo is maintained, the state of Israel will continue to grievously erode the quality of life of Palestinians within seam zones, and the ethnic cleansing of these areas will continue unchecked.
 Interview conducted by BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in April 2012.