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Bil’in: Palestinian Villagers Move into Israeli Settlement!


UPDATE, 6 pm: The three Palestinian families have been evicted by the Israeli police and were taken away in Border Police vehicles to the other side of the Apartheid Wall. Mohammed Katib said that they had an order to remove the families. No Palestinians or Israelis were arrested. This evacuation is a stark contrast to the fact that when Israeli authorities claimed that “there was nothing they could do” when they were notified that settlers have moved in illegally to the Mtityahu Mizrah outpost.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

This morning at 11am, three families from the village of Bil’in moved into empty apartments built on land the village owns in the Matityahu East settlement, west of Israel’s apartheid barrier. As of 8am this morning, the Israeli military has declared the whole area a closed military zone until the 8th of July. Amongst the first inhabitants of this new neighborhood of Bil’in are the families of Abdullah Abu-Rahme and Mohammed Katib from the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. The families intend to actually live in the apartments, and more are set to follow. This will make a statement about their rights to the land and act as a direct, non-violent challenge to the apartheid of the Israeli state. Matityahu East was built illegally on land belonging to the Palestinian village of Bil’in. According to Israeli law, anything found on land that you own also belongs to you.

Despite an Israeli Supreme Court injunction forbidding the occupation of structures in the Matityahu East settlement, Israeli settlers have been moving in. This morning’s bold move by Bil’in villagers has put the state of Israel to a test. The Police and Military have done nothing to stop Jewish settlers creating facts on the ground in defiance of the Supreme Court. Yet when Palestinian villagers, legally taking up residence on their own land try to move in, they use military orders in an attempt to prevent them.

On the 24th of May, Ha’aretz newspaper reported that at least two settler families moved into apartments in the settlement. This happened despite Bil’in’s attorney Michael Sfard calling the Police. They arrived after he threatened to file a motion charging them with contempt of court unless they stopped the settlers, but they did nothing to stop them from moving in.

The apartheid barrier under construction runs through Bil’in, and separates the village from substantial parts of its land, including the portion on which Matityahu East was built. Although in public Israel claims that the route of the wall there is purely for security reasons, the route accommodates planned future expansion of the settlement, exactly following the settlement master-plan. As now acknowledged in the Israeli media, Matityahu East was stolen from Bil’in residents through fraudulent land purchases. The affidavit affirming the transfer of ownership was signed by an attorney representing the settlers, instead of by the head of Bil’in, as is required.

On Sunday, July 9th, at 10am, the Israeli High Court will hold a hearing concerning two petitions of Bil’in: one against the illegal building in the Matityahu East settlement; and another in which the Court is asked to annul the declaration made in 1991 that the village land earmarked for the settlement and its expansion are government property. There is a criminal investigation of the civil administration official involved in this transfer. There is also a decision pending in the Israeli court on the route of the wall.

For more information contact:
Abdullah Abu-Rahme: 054 725 8210
Mohammed Katib: 054 5573285
Iyad Burnat: 054 784 7942
Yonatan Pollack: 054 623 7736
ISM Media office: 02 297 1824 or 0599 943 157

For pictures of Israeli settlers moving into the settlement on the 24th of May, while Police help them see the Ha’aretz article, reposted on the ISM website:

http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/05/24/bilin-rouge-settlers/