CLARIFYING NOTE, 29th July: This court decision is a temporary injunction. Retroactive permission to build the settlement (which was started without permission) is still being sought by the construction company.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A victory for the Palestinian villagers of Bil’in came down from the Israeli High Court of Justice yesterday. In HCJ 143/06 the Court ruled that while the Court is considering the legality of the Matityahu East settlement, being constructed on Bil’in land, the ban on new construction and new residents moving in must remain in effect. This temporary decision, by fully enforcing the ban, solidifies the remarkable status of Bil’in activists, who have now successfully prevented planned settlement construction for 7 months – a singular feat in the Israeli-Occupied West Bank.
Furthermore, the Court ruled that demolition of settlement constructions can proceed in certain enclaves of Matityahu East in an attempt to return the land to its pre-settlement, vegetated state. This is significant because not only have Bil’in activists succeeded in halting the settlement construction, but, even more, they have forced the state of Israel to demolish structures in recognition of the fact that the land on which the settlement is built was illegally annexed.
This victory is the result of years of dedicated non-violent activism on the part of the villagers of Bil’in and their international and Israeli allies. Resistance to the Israeli confiscation of Bil’in land began when in 1991 the State of Israel appropriated around 1100 dunums (275 acres) of Bil’in farmers’ land. At the time, the confiscation was justified by reference to an old Ottoman-era law allowing for confiscation of unused land. Much later, it was revealed that in order to demonstrate that the coveted land was “unused,” the State made use of photos of seasonal crop farm land taken when the crops were not yet in season. More than a decade after the confiscation, settlements began to be built, following a typical pattern of settlement expansion, whereby, first, Palestinian land is declared State property and then eventually given out to Israelis. As a consequence, weekly non-violent demonstrations began in Bil’in. These demonstrations, in existence weekly since January 2005, garnered international attention and support, making a protracted legal campaign challenging the settlement’s legality a possibility. Tuesday’s decision, while by no means the end of the struggle for justice in Bil’in or countless places elsewhere in the West Bank, is a testament to the power of this creative direct action.
For more information call:
Mohammed Khatib, 0545573285