Thursday, September 06, 2007

Down By Law

It's encouraging to see a protracted dispute settled in the courtroom, instead of with stones and stun grenades. After nearly three years of weekly clashes, it was through a lawsuit that Bil'in villagers managed to get a security barrier aimed at protecting the settlers at Modi'in Illit dismantled and rerouted. The 1.7 km fence had cut off the farmers of Bil'in from half of their orchards, vineyards and fields.
Confrontations between protestors, soldiers and police took place every Friday at the checkpoint, located 7 km west of Ramallah, and at least 500 olive trees were eventually uprooted. The unanimous verdict by three High Court judges was seen as a victory by Israelis and Palestinians alike. Israeli peace activists joined villagers
and protestors from France, Puerto Rica, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Canada, the US and India.

The reason that Bil'in is an exception is that the demonstrators here are Palestinians and Israelis, a rare mix of people who march and chant and espouse non-violence together. At a time of deadlock in peace negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the weekly protests at Bil'in... are the highest profile joint action between two, often bitterly divided sides.

Near the front of the crowd was Uri Avnery, 83, a former Israeli MP and one of the better known activists on the Israeli left. "This village is unique even in Palestine because it is the only village that has the guts to fight against the wall actively every single week," he said.
-- Guardian, Feb 2007

The celebratory mood in Bil'in was somewhat quashed today by the court's refusal to demolish residential units and retroactive approval of illegal construction.
This gives de facto status to the ultra-Orthodox trespassers who had stayed on after the construction company pulled out. They were victims of fraud. By ruling to keep the western area of Matityahu East within the barrier, the court was bound to legitimize its new residential buildings. Modiin Illit is home to 30,000 mostly ultra-Orthodox settlers, and is projected to expand to a city of 150,000. Each side can claim a court victory, and it remains to be seen if they can maintain a cordial coexistence.

1 comment:

Judah said...

A huge celebration, with everyone rejoicing about judges rerouting the nasty security barrier, took place with no violence...between 500-1500 activists turned up in Bilin for a party. woo-hooo!