Peace and human rights workers welcome Israeli ruling on partition wall

By staff writers
September 5, 2007

Peace and human rights campaigners have welcomed the decision by Israel's Supreme Court to redraw a small portion of the route of the partition wall around the West Bank near Bilin village, reports Independent Catholic News.

The court accepted an appeal by Bilin residents, who had argued that the barrier prevented them from reaching 50% of their agricultural land.

For nearly three years, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and secular campaigners have held weekly prayer vigils and peaceful protests by the wall.

The Israeli government say the barrier is a security measure but others view it as an illegal land grab, because it is being built on occupied land rather than the official 'Green Line' drawn up after the 1967 war.

The wall around the West Bank has cut through schools, hospitals, homes and large sections of farmland, cutting people off from their livelihoods and separating communities and families.

Around 200 hectares (500 acres) of Bilin village farmland has been lost because of the barrier. Thousands of the village's olive trees have been uprooted as a result of its construction.

The International Court of Justice issued an advisory ruling in 2004 that the barrier breached international law where it is built on occupied territory and should be dismantled.

"We were not convinced that it is necessary for security-military reasons to retain the current route that passes on Bilin's lands," the chief justice, Dorit Beinish, wrote.

The ruling will prevent a planned expansion of a new illegal settlement project planned at Matityahu East.

The court ruled that the route around Bilin was "highly prejudicial" to the villagers and demanded an alternative route be mapped out "within a reasonable period".

The Israeli defence ministry, which is responsible for building the barrier, said in a statement that it would study the court's ruling and respect it.

One of the Bilin protest organisers, Abdullah Abu Rahma, described the court decision as "wonderful" and called for it to be implemented immediately.

But Mustafa Barghouti, an independent member of the Palestinian parliament, told the BBC the ruling was just a partial victory.

"It forces the Israelis to move the wall away from Bilin village but it allows for the settlement, which is on Bilin land, to remain," he said.

Many other villages in the West Bank have also lost land to the wall. Bethlehem is now completely surrounded. At Christmas time last year, several delegations of church leaders from around the world visited the town of Christ's birth and appealed for Israel to stop building the wall.

A delegation of church leaders from the UK included the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the Roman catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the moderator of the Free Churches, Dr David Coffey (Baptist), and the Armenian Patriarch of Great Britain, Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian.

With grateful acknowledgment to Independent Catholic News -

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