The story below is of a village which has been arrested. It is circled by a wall to protect an illegal settlement of the ultra-orthodox Zionists who believe that they, and they only, have the right to settle on that space. Even Israeli law says this is wrong but the rule of law doesn’t matter. The Israeli army upholds this illegality and when villagers and their international supporters protest weekly they are routinely met with gas, stun grenades and water cannon. In recent weeks this was added to with the army descending to the lowest by shooting shit at the people. This is not to mention the live ammunition that seriously wounded a young man recently.
If the international community believe in keeping the law then no one should turn a blind eye to what is happening, and being allowed to happen here or anywhere else. Ignoring it undermines equality and justice for all of us as the writer of the following story says.
Bil’in, a story of all of us
The story of Bil’in should serve as a wake-up call even for those who are not worried about Palestinian land-rights. This is an adulteration of the rule of law and proper administration, more writing on the wall which should warn us against the State of the “Combina.”
Published 19.07.08, 9:02
The story of the Palestinian village Bil’in is presented in narrow perspective in the media and public opinion as the struggle of village residents and hundreds of Israeli and international activists, to keep their lands in the near side of the separation wall and out of reach of the development plans of Upper Modi’in, the largest ultra-orthodox city on the West Bank.
But the story of Bil’in is composed of many chapters that should have been presented earlier and might have aroused a broader Israeli public sooner to protest against one of the nadirs of the bureaucracy of evil. The struggle is characterized by a series of stages that has continued several years in this little “God’s acre” and includes the use of bureaucratic procedures to consistently damage the rule of law and the foundations of Israeli society.
The roots of the story lie in the declaration of 780 dunams of Bil’in property as state property in 1991. This declaration was not supported by the usual claims of land lying fallow or abandoned, but rather by the request of the “Fund for Land Redemption” to the administration of the civil department of the state’s advocate of that time, Pliah Albek, to register the land as state property, under the pretension that the state had acquired the land but preferred not to register the acquisition with the land registry bureau. Albek agreed to conceal the acquisition and to declare the lands property of the state without even affirming the act of acquisition – as required by law – and only afterwards transferring ownership of the land to the fund. The “East Mattitiahu” neighborhood was established on these lands.
In 2004 the second chapter of the story was written. The heads of the city of Modi’in decided – together with the construction companies, Hefzibah and Green Park – that 1500 living units were not enough for the new neighborhood and requested to double that number to 3000. The high planning committee of the civil administration rushed to confirm the first plan in the process of confirming the new plan, but in order to make it difficult for the residents of Bil’in to present their objections, as is normally allowed, the committee made sure that the platforms for making this change known to the public were “HaTzofeh” and “HaModia” – two (religious, Hebrew) newspapers “broadly read” and well-known to the Palestinians.
But even before confirmation of this plan, the local council of Modi’in Elit hurried to produce illegal building permits for the construction companies. Letters from the legal advisor and the municipal comptroller of the Modi’in Council warning against this illegal action did not deter the building of 43 high-rise apartment houses – 22 based on the illegal confirmation and 21 with no confirmation at all.
“The rationale for these confirmations” wrote the head of the high planning council of the civil administration, which is responsible for all planning and building on the West Bank, “was to establish facts on the ground and prevent the Heftzibah company from leaving the site.”
In February 2007 the high council finally confirmed the illegal construction and turned East Matitiahu into the largest retroactively “laundered” outpost in the history of unlicensed outposts.
The third chapter deals with the route of the separation wall. It begins in 2004 with a letter presented by the legal advisor of the civil administration that states that “the route was planned according to security and topographical considerations,” and its end is in 2006 in the verdict of the Supreme Court that rules that “the route of the wall was planned in a place that has no security advantages. It passes through inferior territory that endangers the forces patrolling along the route. Re the security perspective that was presented to us in many other cases…the present route arouses many questions.
“The Court determines clearly that the planners of the route sacrificed security on the altar of their ambitions to broaden the settlement and – to this end – used all the procedures in their authority. There is no explanation for this route except the wish to place East Matitiahu to the west if the wall. Other than that it is doubtful that there is any security rationale for setting the route of the wall in the place where it now passes.”
The last chapter to date, began when the security establishment advertised – of late – the new route meant to substitute for the present one according to the verdict of the Supreme Court. But “to the amazement” of those involved, the security establishment again indulges in the same “Supreme-Court-skirting exercises” which it failed to accomplish in other cases, meanwhile wasting millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money.
Despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled that ” the agricultural areas in Wadi Dolev and the areas designated for the construction of Stage B of the East Matitiahu neighborhood will remain to the east of the wall”, the Defense Department presented a route that leaves these areas to the west of the wall. Without the necessary determination of the Supreme Court, the new legal procedures may continue until the next chapter is written about the moral and legal bankruptcy that finally allowed the establishment of Stage B.
The story of Bil’in should never be “the short history of Zionism and the rule of law” in the past decades. It is easy for the Israeli public to see in the weekly demonstrations, all there is to see in the story of Bil’in. But even those who don’t really care about Palestinian land-rights and their ability to live off these lands, should open their eyes and join the struggle against this adulteration of the rule of law and proper administration, often carried out by the institutions themselves on the platform of bureaucratic procedures.
The story of Bil’in is more writing on the wall that should warn us of the “Combina” State that has arisen on the West Bank and its implications for Israeli society.
Shaul Arieli, member of the Council for Peace and Security
Thank you for you continued support,
Iyad Burnat- Head of Popular Commitee in Bilin
Head of Friends of Freedom and Justice in Bilin
Mobile- (00972) (0) 547847942
Office- (00972) (2) 2489129
Fax- (00972) (2) 2489129