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Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign

Beit Jala - Fact Sheet

The town of Beit Jala lies in Bethlehem district in the West Bank, governed by it’s own municipality and mayor. It is both A-area (approximately 25 per cent) and C-area (the remaining percentage of Beit Jala-land)[1]. Traditionally, the inhabitants of Beit Jala consisted of 80 per cent Christians, but today this figure is much less. The area is considered of great religious importance, but Beit Jala is currently facing many difficulties concerning the Apartheid Wall. The Israeli government are planning to further build and reroute the Wall, which might have devastation effects on the municipality of Beit Jala.

 

The first Israeli settlements and land confiscating happened in this area after the war in 1967. There are now three settlements, Gilo, Har Gilo and Giv’at Hamatos. The first settlement was built in 1971, and over 40,000 settler inhabit the settlements all together. They have confiscated over 4000 dunoms (4 km2) for the building of these settlements. The Gilo settlements is considered one of the largest on the West Bank and it alone houses over 40 000 settler. The Apartheid Wall surrounds the whole Bethlehem area, including Beit Jala, and there are checkpoints to pass in and out of the city.

 

The settlements and the Apartheid Wall infringe and hinder the economic and social development in town, which is worse with the planned Wall. It would lead to further population density, and is therefore an obstacle to natural city expansion and city planning. There would also be greater problems regarding infrastructure and transportation. The amount of pollution from traffic would be further intensified. It would also cut farmers of from their land and their olive groves. The olive tree represents not only an income, but also has cultural values. The municipality also claims that it is also a matter of protecting the cultural and religious heritage of the area.

 

Israel claims that the Wall they are planning to build is necessary from a security perspective, something that the municipality of Beit Jala strongly object to. There are two monasteries (Christian monks and nuns) that will be surrounded and isolated by the planned Wall.

 

There was a planned court hearing 29 January 2014 concerning the further extension of the Apartheid Wall. The village has contacted international NGOs as well as embassies and consulates in the hope that international attention might stop the further expansion of the Wall.

 

Although the outcome of the planned Wall is not yet clear, it seems that the Israeli security concerns are overrated. The direct victims of the Apartheid Wall would be two religious monasteries in the Beit Jala district, and it is highly unclear why they represent a security threat to Israel. Also, many farmers in the area would either not be able to access their land, or face great difficulties in doing so. A great number of olive trees would be uprooted in the building of the Wall. In addition, there are economic and health-related issues that clearly speak against the building of this Wall.

 

 

Sources:

Fieldwork/interview with mayor of Beit Jala

www.beitjala-city.org

www.poica.org

 



[1] C-area means that Israel holds all security and civil control, whereas A-area means that Palestinian Authorities hold all security and civil control.

 

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