After two and a half years of steadfast resistance against the Wall and settlements, the people of Bilâin have been given a decision by the Occupation court to change the Wallâs path. It will be moved 500 metres from its current route, releasing some 1,100 dunum of land back to its owners.
This success demonstrates that popular resistance can result in effective steps against the Occupation, which is trying to break our spirit and will. The courtâs decision to move the wall is a victory resulting from ongoing resistance, demonstrations and activities against the wall that became part of everyday life for the people of Bilâin.
However, this does not mean that we accept the courtâs decision. The court has not ruled against the Wallâs existence, but made only a minor change to its path, lending this illegal construction a false legitimacy. This is not the answer to our aspirations; it is not that for which we are resisting. From the first day that people in our cities and villages decided to stand against the bulldozers demolishing their land and uprooting their trees for the Wall, their message was clear: âWe will resist the wall until it falls and until it releases every centimetre of our land which has been confiscated or isolated.â
This aim â the complete removal of the Apartheid Wall â is what we are fighting for day and night. This aim is backed by the verdict of the International Court of Justice which ruled that the whole Wall was illegal.
During our celebration of this decision, we should thus remember that we must continue resistance until we achieve the complete dismantling of the Wall. We must not forget that the day after its decision to move the wall in Bilâin, the Occupation Court approved a settlement called Metetye Huw Mezrah, an extension of Modiâin settlement built on the land isolated from Bilâin. The people of Bilâin petitioned the court one and a half years ago that the dozens of settlement housing units built on their land behind the Wall should be demolished. That petition has been declined.
The two cases – the Wall and the settlement – are essentially parts of one case and the courtâs rulings demonstrate its hypocrisy. On one hand, the court tries to demonstrate to the international community that it is democratic and transparent, choosing Bilâin as the villageâs struggle has been extensively covered by the media. It aims to put an end to resistance in Bilâin by appearing to give in to one of their demands. On the other hand, the court has used this ruling to divert attention from the decision to expand the settlement on the village land. The court has still kept the settlement project, which the Wall is built to protect, its first priority.
As we know from our experience, Israeli courts, especially the High Court, are used to legitimise the occupation and its settlements, house demolitions and land confiscation. The recent decision to expel the resident of al-Hadidiya and Humsa from their land in the Jordan Valley illustrates this powerfully.
The decision to move the wall in Bilâin is not the first such decision that the court has taken. After a popular effort, the people of north-west Jerusalem secured a decision to move the wall, restoring 30,000 dunum of their land. In Jayyous in Qalqilya district on 30 October 2006, the court ordered the military occupation forces to modify the wall and to propose a new route within 40 days â an order with which the military has not yet complied. In Jubara, a village in Tulkarem district which is isolated by the Wall, the villagers secured a decision to change the path of the wall, to ensure that the village and 90% of its land would be on the eastern side. This was ordered a year ago, and until the current time, there have been no changes. In all cases, setting a new path for the wall means destroying and uprooting more land, which means more losses.
Ultimately, changes to the route of the Wall are cosmetic and do not make the Wall any more legal. Neither do changes to the route alter the fact that the Wall is part of the Occupationâs project of colonization, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
As Palestinians we will always cherish as a victory any dunum we win back from the Occupation. However, we must refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the court and its decisions, as its efforts to fine-tune the route of the Wall undermine international law and justice as laid out by the International Court of Justice in its verdict on the illegality of the Wall. We must concentrate on our aim to tear down the Wall and to achieve compensation for our losses. We must show the world how the Occupation court treats us with hypocrisy and deceit.