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Supreme Court ruling turns village into open-air prison

The Supreme Court gave the state a green light to continue walling in a village split between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, blocking the villagers on all four sides

Demonstration against the wall in Walaje, August 2011. Photo: Activestills.org

The Supreme Court turned down yesterday a petition against the construction of the separation wall between the village of Walajeh, so close to Jerusalem it can essentially be seen as an inlet, and the city itself. The opposition to the wall came from an unusual amount of quarters, including the villagers themselves (arguing the wall would block them from their fields, olive groves and the village water spring, as well as its ancient cemetery), ultra-right settlers of the Marzel variety (who wanted the wall to only separate Walajeh from Bethlehem, presumably so that the village can be colonised in a manner similar to Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah), pro-democracy settlers of the Fruman school, who are opposed to the wall politically, ideologically (in terms of partition) and aesthetically, and, finally, Israeli environmental organizations, who feared damage to the area’s landscape and historical agricultural sites. The court battle was accompanied by non-violent protests against the construction of the wall; Joseph covered one such protest late last month.

The rejection of the petition, which focused on the section of the wall between Walaje and Jerusalem, means that the village is essentially turning into an open-air prison. The army’s promise to let villagers out to their fields via “agricultural gates” is only as good as the army’s word – which is easily and routinely superseded by real and unprovable “security concerns”, deliberate or accidental administrative failures, and just about any reason under the sun.

Other villages have face similar predicaments in the past few years, but there’s another twist to the Walaje story: Approximately half of the village is part of the municipal area of Jerusalem, and half the of the villagers enjoy the status of Jerusalem residents, midway between the non-citizenship of the West Bank and full Israeli citizenship; this is also why the state wouldn’t make do with separating the village from Jerusalem, but also from the rest of the West Bank. The state’s decision and insistence to cut off the village from the city means much of these villagers’ rights will be invalidated, and, at least to my mind, tells something about how Israel would act in event that a “two” “states” solution should come to pass and Jerusalem was to be partitioned: Strive to leave as few Palestinians on the legal and geographical Israeli side. One wonders what would happen if the Walaje residents announced – if you want our village, take it – and demanded full Israeli citizenship as well.

Apart from that, it’s yet another reminder of how every victory against the Occupation in the Supreme Court is pyrrhic, at least to a degree. For kilometre of the wall moved, as in Bilin, there will be two-three left unmoved, as inWalaje; and it’s difficult to shake off the growing feeling going to the court helps it legitimise 90 percent of the occupation at the price of challenging 10 percent of it. It’s impossible not to go to court and not to use every instrument available to alleviate the suffering of people involved in each particular case, but the larger political picture shows that the answer lies elsewhere.

Joseph Dana contributed to this report

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    1. Warren Metzler

      It is truly mind boggling to me, how a single judge on that court could perceive this ruling as valid. Unless, those judges have decided it is perfectly reasonable to deprive Palestinians of their basic human rights. And if that is their mind-set, then it is impossible for them to have common sense. My view is that each profession is reality meter for a certain area of life, for all of the society. And the reality meter the judiciary provides is what are proper boundaries for dealing with your fellow humans. If the judges are abandoning common sense in regard to the Palestinians, they also doing this in regard to Jews; because every human is consistent, given that person’s real world view (as opposed to that person’s preferred world view, presented to the public). And it is only a matter of time before legal chaos will become a mainstream of Israeli life.

      I sincerely hope that most Israelis change soon, because if they don’t major suffering awaits.

      Reply to Comment
    2. directrob

      If a court were supreme its decisions would not be ignored, if the court were a court of justice it would uphold universal human rights and the (international) rule of law. So, the court is neither supreme nor a court of justice. It must be infuriating to be a Palestinian seeking rights.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bosko

      I don’t like the fence, period. But is there a choice? The idea of the fence came about because of the spate of suicide bombing attacks initiated by Hamas between 2000 and 2004. Dozens of Israeli civilians were murdered on a weekly basis in those attacks. And what did we hear about it at the time, from Hamas and some of their supporters on the looney left? They puffed out their chests and told us that Israel has their smart bombs supplied by America and we (meaning the Palestinian Arabs) have our smart bombs, meaning the suicide bombers some smart bombs, I’d have called dumb bombs because look what it got all of us: The fence!

      Reply to Comment
    4. The Court will not challenge national security proper. The Bil’in decision (which was ignored for years) pivoted on the security neutrality of fence location. I doubt the Court, especially in the present climate, will attack the defintion of national security. If the petition was refused hearing, rather than being denied after hearing (can’t quite tell from the story here), the Court is as much trying to save its ass by not confronting the question directly as establishing any legal principle. As long as the Knesset appears to have the power to define jurisdiction I would not be surprised by such a maneuvor.
      I believe the Court will be useful to you in defining Arab Israeli rights, which will spill over to the latter’s networks–bringing a spouce from the occupation, a dependent child, an aging parent. That spillover may alter options in political discourse. But the Court will not nullify national security on its own. Many of its rulings go unheeded as it is.
      You’re in a slow motion constitutional crisis. The judges, as self protecting actors, are going to pick their battles carefully. I am not approving what has happened, but suggest that the overarching battle, which does make many pawns, has yet to be fought, let alone decided.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Frank van Lierde

      there is a word for this: vicor’s justice – Sieger Justiz, a legal system not meant to protect civil rights and liberties, but meant to legalize occupation and brutal suppression.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Bosko

      There is a word for this. Protect your citizens from terrorists. The occupied know exactly what they need to do to get unoccupied. They just don’t want to do it because they are still playing their zero sum game.

      Reply to Comment
    7. directrob

      bosko, help me, what do they have to do to have the settlers and other israeli leave their land?

      Reply to Comment
    8. Bosko

      @ Directorb – “bosko, help me, what do they have to do to have the settlers and other israeli leave their land?”
      Firstly, you are pre-supposing the outcome. Secondly, I doubt that you are really interested in what I have to say because I suspect that your mind is closed to possible alternative solutions that with good will may work for the benefit of both sides. Hint – I am referring to land swaps or even other alternatives which I won’t talk about because they would need to be negotiated.
      So, what would they [the Palestinian Arabs] have to do?
      1. They need to get their act together and speak with one voice. None of this nonsense that Israel has to deal separately with the PA, Hamas and a myriad of other factions. The Palestinian Arabs collectively need to nominate one accountable party who can be held accountable for everything that happens from their side. And not only to be seen but to actually BE accountable.
      2. They need to get used to the idea that they are not only victims in this 100 year war between Arabs and Jews. They are victimisers too and they bear a fair share of the culpability for the collective mess that the Middle East is in. If they would get used to that idea, all the following steps would be a lot easier.
      3. They need to openly accept, acknowledge and recognise the nation state of the Jewish people no word games.
      4. Give up their demand for the so called right of return once and for all. Accept the fact that in effect, a population exchange occurred between Israel and Arab countries. Israel accepted Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Arab countries should accept some of the Palestinian Arab refugees. The rest should settle in the forthcoming Palestinian Arab state.
      5. They need to assimilate the fact that if Israel givess up land under it’s control then security arrangements will need to be put in place for an agreed period.
      The rest I won’t talk about. There are lots of negotiations required to sort out a myriad of issues. It could be possible if those negotiations would be conducted with the right frame of mind by both sides. That means …
      – No point scoring
      – No blame game
      – A willingness to solve differences rather than fostering differences.
      Nuff said. I now expect that you will scoff and deride what I said above. But I am still glad that I said it.

      Reply to Comment
    9. directrob

      Thank you, at least I fully agree with your last three remarks (for both sides no point scoring etc. 🙂 ).

      Reply to Comment
    10. Janet

      BOSKO – How are the Palestinians responsible for an ideology that makes them outsiders in their own land?

      Reply to Comment
    11. Bosko

      First of all it is not only their land. Israel is the land of the Jewish people. They can have their land in most of the West Bank once they negotiate a peace deal. How should they do that? Read what I said above.

      Reply to Comment
    12. VIckie

      Bosco, you make me laugh.

      Now, repeat that over and over again in the mirror–“It’s not their land…It’s not their land,”–maybe petulantly beat your shoe on the sink or dresser…sneer so that you can stymie the whimper you have when you realize petulance doesn’t change history…and then, maybe YOU will even start to believe your own BS.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Vickie

      Does no one here find it incredibly ironic that Israel is building it’s second concentration camp?

      You can explain away Gaza…they’re militant…they’re Arab…they’re Muslim…they’re–wait for it–terrorists…they reproduce too often…they make better hummos…they’re evil brown people bent on destroying your blooming desert. It’s easy to rain chemicals on that open air prison since it’s mainly a bunch of Arabs in the area.

      But Jerusalem…it’s a bit close to the tourist attractions, Israel. Perhaps you should reserve the white phosphorous from that particular area, unless you’ve found a way to concentrate it on just one particular civilian population without contaminating any surrounding person.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Bosko

      Vickie dear, please stop projecting. I am not the one who is saying it’s not their land. I advocate the two state solution. That means that I acknowledge both the Jewish peoples national aspirations and the Arab peoples aspirations. You on the other hand seem to be saying that it’s all THEIR land. Maybe you are the one who espouses BS?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Bosko

      Vickie dear, calm down. It’s not about brown people or pink ones. It’s about shooting back at those who shoot at us. End of story. Don’t make make it more complicated than it is.

      Reply to Comment
    16. directrob

      ” It’s about shooting back at those who shoot at us”
      No it is not and has never been.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Bosko

      @Directorb – Only a person who has never been shot at would make such a claim.

      Reply to Comment
    18. directrob

      One does not need to go to Israel to have bullets come near…
      I think “returning” fire is a very lame argument for what happens in the West Bank and Gaza. About 4 million human beings suffer under occupation. (I am not talking about the terror attack in Eilat)
      In the small have a look at this:

      Reply to Comment
    19. Bosko

      @Directorb – I was responding to Vickie’s above post. She seemed to suggest that somehow what is happening in Gaza has something to do with “brown people”. Here is what she said …

      “You can explain away Gaza…they’re militant…they’re Arab…they’re Muslim…they’re–wait for it–terrorists…they reproduce too often…they make better hummos…they’re evil brown people …”

      Reply to Comment
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