The Association for Civil Rights in Israel submitted a petition to the Supreme Court on 2.6.05: The route of the separation barrier around the village of Ni’ilin was not determined by security considerations but in order to allow the expansion of the settlement of Hashmona’im.
ACRI submitted an amended petition to the Supreme Court on June 2, 2005 against the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, and the Head of Central Command, on behalf of representatives of the village of Ni’ilin, adjacent to the Jewish settlement of Hashmona’im, and on behalf of a resident of the Israeli settlement of Shilat, to demand that the route of the barrier be changed in the area. The planned route separates the residents of Ni’ilin from half of their agricultural land, and is liable to severely undermine their livelihood. The petition was submitted by ACRI Attorney Avner Pinchuk.
In the spring of 2004, Attorney Avner Pinchuk submitted a petition against the route of the barrier on behalf of the residents of Ni’ilin. After a number of court hearings, and after the verdict that was delivered in the case of Beit Sourik (which resulted in the state preparing a revised route of the barrier), the security services announced that it was determined to plan a new route for the section of the barrier surrounding Ni’ilin. In September 2004 the defense establishment published the new route that only slightly moderates the potential infringements to the rights of the village residents. It also became clear very quickly that the residents of the settlement of Hashmona’im oppose the route. In addition to which, a contracting company called Philandendrom 12 submitted its objection to the new route and claimed that it undermined its plans to build a new neighborhood in the settlement bloc, and threatened its investment and financial expectations. As a result, the Israeli security apparatus announced that it would take the firm’s interests, and its plan to build a new neighborhood, into consideration. ACRI was subsequently notified that the barrier would be built according to the original route, thus removing any small relief of the violation of the rights of the residents of Ni’ilin.
In response to that set forth above, ACRI submitted an amended petition. The petition claims that when the barrier’s route is being planned it must weigh the damage it will cause to the residents of Ni’ilin against the perceived security concerns, concerns that must play no role in the realization of the desires of contracting entrepreneurs in the occupied territories. The settlement or presence of Israeli citizens in the area is not the responsibility of the army officer according to war law. Even if one were to ignore the ruling of The International Court of Justice in The Hague, according to which Jewish settlement in the occupied territories is illegal, the moment an army officer infringes the rights of Palestinian residents in order to perpetuate the settlement enterprise and even expand it, he abuses his position and is in breach of the provisions of International Humanitarian Law.
Attorney Pinchuk rejects claims by the state that the route of the barrier surrounding Ni’ilin is a result of security concerns. In order to ensure the security of the Jewish settler community, he adds, other steps can be taken such as expanding the existing defensive system currently used to protect the settlement (which is already surrounded by a security fence). The fact that the state does not utilize any of these alternatives indicates that the central aim of the chosen route is not to protect the Jewish settler population, but rather to create territorial contiguity between the settlement and Israeli territory. In this context the petition adds, one is reminded of comments made by the Prime Minister recently, who stated that settlement blocs that are on the western side of the barrier “will be part of the State of Israel and attached territorially to Israel, and many more people will live in them”.
The Supreme Court has deliberated on numerous petitions regarding the route of the separation barrier recently. Approximately three weeks ago a principle hearing was held during which ACRI presented its position on the meaning and implications of the ruling issued by the International Court of Justice in The Hague on the separation barrier.
On June 21, 2005 the Supreme Court is due to deliberate, in front of an expanded panel of nine judges, on additional petitions that were submitted by ACRI against the route of the barrier around the Alfei Menashe enclave, and the area of Ar Ram in northern Jerusalem. The petition further notes that also in the case of Alfei Menashe the route was planned, and has already been completed, not for security reasons but to enable the expansion of the Alfei Menashe settlement, and the construction of additional settlements in the enclave. The area was effectively annexed to Israel and its Palestinian residents cut off from the rest of the West Bank.