In response to ACRI’s petition: the Supreme Court ordered, for the first-time, the dismantling of a section of the separation barrier, and related to the legal relevance of the advisory opinion issued by the International court of Justice in The Hague.
The ruling called for the dismantling of the section of the barrier surrounding the Alfei Menashe enclave. The resultant enclave, which was created by the route of the barrier, has a disastrous impact on the lives of its Palestinian residents and cuts them off from the rest of the West Bank, public services, and family ties.
On September 15, the Supreme Court, in response to a petition submitted by ACRI, issued a precedent – setting ruling calling for the dismantling of an existing section of the barrier, and for the determination of an alternative route to lessen the impact on, and violation of, the rights of the resident Palestinian civilians. The petition was submitted on behalf of five villages that are currently trapped in an enclave created by the existing route of the barrier.
Unfortunately, the court also ruled that the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in The Hague (which relates to the legal status of the barrier) is not legally binding in Israel. The ruling is the second principled ruling regarding the route of the separation barrier (the first was a ruling on the case of Beit Sourik).
The petition which was deliberated on by an expanded panel of nine judges, headed by the President of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak was directed against the route of the barrier in the area of the Alfei Menashe enclave, to the south and east of Qalqilya. The enclave, which imprisons the residents of five villages and cuts them off from the rest of the West Bank, is designed to ensure the inclusion of the Jewish settlement of Alfei Menashe in the area to the west of the barrier. This route has caused an economic and social disaster for the residents of the villages by separating them from their agricultural land, public services required to maintain a normal life, and from all education and health services.
The petition was submitted a year ago by Attorney Michael Sfard on behalf of ACRI, and on behalf of 6 residents from two of the enclave villages, Ras A-Tira and Wadi A-Rasha.
Over a thousand Palestinian residents live in the Alfei Menashe enclave and are imprisoned on all sides in a way that impacts on all aspects of their lives. They are separated from their pasture and agricultural land that used to be their source of livelihood, from other Palestinian communities, which they relied on for educational, health, and cultural services, torn apart from their extended families, and live in an intolerable situation of social isolation. The sole purpose of the aforementioned is to leave the Jewish settlement of Alfei Menashe and its undeveloped municipal land to the west of the barrier.
The route of this section of the barrier was a result of political pressure and has nothing whatsoever to do with security considerations. It became known to the petitioners that the route of the barrier in the area was primarily the result of pressure applied by the residents of the Jewish residential community of Matan (within Israel’s borders) when a new road was due to be constructed to connect Alfei Menashe with the state of Israel. It was this pressure that brought about the current route of the barrier and the entrapment of the villages in the enclave, and not security considerations, in the name of which this section of the barrier was built.
In addition to being fenced in by an enclave, the residents are also subject to a permit regime imposed by the IDF that has created a situation of conditional residency and made the residents dependent upon Israeli bureaucracy. The residents are required to obtain a permit to reside on their land or in their homes (non- residents are unable to obtain such permits) and are thus condemned to a life of isolation with no way of hosting family or friends, as well as a miserable existence of economic, social, and cultural atrophy.
Since the barrier has been built, almost all the residents of the enclave lost their source of livelihood as a direct result of the barrier`s route, and their battle for survival is forcing them to choose between two primary sources of income: illegal entry into Israel (there is no partition or barrier between the villages of the enclave and Israel, which, it should be noted, directly contravenes the stated purpose of the barrier) or temporary work for starvation wages in the settlement of Alfei Menashe as menial laborers of the Jewish settlers. Thus the terrible process in effect entails indentured servitude of the Palestinians by their lords, the settlers, by creating a criminal reality of institutional and systematic discrimination.
If the barrier remains where it is, the petition claims, the villages that were full of life and commerce for dozens, and in some cases hundreds, of years, will be caged in and the residents forced to abandon them and become refugees. The barrier, in its present route, generates a process of “voluntary” population transfer.
The petition describes a wide range of severe infringements of the residents’ rights in addition to the loss of livelihood and enforced social isolation which include: humiliation by IDF soldiers, children who are forced to go by foot along the barrier to reach their schools being threatened with weapons, preventing the entry of ambulances into the area of the enclave in emergencies, placing serious difficulties in the way of residents requiring medical attention which in the past they could have reached within a few minutes, as well as preventing the supply of gas for cooking and religious services.
ACRI makes clear that this terrible reality, which is not a mere prediction of things to come but is the harsh and present reality, requires that the barrier, should the decision be made that it must exist, be dismantled and moved to coincide with the green line. The security of Alfei Menashe in this instance will be ensured by the establishment of a series of barriers around the settlement, and not around the villages (it is noted in the petition that a fence surrounding Alfei Menashe already exists). The miserable lives that have been forced onto the residents of the enclave are a recipe for rage and hatred, and create a reality in which Palestinian residents in search of an income are directed toward criminal activity by the Israeli bureaucracy. This is particularly significant when one considers the fact that there is no physical obstacle separating the villages from Israelis living within Israel (although Palestinian villagers are forbidden from entering into Israeli Territory). This reality, ACRI states, is inconsistent with the declared purpose of the barrier to provide security for citizens of Israel.
A statement of opinion that was prepared by the organization, Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, was attached to the petition and signed by architect and town planner Moshe Safdie, architect and town planner Professor Ernst Alexander, Architect and town planner Shmuel Groag, and town planner Nili Baruch. The statement of opinion makes clear that in the long run one can expect a degeneration and collapse of the physical and social infrastructure of the villages in the enclave. Only drastic action can reverse this trend. The planners further claim that the route of the barrier defies all planning and spatial logic.