Environmental Agency Backs Palestinians on Wall

Farmers Will Lose Access to Fields Under Planned Barrier

getty images

By Reuters

Published December 12, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

An Israeli government environmental agency challenged the Defence Ministry in court on Wednesday over a section of the controversial West Bank wall that threatens an ancient Palestinian farming community.

A letter of support from the Nature and Parks Authority was part of a petition heard by the High Court to order the ministry to reroute the planned barrier away from Battir village, south of Jerusalem.

While the court has issued such rulings in the past to reduce Palestinian hardship from the seizures of occupied land involved in erecting the vast barrier, it is unusual for such cases to pit Israeli officials against each other.

Battir, which abuts the boundary with Israel, is famed for its terraced agricultural fields, irrigated with methods dating back millennia. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) honoured the village for its landscape last year.

Authority director Shaul Goldstein described its involvement in the case as unprecedented.

“It’s not every day that we come out against the Defence Ministry in court,” he told Reuters.

“We don’t object to putting up obstacles to stop terrorists, it’s just that we believe here that other methods can be used.”

The Tel Aviv to Jerusalem train runs nearby the village, along the 1949 armistice line and no man’s land which today demarcates the West Bank.

Some 30 percent of Battir’s farmland is located beyond the Israeli railway, with Palestinians secured free access under a decades-old arrangement with the Jewish state.

Citing fear of armed Palestinian infiltrators who have struck inside Israel since 2000, the Defence Ministry plans to fortify a fence protecting the train line at Battir with a wall.

Villagers say this will irreversibly disrupt agriculture and wildlife at the site, and were supported in petitioning the High Court by Israeli sympathizers including from Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Nature and Parks Authority.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that the wall was illegal and that Israel should cease construction.

Israeli army colonel Ofer Hindi, representing the state in the Battir case, argued for the security benefits of the planned section by saying that two villagers were jailed in 2008 for planning to bomb the railway line.

The area is also an access point for Palestinians seeking to work illegally in Israel, and whom the military regards as security threats, Hindi told the High Court.

Monday’s session ended without the court setting a new date for further hearings nor ruling. In such cases rulings are generally delivered within days, a court spokeswoman said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.