On Sunday Israel’s High Court ruled to freeze state plans to build a part of Israel’s “separation” barrier that would have gone through the middle of Battir, a victory for the farming village of 5,000 people located west of Bethlehem in the southern West Bank.
The decision comes after years of resistance from locals as well as outside forces that worked to achieve recognition of Battir as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Danger, and to raise awareness in the international community of how the environment would be negatively impacted by construction of the wall in the area. More than 75 percent of Battir is considered part of Area C, which, according to the Oslo accords is under full Israeli military and civilian control.
The Green Line runs through a valley in the center of Battir, with the majority of residents and their houses on one side, and much of their agricultural land on the other. At present, while there is no concrete wall, a fence marks the divide, increasing the time and energy it takes for farmers and residents to access their land forcing them to trek around the fence. The location of the wall as proposed would have cut through several homes, as well as cut off the village from the single school in the village.While Israel claims that the Separation Wall is for “security reasons,” only a small portion of the wall’s path actually runs along the Green line separating Israel from the West Bank. Eighty-five percent of the wall snakes through the West Bank, separating Palestinians from their own land and their own neighborhoods, and leading many to refer to it as the “Annexation Wall.” According to the grassroots group Stop the Wall, once completed, the wall would de facto annex some 46% of the West Bank, leaving many communities and even individual homes entirely surrounded by the wall and cut off from their own communities.
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