Since 2005, the Palestinian village of Bil’in in the occupied West Bank, has been cut off from large swathes of its agricultural land by a barbed wire “security barrier,” built ostensibly to protect the nearby settlement of Modi’in Illit, one of the fastest growing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Yet, like many other cases across the West Bank, Israel built the fence some distance away from the settlement, confirming, for many, the suspicion that the building of such barriers is in effect a land-grab to ensure future settlement expansion.
Through its weekly demonstrations over the past two and a half years, Bil’in has become a beacon of solidarity action in the occupied West Bank. Though the protesters have in the past been subjected to teargas, stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets, leaving at least two people seriously injured, it has attracted many Israeli and international activists to its Friday afternoon march from the village to the security barrier.
On Wednesday, September 4th 2007 at the Israeli High Court, a panel of three judges unanimously accepted an appeal by the head of the Bil’in local council, declaring that the Israel military’s security justifications for constructing the barrier on the lands of Bil’in were unsatisfactory, and ordered the government to formulate a new route in a “reasonable period of time.” Chief Justice, Dorit Beinish, wrote in the court’s decision “We were not convinced that it is necessary for security-military reasons to retain the current route that passes on Bil’in’s lands,” adding that their verdict will thus “require destroying the existing fence in certain places and building a new one." The Ministry of Defense responded that it would "study the ruling and respect it," but doubts were expressed in Bil’in as to whether the victory in court would ensure any real change on the ground. In the past, the Israeli military has violated, with impunity, rulings of the high court which defend the rights of the Palestinian people.
Despite these complications, the Bil’in struggle remains a symbol of solidarity and joint resistance against the wall.