On Monday 22 August, the Israeli Supreme Court authorised completion of the Separation Wall to the northwest of the Palestinian village of al-Walaje, located south of Jerusalem. Upon completion of this section, the Separation Wall will completely enclose the village.
Separation Wall in al-Walaje (Photo: Marta Fortunato, AIC)
"We will be imprisoned, our movement will be totally controlled and in order to go out from the village we will be forced to pass a checkpoint," Shirin al-Araj, one of the leaders of popular resistance in al-Walaje told the Alternative Information Center (AIC).
The 2400 inhabitants of al-Walaje, who have lost more than 80% of their lands since 1948, have been struggling for years against house demolitions, the confiscation of agricultural land, the expansion of Har Gillo and Gillo colonies and the construction of the Separation Wall, a 8 meter high concrete barrier that will soon make the village of al-Walaje a prison.
In 2010 the village municipality and residents petitioned the court against the reasonableness of the Separation Wall’s route which harms the old cemetery of the village and divides residents from the spring which has served them for hundreds of years. The building of the Wall would also harm the tens of dunams of agricultural land and result in the uprooting of olive and other trees and a cutting off of the village landowners from their land.
However, Israeli High Court justices Dorit Beinisch, Asher Gronis and Uzi Fogelman determined that in matters under the purview of the military commander, responsible for protecting the region’s security and order, his professional opinion must be given great weight, and they subsequently affirmed the route of the Wall as requested by Israel’s security forces.
The Court did agree, however, that the natural water spring will remain in the village while a tunnel will be built to allow residents to reach the cemetery. "I can not imagine a funeral in a tunnel," said al-Araj.
"The purpose of Israel is to make our lives impossible," continued al-Araj. “It is part of the Israeli policy of the quiet-transfer: Israel makes our lives so difficult that we will be forced to leave. In al-Walaje, resistance is first of all a struggle for survival. "
According to Ottoman records from the end of the 16th century some 100 residents lived in al-Walaje. From then until 1948, the village was located on a hill across from the village’s current location. According to British records from 1945, some 1600 residents lived in the village and they possessed more than 17,000 dunams of land. The village was occupied by the Zionist Harel Brigade on 21 August 1948. Some of the villagers remained on their lands where the village is currently located, whilst others became refugees. Data from the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics notes that some 2,400 residents live in the village. The number of refugees from al-Walaje is accepted to be 11,000 people.
The Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements of al-Walaje denounced the High Court ruling, contending in a statement that “the decision of the High Court provides a legal status to state violence”.
The Committee further denounced the court decision to accept the plan to put agricultural gates as a way to ensure access of the farmers to their land. During the trial the residents presented data gathered by the United Nations which demonstrate that in places where agricultural gates were constructed, less than 18% of the farmers succeeded in actually maintaining access to their land.
Al-Walaje residents march on Naqba day, earlier this year (Photo: Marta Fortunato, AIC)
Al-Walaje residents will not abandon their struggle to live a life of dignity on their own land, according to the Popular Committee. “The village paid a heavy price in kidnapping of its citizens, violent attack on peaceful demonstrators, injuries and more. While we commit to continue with our struggle and are determined to resist, we ask people of fair minds to reflect on what option is left to us as Israel refuses to listen to nonviolent protests of illegal and brutal policies of ethnic cleansing?”