Courtesy of the International Solidarity Movement
On Monday, August 28th, two structures were demolished in the illegal Israeli settlement of Matityahu East, on the land of Bil'in village. Construction of the settler colonies had continued until an Israeli court issued a stop work order pending a decision on the status of the colony. The demolition was carried out by the construction company responsible for expanding the colony. This reversal is in response to an Israeli Supreme Court order on July 20th, instructing the company to demolish the two partial structures. The court also decided that a Palestinian road must be built in order to give the village access to their land. This latter ruling has so far not been enforced.
As well as demanding the demolition of the two structures in the Matityahu East enclave, the court instructed the company to restore the land to its previous pre-colonial state, wherein the land was a flourishing olive grove. Previously the whole of the illegal colonies of Matityahu and Mod'in Elit was agricultural land belonging to Bil'in and other villages in the area.
Occupation authorities annexed 1,100 dunums (275 acres) of the land of Bil'in in 1991. At the time, the confiscation was justified by reference to an old Ottoman-era law allowing for confiscation of unused land. Much later, it was revealed that in order to demonstrate that the coveted land was "unused," the State made use of photos of seasonal crop farmland taken when the crops were not yet in season. More than a decade after the confiscation, Israeli colonial settlements began to be built, following a typical pattern of settlement expansion, whereby first, Palestinian land is declared State property and then eventually distributed to Israelis. As a reaction to the theft of the land, weekly non-violent demonstrations have been held in Bil'in village for the past 17 months.
These demonstrations, in existence weekly since January 2005, garnered international attention and support, making a protracted legal campaign challenging the settlement's legality a possibility. Yesterday's demolition is a major step in the struggle of Bil'in village to restore their land to its pre-colonial state. The village plans to continue to challenge plans to gain retrospective permission for other parts of the colony already constructed or under construction.