The Israeli Special Appeals Committee for land seizure under emergency law released its verdict last Wednesday 24/04/2013, in the case of the Cremisan Valley against the separation wall. The verdict ruled in favor of the proposed second route which leaves the convent on the Palestinian side of the wall. With this decision the appeals submitted by Advocate Ghayyath Nasser who represented the land owners in the Cremisan Valley and the lawyer of the Society of St. Yves, Advocate Manal Hazzan-Abu Sinni, who represented the nuns of the Salesian Convent, were all together rejected. The decision came out two months after the final hearing on 12th of February and after seven years of proceedings.
The committee decided that building the separation wall according to the alternative route which will surround the Salesian Nuns Convent and Primary School from three sides and will confiscate most of the convent’s lands, is a reasonable solution that balances Israel’s security needs on one hand, and freedom of religion and the right to education on the other.
The Society of St. Yves was initially successful in changing the primary course of the wall, by which the Convent and the School will remain on the Palestinian side of the wall. Still the Society of St. Yves sees the verdict as highly problematic and unjust as it doesn’t even discuss the violation of freedom of religion, the right to education as well as the economical damage caused for a unique Christian minority in Beit Jala by the construction of the wall.
In the decision it is emphasized that the nuns were allowed to join the case at a late stage, which resulted in altering the primary suggested route of the wall and left the convent on the Israeli side. Through the new route the school and the convent are not separated from Beit Jala anymore. By approving the alternative route the educational mission of the school will not be affected as the street leading to the compound will remain open. The committee also declared that the claims regarding future expansion of the school and convent are weak arguments which have no legal implications as they were not backed by plans or maps approved by the authorities.
Furthermore, the committee considered that the agricultural gate that is planned to be established near the convent will allow passage of the nuns and monks to the Salesian Monks Monastery on the other side of the wall which will guarantee their right of freedom of religion. The gate would also allow farmers and landowners to access their lands, especially that the State has declared in front of the committee to be flexible in issuing permits.
The committee has ignored all testimonies and claims of the landowners regarding the damage caused to their land by building the wall and the fact that it will separate them from their lands.
The committee ignored all references and arguments based on international law like the protection of religious minorities. It also rejected the expert opinion given by Professor Judy Green on the environmental damage to the valley which would be caused by building the wall.
Finally, the committee concluded that its authority is only to decide on one and a half kilometer of the separation wall. Thus it sees no possibility of refusing the proposed alternative route as it lies not in its responsibility to approve the proposed route by the landowners and the nuns beneath Gilo as this would actually mean the dismantling of the adjacent, already built parts of the wall. St. Yves will consider taking the case to the High Court.
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Society of St. Yves