The High Court of Justice will hear on Wednesday a petition that asks for court
intervention to prevent the West Bank security barrier from being built in a way
that petitioners say could destroy the shared Palestinian-Israeli Battir
cultural landscape site.
Battir is a village in the Palestinian
Authority, and is southwest of Jerusalem, situated just above the railway to Tel
Friends of the Earth’s Middle East (FOEME) division filed the
emergency petition on December 2.
FOEME reported that, in an
unprecedented development, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has taken
FOEME’s side against the Defense Ministry, the IDF and the rest of the
The government says that the placement of the barrier along
its planned route is necessary for security reasons and that it will not do any
irreversible damage to the site.
But according to FOEME, the Nature and
Parks Authority said that when the route was planned in 2005, significant
environmental concerns were pushed aside for security reasons.
authority reportedly said that the site constitutes an important public interest
that is special and valuable for the benefit of the public and future
generations, and that the route of the barrier should be
Also, the fact that since 2005, the barrier in this area
was never erected suggested that the project of building it was no longer
operating in an emergency environment, the authority reportedly
Gidon Bromberg, Israel director of FOEME, said, “The NPA should be
congratulated for keeping true to its mission and clarifying to the court that
the barrier, if built, would indeed lead to irreversible damage, highlighting
the need to reassess the impact of the barrier even beyond Battir.
find it odd that the military is stating an opinion pertaining to environmental
and cultural heritage values – issues on which it has no expertise – contrary to
the opinion of the NPA, known to the military in advance, and without attaching
a single expert opinion to support its position,” continued Bromberg.
addition, a letter from the PA from November 27 indicates that the Palestinians
listed the site on their Tentative List for World Heritage.
application to UNESCO was accepted on October 31, 2011, making it the first UN
agency to accept “Palestine” as a member, over a year before the recent UN
General Assembly vote recognizing “Palestine” as a non-member state.
PA also hired an international expert to survey the site sometime later this
month, in order to submit an official application regarding the site to UNESCO
by January 31.
Bromberg added, “The Israeli government is obliged to
protect heritage sites on the basis of various international obligations
including the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and the Hague Convention for the
Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.”
said that following the UN General Assembly admission of Palestine as a
non-member observer state, this case raises concern that any destruction of
cultural property associated with the building of the barrier could lead to
criminal proceedings against Israelis under international law.
claimed that the site is 4,000 years old and that then OC Central Command
Maj.-Gen. Moshe Dayan had carefully preserved the site in a 1949 armistice
The IDF Spokesman responded that it had no comment at this
time other than to state that the issue was before the court for it to make a
The Justice Ministry was not able to provide an official
response by press time.