Court asked to ensure Palestinian farmers’ water access

Law suit filed after Civil Administration declares land as archeological area; lawyer says settlers have access to disputed spring.

Palestinian wheat farmer 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Palestinian wheat farmer 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Farmers from Deir Nizam, 23 km. northwest of Ramallah, petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday to order the civil administration to allow them access to the Ein al-Kis spring to irrigate their fields.
The farmers are also demanding access to their cultivated fields adjacent to the spring.
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The villagers have used the spring for decades, but since January 2010 the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria has prevented access to the area, saying it was an archeological site, attorney Shlomy Zachary said.
He is one of three lawyers from Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights who filed the petition on behalf of the Palestinians against the civil administration.
According to Zachary and fellow lawyers Michael Sfard and Avisar Lev, the area was never formally declared an archeological site.
As such, the attorneys claim the civil administration’s actions are unauthorized, unreasonable, biased and based on ulterior motives that aim to expel the Palestinian petitioners from their land.
Zachary added that the civil administration has not stopped settlers from nearby Halamish, also known as Neveh Tzuf, from accessing the spring. He further charged that the settlers had built illegally in the area of the spring.
“The authorities are using archeological claims as an excuse to prevent the petitioners from accessing their lands – based on considerations that have nothing to do with archeology,” Zachary said.
“The decision to withhold access to the spring and the surrounding fields was taken irrespective of any archeological relics in the area, if indeed there are any, only to evade a previous High Court of Justice ruling against the strategy of blocking access to Palestinians in order to maintain ‘public order.’ We ask the court to annul this decision,” he said.
The civil administration could not be reached for a comment.
According to Yesh Din, the civil administration’s actions have harmed the livelihood of Palestinian farmers and inflamed tensions in the area.
This year violence has broken out between the IDF and Palestinians almost every Friday at weekly protests in nearby Nabi Salih, which also claims the spring.
Itzhik Shadmi, who heads the Binyamin Citizens Committee and lives in Halamish, said he believed Palestinians had access to the spring, as well as to three wells built by teens from his community.
He said that five years ago, the teens built three wells from a small spring that trickled in the winter and muddied the ground in the summer.
They then encircled them with stones and boulders. After some time, a family from Halamish named the area Meir’s spring, in memory of their father who died of cancer.
They donated tables and benches and built an awning, so that people could sit and enjoy the area.
Last year, Palestinians burned the memorial area a number of times, but that it was rebuilt after each incident, Shadmi said.
At present, Jews tend to use the area on Friday and Saturday while Palestinians make use of it during the week, Shadmi said.