Bil'in Sues 2 Canadian Firms for Building in West Bank Settlement

Local council head says new routes worse than the original, state trampling recent supreme court rulings.

The West Bank village of Bil'in has sued two Canadian companies for building in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, the village's lawyer said Thursday.

Attorney Michael Sfard said this was the first time a private company has been sued for investing in settlements. The claim was filed Wednesday in Superior Court in Montreal, Canada, against Green Park International and Green Mount International, sister companies registered in Quebec.

The village claims the companies have been building in Israel's largest settlement, Upper Modiin, in violation of international law. The construction is taking place on land seized from Bil'in after Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War, according to the suit.

Among other things, the claim cites the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power from transferring its own civilians into occupied territory.

The suit asks the Canadian court to order a halt to all construction and the demolition of all the homes the companies have built in Upper Modiin, Sfard said. About 250 apartments in 30 buildings are at issue, he said.

The village also seeks punitive damages of $2 million Canadian.

The Canadian companies could not be contacted immediately because of the time difference.

"This is the first time a private sector entity is being sued for investment in settlements," Sfard said. "My understanding is that it will serve as a blinking red light for any investors and corporations that are considering doing anything in the settlements.

Bil'in is best known for its weekly protests against Israel's West Bank separation barrier, which is being built to stop suicide bombers, but has also gobbled up half of the village's land.

Bil'in council head slams proposed route for West Bank fence

Meanwhile, the head of the Bil'in local council has slammed Israel's proposals for alternate routes for the West Bank security fence, saying that the government is treating recent Supreme Court rulings as though they were "weightless particles of dust."

This week, after a 10-month delay, prosecutors presented the Supreme Court with a draw up of the alternate fence routes, which Bil'in local council head Ahmed Issa Abdallah Yassin said will return only 200 of the reported 2000 dunams of land belonging to the local council that he says were expropriated under the original fence route.

Yassin added that the alternate routes proposed by the state have belittled the Supreme Court's decision, "out of the belief that justices will not press the state an additional time to help Bil'in farmers and will not rework the fence's route again."

Yassin said that in the meantime, the state is allowing building developers to create facts on the ground and that in another two months time, "they will be able to debate new security stipulations that will be influenced by building projects which will by then be complete, leaving them "no choice" but to rework the fence with these developments in mind."

Sfard, who is representing petitioners against the new routes, says that the reworked plans for the fence will harm the residents of Bil'in even more than the original route.

In September 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the state must remove a 1,700 meter section of the fence that runs next to Bil'in, and build an alternative route. The justices stipulated in their ruling that the section of the fence in question had expropriated Palestinian land, with the implicit purpose of expanding the nearby settlement of Modi'in Ilit.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch on Wednesday stated that the matter of the new fence routes will be debated in the near future by a special panel of three justices.

Also on Wednesday, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem charged that the government has not changed the course of its West Bank separation barrier, in defiance of rulings from Supreme Court.

Palestinian tries to topple West Bank barrier using bulldozer

On Wednesday, a Palestinian man tried to ram a tractor into the fence police said, as 10 people were hurt in separate protests against the barrier.

The unidentified man drove up to a concrete barricade at Qalandia, a military checkpoint outside Ramallah, but turned back toward the Palestinian-ruled city after being confronted by border guards, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

"They used riot-dispersal means to make him leave the scene. I understand there were no damage or injuries," he said.

In Na'alin, a West Bank village that has seen weeks of demonstrations and Israel Defense Forces clampdowns as a section of the barrier goes up nearby, soldiers injured seven protesters during scuffles, witnesses and medical officials said.