A village study of Battir was conducted by Stop the Wall around December 1, 2010. Battir is a village in the West Bank of Palestine with a population of around 5,000 people. People are employed as farmers or employees working in small projects or businesses. From the 1940s to today, farmers and the community fight against confiscation of their lands by Israel. Battir's is a story of resistance through the court system.
Battir is a tight-knit community and everyone is like a large family. Education is very high. The town boasts an alumnus from UAC, who graduated in 1935. In the 1940s, boys and girls studied in school together in the village of Battir. In 1951, a girls school was built.
Situated just 10 kilometers from Jerusalem, in the past it was easy to reach by rail on the train system build by the Ottomans. In 1949 Israel no longer allowed residents to take the train, which was used for regular access to Jerusalem to buy fruits and vegetables or attend school in Jerusalem.
However, in 1949 an agreement between Israel and Jordan, called the Rodus agreement, stated that Battir would remain a Palestinian village. However, it also said that Israel had rights over its railway and its roads. Palestinians still controlled their land up to and even beyond the railroad. While Palestinians followed this agreement strictly, still ten Palestinian farmers were killed while accessing their land in the 1950s.
Confiscation of land continued. There have been two major orders of land confiscation in Battir's history: In 1981, 400-500 dunams and in 1983, 500 dunams was confiscated by order from Israel. Originally, this town of 12,000 dunams total.
The second confiscation case actually went to court for 6 – 7 years and ended up in the Supreme Court. The Supreme court had made a “deal” with the Palestinian farmers that if they instead petitioned their plea to the Military Court they would receive at least some land on the condition that they never return their plea to the Supreme Court. They agreed. The military court took all of their land plus a nearby valley.
The farmer and his lawyers counted the political situation to change. Then, the Israeli military brought in maps. The military claimed that a survey showed that 65% of the land being used in the 1940s was reduced to a mere 50% in the 1960s. The previous Turkish regime had required that land not used for the years become land owned by the state. Yet, under this law it would have become Palestinian, not Israeli, land.
Israel has 13 different laws to confiscate Palestinian land. One law states that if the state does not use previously-owned, confiscated land for ten years, then the previous owner can reclaim it. In the 1983 case, the farmer was able to reclaim some of his land in this way. It was a strategic victory for Battir's farmers because this land is located in the center of other Battir farmer's confiscated lands.
He planted apricot trees, knowing that the land would be very difficult to re-confiscate. The court took pictures of the land in the months of July, August, June, and January, exactly when there are no crops in the fields because the harvest or planting had just finished. The court recognized this tactic on the part of the Israeli claim and these photographs were not considered. Then, the military took a map to court on which they had drawn a plan for the land confiscation but had not a scale, doubling the land they planned to take. A judge postponed the court to allow Israel to fix the map's mistake. Ultimately, lawyers were able to get 250 dunams back from the confiscation order.
Historically, the land taken from Battir totals around 900-1000 dunams. Two-thousand dunams of land in Battir falls in the special zone, or Area C, because this land is considered to be Jerusalem land. Control of Jerusalem is disputed territory. In Area C, the Palestinian Authority is not allowed. Land owners cannot build on land in Area C but can still farm on the land. Also in this special zone there are 35 houses and a boys school. The Israelis cannot demolish the school because it was built under the British. The school is only 5 meters from the Israeli-owned railway yet there as never been an incident with Israeli forces. However, since classrooms have recently been added, Israel has put out a demolition order for the school.
In 2002, the Apartheid Wall was announced and it planned to take more than 2,000 dunams from Battir. This case of land confiscation was also taken to court. An Israeli officer produced a map on A4 paper depicting the route of the Wall. The map was not clear and so the judge demanded a new map. When the new map was produced, it became clearer that all of the land from the Rodus Agreement would being taken by this claim. The Agreement, however, is very strong legally and Israel was not successful in winning this land confiscation case. The Wall's route is now planned on the edges of Battir, not on farmer's land. The current plans show that it will almost entirely separate Battir from both Jerusalem and nearby al-Walajah.
Unlike many other villages affected by the wall, in Battir there is no popular resistance movement. However, rumors of possible settlement construction make Battir's population very wary. They say, our roots are in the land. We will stay on the land. Our bones are here. We are part of the land, which is priceless.
Photos of Battir:

Select (Ctrl+A) and Copy (Ctrl+C)