West Bank village to appeal against MTL developer

Residents argue that the development promotes Israeli policies

The Quebec Court of Appeal announced Wednesday that on June 3 they will hear the appeal submitted by the West Bank village of Bil’in against a Superior court decision from last September.

The Bil’in Village Council brought the lawsuit in 2008 against two Quebec-registered companies based in Montreal: Green Park International Inc. and Green Mount International Inc. The plaintiffs claimed that the companies and their sole director, Annette Laroche, are involved in constructing settlements for Israelis on occupied land within the territory of Bil’in.

“Bil’in brought the lawsuit against [the Montreal-based companies]…under international humanitarian law. Specifically, under the fourth Geneva convention, which says that an occupying power cannot replace the indigenous population with its own population,” said Mark Arnold, the Canadian lawyer representing Bil’in. “The lawsuit alleges that Green Park is, by doing this, in a way aiding, abetting, and assisting the state of Israel in carrying out its settlement policies.”

Superior Court judge Louis-Paul Cullen dismissed the case on the grounds that the Quebec court is not the correct forum to have the case heard, and ruled that the case should go to the Israeli High Court of Justice. The plaintiffs filed an appeal after the decision was made in September.

“The Quebec Superior Court has jurisdiction over Quebec companies and directors who are residing in Quebec,” said Arnold. “The problem is that [Cullen] is fundamentally wrong. The Israeli High Court of Justice will not hear this case, so he has sent this case into oblivion.”

In Bil’in, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a school teacher and the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and the Settlements, was arrested in his home by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank on December 10, 2009. Amnesty International criticized his arrest, claiming on its web site that Abu Rahmah is “being detained solely on account of legitimately exercising his right to freedom of expression in opposing the Israeli fence/wall.”

Abu Rahmah was in Montreal last summer for the court proceedings and spoke at Concordia University.

According to Stefan Christoff, local activist and Tadamon! member, those from Bil’in who came to Montreal for the proceedings last year were severely harassed upon returning to Bil’in.

“They only faced that after they spoke in Canada. Their case was highly covered in the media,” said Christoff.

Since June 2009, over 30 non-violent protesters from Bil’in have been arrested by the Israeli military. Amnesty International declared in January that Abu Rahmah can be considered as a prisoner of conscience and called for his immediate and unconditional release.

Abu Rahmah displayed hope in a letter written behind bars at the Ofer Military Detention Camp in January. “The occupation is threatened by our growing movement and is therefore trying to shut us down. What Israel’s leaders do not understand is that popular struggle cannot be stopped by our imprisonment,” he wrote.