April 21, 2009
The Council on Ethics
Norwegian Government Pension Fund
Government of Norway
Dear Members of the Council on Ethics,
It is with great dismay that we learned that Norway, a strong supporter of human rights and peace in the Middle East, has invested its citizens’ pensions in a company, Lev Leviev’s Africa-Israel, that is building Israeli settlements on our village’s land, and is destroying our olive groves and any hope for justice and peace in Palestine. Our village of Bil’in has carried out a four year campaign of creative, nonviolent protests against the construction of Israel’s wall and the Israeli settlement of Mattityahu East on our village’s land, Last Friday, one of our residents, 31 year-old Bassem Abu Rahma, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during a nonviolent protest in Bil’in. We have also endured countless beatings from Israeli soldiers as a result of our protests, as well as bullets, teargas, invasions and arrests. We are sure that the people of Norway do not want to support the seizure of our farmland, and violence against our community. Therefore, we call on the government and people of Norway to take decisive steps, as the government of the United Kingdom has recently done, to end all business relationships with Lev Leviev due his companies’ construction of settlements.
Our nonviolent campaign to prevent the seizure of 57.5% of our village's land for the construction of the settlement of Mattityahu East (part of the Modi'in Illit settlement bloc: http://bilin-village.org/francais/xmedia/cartes/bilin-saffa.jpg) has included more than 250 creative protests over the last four years. We are joined in these protests by Israeli and international supporters. Last week, Bassem Abu Rahma, a committed nonviolent protester from Bil'in, was killed when an Israel soldier shot him in the chest from about 30 meters with a high velocity teargas canister as Bassem was standing with a group of journalists who were filming our peaceful protest to save our land. Also during the course of these demonstrations, the Israeli military has injured around 1,300 civilian protesters, and arrested 60. Around 400 of those injured and 15 of those jailed were children from Bil'in.
We have chosen a strategy that shows unequivocally who is the victim and who is the victimizer. We know the Israeli army can choose to deal with our protests in two ways. When the army chooses violence, everyone sees what we are up against. And should the army refrain from violence, we achieve our aim of stopping their bulldozers. But even if the soldiers put down their weapons, which so far they haven't done, that would not make us equals. We would always be stronger, because we have the power of justice on our side.
We are connected to this land. Our mothers took us to harvest olives before we could speak. We remember playing under the olive trees which have since been uprooted by the Israeli settlers who have moved here. There is now a huge and growing Israeli settlement bloc called Modi'in Illit, which includes the settlement of Mattityahu East, where we played as children. It is hard for us to accept the idea that our children cannot play on the land where we played in our childhood.
Israeli settlements like Mattityahu East violate international law and countless United Nations resolutions. Our village is currently suing the Canadian companies Green Park and Green Mount in Canadian courts for War Crimes for the construction of Mattityahu East. According to numerous press accounts, Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of the company Africa-Israel, is building the homes in Mattityahu East for Green Park and Green Mount. Media reports also say that Danya Cebus has built homes in the settlements of Maale Adumim and Har Homa, settlements that separate the West Bank from East Jerusalem, our capital.
This week Bil'in hosts our Fourth International Conference on Grassroots Popular Resistance. As a center of the popular nonviolent struggle against Israel's wall and settlement for the last four years, Bil'in has hosted thousands of international and Israeli visitors who have come to witness, learn and join our struggle. We would welcome Norwegian representatives to visit us at any time in order to learn about the terrible impacts of Africa-Israel's settlement on Bil'in and other communities.
It is unconscionable that Norway is supporting a company that is helping to steal the land of Bil'in and other Palestinian villages and is destroying hopes for peace. Please stand with us in our struggle for justice and divest from Africa-Israel.
The Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements - Bil'in Village
Cc: Kristin Halvorsen, Minister of Finance
The Office of the Prime Minister
Henriette Westhrin, Deputy Minister
Roger Sandum, Deputy Minister
Geir Axelsen, Deputy Minister
Roger Schjerva, Deputy Minister
Ole Morten Geving, Deputy Minister