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Sunday, February 22, 2004

oh please

Palestinian-Americans look to US courts to stop West Bank barrier
AFP: NEW ORLEANS- Hasan Dayeh has been an American citizen since the early 1970s. But like many Palestinian immigrants, the New Orleans businessman still owns land in his hometown, the West Bank village of Beit Anan.

Dayeh, 50, says he will lose 35 acres (14 hectares) of land when Israel's planned West Bank barrier cuts through the town, which is about 10 miles (16.2 kilometers) northwest of Jerusalem.

The property, where his cousins now tend olives, grapes, and figs, has been in his family for generations.

There are about 300 people from Beit Anan living in the New Orleans area, and 2,500 nationwide, according to Dayeh. Most are US citizens, and Dayeh said almost all will be affected by the barrier.

"The town is losing 8,000 dunums -- 2,200 acres (880 hectares) -- of farmland, about two-thirds of its land," he said. "(We are) a group of people who are all going to be losing land, or it's going to be on the other side of the wall."

Although the village has hired attorneys to represent its interests in the Israeli courts and will be closely watching hearings at the world court in the Hague beginning Monday, Dayeh said the New Orleans group is considering filing suit in US courts as well.

"It could be tomorrow or the day after that they start building," he said. "We're trying as much as we can (in Israel), but we are at the mercy of the Israeli government. My family has lost land this way before."

The group may ask for the assistance of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in the matter, Dayeh said. . .

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington, said Israel will compensate Palestinian landowners for any property lost due to the fence.

"We will make every possible effort to minimize the negative impact on Palestinians," he said. "The Palestinian people are not our enemies. Suicide bombers are, and the fence is a tool to keep suicide bombers out of Israel."

Regev said Israel will provide gates though which Palestinian farmers can access their land, and that dissatisfied Palestinians will be able to seek redress in court.

"Israel is a country where there is rule of law, and if the people are unhappy with the compensation they are offered they can take the matter to the courts. Palestinians will get more justice from the Israeli courts than they ever would from Mr. (Yasser) Arafat's system," Regev said.

After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, immigrants from Beit Anan and a few other Palestinian villages began arriving in New Orleans in search of better economic opportunities. There are now about 2,000 people of Palestinian descent living here.

Hasan Dayeh's parents came in 1968 because "they didn't see much hope for the future in Beit Anan," he said.