Received June, 15, 2002
Continuing to build settlements under Sharon
Mayor of Beit Sahour

Dear Friends and Supporters,

In accordance with the principles of international law and human rights,
successive United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions,
along with the pressure of international opinion, have condemned and
demanded an immediate cessation of the settlement policies of the Israeli
government in the occupied territories. Despite this, the current government
of Israel, headed by Ariel Sharon, is still engaged in and committed to the
implementation of settling Jews in colonies throughout the West Bank and
Gaza Strip. This policy is aimed at destroying the infrastructure of the
Palestinian people and their existence in their homeland.

The Israeli authorities have systematically destroyed much of the security
and civil administration of the Palestinian Authority, demolished and
vandalized thousands of homes and public buildings, confiscated and
destroyed arable land and crops and repeatedly invaded Palestinian
controlled areas, arresting thousands of young men and boys. All of these
actions have been taken under the erroneous pretext of 'security' and this
operation is continuing; the Israeli government is confiscating yet more
land, increasing the border in their favor between Jerusalem and the West
Bank, and continuing to construct roads to connect Jerusalem to the illegal
settlements, dissecting the entire West Bank and transforming the land in to
cantons which are encircled by razor wire.

In the Bethlehem district alone, Israel has expropriated more than 13,000
dunams* of land legally owned by citizens of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit
Sahour. A road is being built from Jerusalem which is separating us from our
land and dividing our communities. This road will be for the use of Jewish
settlers and the Israeli army; a Palestinian is in danger of being shot and
killed, just by being in close proximity to the area. Deep trenches have
been dug, flanked by thousands of metres of razor wire. Bulldozers and
diggers are working constantly, under the protection of the Israeli
military, depriving Palestinians of their inalienable right to access
Jerusalem and their land, as well as denying municipalities the right to
expand their towns to meet the needs of the growing population.

We have not been idle in opposing this. The land owners, the citizens and
the municipalities of the district have made strenuous efforts to try and
halt the progress of the road and to protect the rights of the people. We
have joined forces and engaged a Palestinian lawyer to fight this through
the legal system in Israel, but this system is intrinsically predisposed to
the rights of Israelis, and not that of Palestinians. We have lodged
appeals, yet they are always over ruled. We have tried to use law, a
fundamental cornerstone of democracy, to safeguard our position but we are
fighting against a system which does not recognize our rights and will not
act in a fair and just manner.

The municipalities of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour are now appealing
to you to exert immediate pressure on the Israeli government and demand an
immediate halt to the continuing destruction of Palestine and its people.
The aggressive and belligerent actions of Israel are clearly an attempt to
eradicate Palestinians through the practice of ethnic cleansing and the
world needs to take action to avert one of the biggest crimes against
humanity being committed. Inaction over this fundamental abuse of our basic
rights stains the international community. Inaction is equal to complicity
in the rape of Palestine. We demand that the international community takes
the initiative now and acts with sincerity and courage to protect the
stability of the region, for the sake of all the people who live in these
lands.

Fuad Kokaly

Mayor of Beit Sahour