09/22/2011 06:33

Tents on beach part of campaign against new tourist resort; ILA says protesters misleading public.

The High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction on Wednesday preventing the Israel Lands Authority from demolishing an environmental protest encampment set up on Nahsholim beach last Thursday, moments before an eviction order was due to come into force.

Supreme Court Justice Uzi Fogelman’s ruling came after the Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the High Court on Wednesday morning on behalf of three of the environmentalists, Lirona Arad, Gil Sasson and Shai Agmon.

Justice Fogelman also ordered the ILA to respond to the petition within 14 days.

Arad, Sasson and Agmon say they are leading a campaign against ILA plans to build 500 vacation units on a site currently used for fish breeding ponds about 300 meters inland of the shoreline north of Kibbutz Nahsholim.

The three erected the tents close to the beach six days ago as part of that protest, but on Monday they received a written warning ordering them to evacuate the camp by noon on Wednesday.

Protest leader Sasson, an environmental activist and tour guide, slammed the ILA’s decision to evict the protesters.

“There have been protest encampments around the country for months, but the ILA decides to evacuate our tents, and in such a short timeframe,” Sasson said on Wednesday. “The Nahsholim beach is the most appropriate place to carry out our ‘Save the Nahsholim Beach’ protest. So it seems as if the only purpose of the evacuation orders is to seriously harm our legitimate protest.”

The petitioners also argued that evacuating the tents would harm their right to freedom of expression and their right to protest.

“The fact that the ILA permits tents to be pitched on Nahsholim beach shows that the decision to evacuate them is based on its opposition to the protest, and is an attempt to silence it,” attorney Nira Shelo of the ACRI added.

However, ILA spokeswoman Ortal Tzabar told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the protest tents were pitched on a nature reserve close to the beach, harming public freedom of movement and causing a nuisance.

Tzabar also said the protesters had misled the public by pitching their tents several hundred meters away from the project site.

“They posted signs close to the beach to fool the public and journalists and present a false picture of where the project will be built,” Tzabar said. “This is fraud and deception.”

According to Tzabar, the planned project is supported by the Tourism and Environment Ministries and will enhance public access to the beach which is now blocked by the fish ponds.

The project will not be built on any part of the nature reserve, Tzabar said, and added that the ILA is now formulating its response to the High Court.