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by David Bloom

On July 9, the International Court of Justice at the Hague issued an advisory opinion saying Israel was in violation of international law and conventions by building its "separation barrier" within the occupied West Bank. The United Nations General Assembly, by a vote of 150-6, with 10 abstentions, adopted the opinion. The UN resolution requires Israel to dismantle the barrier and compensate Palestinian farmers and property owners for the damage done to their crops by the fence. Israel flatly rejected the resolution.


Michael Tarazi, a legal adviser to the PLO, described the court's ruling as "a real bolstering for Palestinian moderates who have long argued that violence is not the way to victory." Tarazi warned that "if the international community sends a message that this can be ignored, it only enforces the extremists who prey on the fact that most Palestinians feel abandoned." (Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10)

As if to underscore Tarazi's point, the day after the ruling, Hezbollah secretary general Sheik Hassan Nasrallah opined: "What will remove the barrier in occupied Palestine is the intention, will, jihad and resistance of Palestinians and the [Arab] nation." Nasrallah pointed to UN Security Council Resolution 425, issued in 1978, which demanded Israel's immediate withdrawal from Lebanon. Israel did not pull out until 2000, after years of Hezbollah guerrilla attacks. "This international resolution was not able to return for us one inch of our occupied lands," Nasrallah said. "Arabs might be happy for hours or days because of the international court's ruling but everybody knows that this ruling is non-binding." (Ha'aretz, July 10)

The court's ruling, which cannot be appealed, was more than just an opinion on the legality of the barrier. It was a searing 65-page indictment of Israel's entire occupation, including the illegal settlement of 430,000 Jews in occupied Palestinian territory. The 14-1 ruling was much stronger than had been expected. Under the leadership of France, the entire European Union voted for adoption of the ruling at the General Assembly. Israel had lobbied hard against this. The Israeli government hoped that some European countries, especially Britain, would break away from the consensus.

To explain their failure, some Israeli officials quoted by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, theorized "that the emerging generation of European elites has less empathy with Israel than their predecessors. They also have no Holocaust guilt, meaning they would have fewer reservations about joining a Palestinian-inspired campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state." One official told the JTA, "We are losing the battle for legitimacy in Europe." (JTA, July, 29)

The barrier's US supporters were similarly concerned. Malcolm Hoenlien, executive chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in the USA, warned in the Israeli paper Ma'ariv July 26 that "the Israeli public fails to understand the importance and the possible implications of this ruling. I would not like my grandchildren to one day open a history book only to learn that Israel committed crimes against humanity. This ruling presents Israel as an illegitimate state and this is what will go down in the annals of history. We should not underestimate this ruling, as it confers the power on quasi-government and semi-official bodies to call for boycotting Israel. Even if a US veto in the UN Security Council prevents officially-imposed sanctions on Israel, the damage to Israel could still prove enormous." (Ma'ariv, July 26)

British parliamentarian Gerald Kaufman has already called for sanctions to enforce the ICJ's decision, as did Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouthi. The Palestine Authority's representative to the United Nations, Nasser al-Kidwa, said that full sanctions would not be called for immediately. "It's time now, we believe, for implementation, for compliance, and at a later stage for additional measures," Kidwa said. (AP, July 21)


After Kidwa identified companies assisting in the building of the barrier as potential targets for boycott measures, charges spread anew that businessmen in Palestine have sold 420,000 tons of cement to Israel. The cement is used in settlement construction and--according to a Palestinian auditor's report--for the separation barrier itself. It was originally sold by Egypt to the PA for rebuilding demolished Palestinian homes and was instead sold off-the-books to the Israelis, circumventing Palestinian Authority taxes. (Al-Jazeera, July 31)

(Al-Jazeera, July 31)

The corruption charges occurred against a backdrop of a violent power struggle among Palestinians, between one faction loyal to President Yasser Arafat and another to former Gaza Preventative Security Chief Mahmoud Dahlan. The resulting violence, kidnappings and arson led Palestinian commentator Douad Khuttab to note that "the main loser in all this fighting is the Palestinian people themselves, who seem to have lost an opportunity to make capital from the historic decision of the International Court of Justice regarding the wall and the following UN General Assembly decision." (Jordan Times, July 31)


For its part, Israel has declared its intention to ignore the ICJ ruling, and has announced few changes to the planned route of the barrier. On Aug. 3, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz announced the barrier would be built around the West Bank's largest illegal Jewish settlement, Ma'ale Adumim, and its satellite communities--leaving only 10 kilometers between the barrier and the Jordanian border. It was also confirmed that an additional 600 units of housing would be added to Ma'ale Adumim, despite international reproval. In addition, Mofaz announced that approximately 40 Jewish settlements not included on the "Israeli" side of the wall would be surrounded by their own individual fences. And contradictory statements have been made about the "Ariel salient," a section of barrier slated to surround the central West Bank settlements of Kedumim, Ariel, and Immanuel. (Ha'aretz, June 30, Aug. 3)

Not one inch of the barrier as already built is to be moved. Instead, Israel announced that $11.1 million would be spent in a series of tunnels, bridges and roads to help isolated Palestinian communities maintain access to larger towns without having to pass through Israeli checkpoints.

There will be no relief for the people of Qalqilya region, whose farmers are cut off from their fields by the barrier, hostage to a restrictive permit system and the whims of Israeli security forces. Forty-five percent of the West Bank's agricultural land is now trapped on the "Israeli" side of the wall that has been already built in the north.

In the town of Jayyous, the effects of this policy can clearly be seen in fruit rotting on trees and emaciated sheep which have been forbidden to graze in the village's fields. For about two weeks following the June 30 Israeli High Court ruling that the barrier must accommodate Palestinian humanitarian concerns, Jewish militants from the nearby illegal settlement of Zufim, in conjunction with the Israeli army, seized more pproperty and built a new road into Jayyous' land. Signs planted on the road read "Israel" and names of famous Zionists.

(, July 20) )


The barrier's current route does have some notable detractors amongst the Israeli security establishment. Four former heads of the Shin Bet internal security service have come out against the fence's route, as has the Council for Peace and Security, a group of 100 Israeli reserve officers, many of them generals. "It is against the security interests of the state and its residents on either side of the fence," the council wrote in a letter to the Knesset. (Jersalem Post, March 30)

Despite the ICJ ruling, the UN resolution and the reservations of prominent Israeli security professionals, a US congressional resolution condemning the ICJ ruling July 15 passed by 361-45. Speaking against resolution 713 was Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), who said of the barrier, " I have personally witnessed the very severe hardships it imposes on Palestinian life. Again, a fence on the Green Line is one thing. That makes sense strategically and demographically. But a separation barrier that winds its way through the West Bank, appropriating Palestinian land in its wake, is not acceptable."

Numerous commentators and editors in both the US and Israel condemned the ruling for not taking into consideration the purported successes of the barrier in preventing attacks on Israeli civilians. But nothing in the court's decision precludes Israel from building a barrier on its own land or on the border. In describing the current barrier's route, former Shin Bet head Avraham Bendor said "today's fence is creating a political and security reality that will become a problem. Why? Because it creates hatred, it expropriates land, and annexes hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the State of Israel. This is contrary to our interests, according to which we view the State of Israel as the home of the Jewish people." (Yediot Achronot, Nov. 14)


Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, August 9, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Reprinting permissible with attribution.