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"israel's" Wall Still Deepening The Divide

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Five years ago the international court of justice ruled that israel's separation wall should be demolished. But it is still growing


by Ben White, (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetguardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jul/09/israel-separation-wall-palestine"]guardian.co.uk[/url], Thursday 9 July 2009


Five years ago today, the international court of justice in The Hague published its advisory opinion on israel's separation wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The keenly awaited verdict, requested by the UN's general assembly, was clear: israel's wall is illegal, it must be removed and adequate compensation paid.


The wall's illegality, and israel's obligation to dismantle the structure and pay damages for the consequences of the wall thus far, were all agreed by the judges by a margin of 14-1. (The ICJ also accepted the use of the term "wall", since "other expressions" are "no more accurate".) There was also confirmation that israel's settlements were "a flagrant violation" of the convention, established "in breach of international law" (contrast this with the mealy-mouthed nitpicking over outposts and "freezes" by Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu). Overall, the court found that the route of the wall threatened to create "de facto annexation", with the wall itself described as severely impeding "the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination".


At the time, the ICJ decision was hailed by Palestinians and dismissed by the israeli government. As Yasser Arafat described it as a "victory for the Palestinian people", a spokesman for the then prime minister Ariel Sharon, Raanan Gissin, opined that "after all the rancour dies, this resolution will find its place in the garbage can of history".


Both the US and UK had opposed the entire process, on the odd grounds that the UN's main judicial body for settling legal disputes was not "the appropriate forum to resolve what is a political issue". In the words of Jack Straw, it was better not to "embroil" the ICJ "in a heavily political bilateral dispute".


This opposition was rare – later that same month, the general assembly voted by 150 to six in support of the ICJ opinion. The decision was also welcomed by the likes of Oxfam and Amnesty International, with Oxfam's director adding that the ruling was a "step in the right direction" but needed "further action" by the international community.


But meaningful "further action" was not forthcoming, and israel pressed on with the wall. Five years on, the wall loops around the West Bank and cuts through East Jerusalem, isolating Palestinian communities and devastating lives, and has become an integral part of israel's apartheid regime in the territories. About two-thirds of the 700km+ route, featuring a 8m-high wall, electric fences, sniper towers and "buffer zones" up to 100m wide, is completed or under construction. Of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 8.5% will be on the "wrong" side of the wall. In terms of size as well as significance, this would be comparable to the UK losing Greater London and south-east England.


For israel to consolidate its hold on the illegal colonies in the OPT, many Palestinians find themselves hemmed in and surrounded by the wall's contortions (pdf). About 35,000 Palestinians with West Bank IDs are to be caught between the wall and the Green Line – if you add (pdf) the East Jerusalem Palestinians in the same position, this figure increases to about 260,000.


These are the bare facts five years on from the ICJ opinion. israel has ignored the judges' decision, but that's not a surprise. However, has the Palestinian leadership sufficiently exploited the opinion? Speaking to Palestinians involved in monitoring the wall's progress, or in directly resisting it on the ground, there is a feeling that Palestinian diplomats have not done as much with the ICJ result as they could have.


Palestinians in communities directly affected by the wall continue to put up resistance, sometimes at their cost of their lives: 18 Palestinians have been killed by israeli forces during anti-wall protests, the youngest victim a 10-year-old boy. While they fight for survival, the wall has also played a key role in changing the big picture, delineating the borders of the Palestinian enclaves israel will grant "statehood".


In 1994, the then israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin said that "we have to decide on separation as a philosophy". However, this is not separation on equal terms – the following year Rabin also made it clear that the Palestinian "entity" would be "less than a state". There is a term for unequal separation in international law – apartheid (I will talk about this tonight). The wall urgently needs dismantling; but it is only one part of a bigger whole.


Ever watched the movie mean machine (the English version there are other American versions)? If you watch it you find yourself identifying with the prisoners and rooting for them to win instead of the guards. I find it interesting that people will like criminals who are imprisoned of very horrible crimes sometimes verses the guards of the prison. I think the reason for that is that the prisoners in this case are seen as victims because of the off handed ways of the warden and the guards whose actions are criminal also but they are in a position of authority. Most people stand with justice and abhor the abuse of law or violation of it so anyone in a state of victimhood or even seen in that position are empathize with even if they are criminals themselves.


The idea of victimhood from this movie lends it to the world political scene. How do you explain then that with all the horrid actions of the israelis the ranging from genocide and ethnic cleansing to petty harassment of Palestinians are defended by many people other than israelis because they view them as victims? For example, people excuse many things done in Gaza because it is Hamas’s fault for launching rockets or the people who voted for them or the large murder of Pakistani and Afghanis because according to the coalition they are harboring Taliban and their soldiers are under attack signaling victimhood.


Another form of exploitation of victimhood is when you apply it to someone else to justify a military or political action. We recently saw the sympathizers with the protests in Iran because the protesters were seen as victims and even all of the Iranian people. Though no one can justify the generalization and I find it funny is when the Iranians protests and hold “down with America” signs for example they are terrorists yet because political interests calls for putting a victim label on them. This label is used for further political policies and is accompanied with the demonization of the ones against those supposed victims. The same issue happened with Iraq, Saddam was used as a pretext for political interest by victimizing the world first for the WMDs then the Iraqis themselves.


The policy of victimhood is best utilized by the israelis and I don’t think anyone surpasses them in that department and they justify anything in light. This policy is not only horrid because of the actions that stem from it but rather it erases the real victims around the world from the sick and hungry who are now a billion around the world to the victims of war they don’t have anything to do with and those are in the millions.


When you form an opinion about any world event know the far reaches of the issue for there are so many lies running around it is easy to be deceived into them.

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:sl: Dear Muslims


No such thing as a ceasefire, when israeli can kill and deny Palestinians basic human rights with it's blockades.

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