Boycotts International Court
On West Bank Barrier
By Chris Marsden
24 February 2004
Israeli government is refusing to accept the right of the International
Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to render an advisory opinion
on the legality of its West Bank security barrier. Its stance is supported
by the United States and the European Union, which claim that it is
outside the courts remit.
The Likud-led coalition
is not attending the three-day hearing and has mounted protests outside
the court by various Zionist groups claiming that the fortified wall
is solely to prevent suicide bombings and other terrorist activities.
appealed to the United Nations General Assembly in December. They are
arguing that the wall is being built in breach of Article 147 of the
Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines extensive destruction and appropriation
of property not justified by military necessity, and carried out unlawfully
and wantonly, as a grave breach. Last September the UN issued
a report condemning the barrier as an unlawful act of annexation.
Israel cannot accept
any questioning of the wall because it is far more than a means of combating
terrorism. It is bound up with the right-wing Zionist regimes
strategic goal of seizing the majority of the occupied West Bank and
permanently annexing it to Israel proper.
The fallacy of Israels
claim that the barrier is solely a means of combating terrorism is demonstrated
by the fact that the court case would not prevent it from building a
security fence. Rather, it would mean that a fence should follow Israels
1967 bordersi.e., before the illegal occupation of the West Bank.
Israel may consider
various minor modifications to the fences route, but it will not
accept a 1967 route because it is intent on making a major land grab.
Almost one third
of the 720-kilometre (480-mile) barrier has already been built, consisting
in parts of a massive eight-metre-high concrete wall and in others of
a razor-wire fence that has been built on land cleared by demolishing
houses and destroying cultivated land. It often reaches several kilometres
into the West Bank, incorporating many of the illegal Jewish settlements
into Israel while cutting off Palestinian villages and towns from each
will leave one-and-a-half million Palestinians in a ghetto made up of
just 42 percent of the West Bank and would cut them off altogether from
East Jerusalem, which the Palestinian Authority wishes to become its
capital. Over 200,000 Palestinians would be denied access to employment
and social services, and would be forced to move in what amounts to
a form of ethnic cleansing. The land lost is often the most fertile
Sharon has attempted
to conceal this bitter reality with his announcement that he intends
to remove possibly 17 of 21 Zionist settlements from the Gaza Strip.
However, not only are far smaller numbers involved, but the move is
integral to his plans to annex much of the West Bank.
The 21 settlements
in the Gaza Strip house just 5,000 Israelis among 1.3 million Palestinians.
The main function of these settlements is to act as advance posts for
the occupation. Removing them is only being contemplated because of
Sharons declared intention to unilaterally separate from the Palestinians
as opposed to accepting any form of negotiated settlementeven
one based on the US-sponsored Road Map, which gives the
Palestinians far less than was promised under the 1993 Oslo Accords.
The settlers removed from Gaza would be relocated to the West Bank to
join the 230,000 already there and so reinforce Israeli control.
Some small settlements
may be removed from the West Bank, but only in order to rationalise
Israels occupation by relocating personnel and resources.
The removal of Zionist
settlements from Gaza would not mean an end to Israeli occupation. Israeli
Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz has stressed that while the army would
leave Gaza, the military would retain control of Gazas airspace
and coastal waters and would continue patrolling the Gaza-Egypt border.
Even this position was rejected by IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe
Yaalon, who insisted, We should only leave Gaza as part of an
agreement. Last week, Sharon met with his top military planners.
His national security director, Giora Eiland, presented four options
for Gaza, ranging from a full withdrawal to plans to leave troops stationed
in the area.
Sharon has received
the effective backing of Washington, and this has only cost him meaningless
pledges of continued support for the Road Map with its commitment to
a viable and contiguous Palestinian state. He recently told a conference
of US businessmen that he wanted to implement President George W. Bushs
vision, but only when there is a reliable partner
on the Palestinian side. Since Washington has backed him in declaring
Yasser Arafat a non-person, he concludes that in the absence of such
a partner, Israel will take the unilateral security steps for
disengagement from the Palestinians.
The Bush administration
has made a show of opposing the building of new settlements on the West
Bank, has asked that the barrier not be diverted in order to take in
some of the larger settlements, and has asked Sharon not to extend the
fence through the Jordan Valley because it would surround most of the
Palestinian population and would look too much like a vast concentration
But Sharon knows
that such caveats are for public consumption only. He is working closely
with Washington. On February 19, Sharon met with a team of US envoys
led by Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and including Stephen
Hadley, deputy director of the National Security Council. US ambassador
Daniel Kurtzer commented that though talks with a credible Palestinian
partner were preferable, the United States agrees with Israel
that until now the Palestinians have not met that test.
his support for the Road Map, Sharon is proceeding with plans to expand
settlement activity. Last week, the government approved a $22 million
budget (NIS 96 million) for building Jewish settlements on occupied
land, of which the bulk is believed to be destined for projects in the
West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Even this is not
enough for Sharons far-right allies, who consider the dismantling
of a single outpost as a betrayal and do not accept any form of Palestinian
self-government. Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the National Union
Party and Sharons transport minister, has proposed the creation
of four isolated ghettos in the West Bank, where the Palestinians would
be surrounded by Israeli armed forces.
Effi Eitam of the National Religious Party has proposed a plan that
would also rule out a Palestinian state. Eventually, areas of Gaza would
be joined with Egypt, and West Bank residents would be joined in a confederation
with neighbouring Jordan. Palestinians who decide to remain under Israeli
control would not even have the right to vote.
The far rights
well-publicised conflict with Sharon and its pretence of defending settlers
from the IDF has an element of farce. In reality, few settlements have
been disbanded by Sharon, and most of these are either uninhabited or
occupied by one or two families. The civil rights group Peace Nows
annual survey of Zionist settlements points out that The year
2003 was a time of growth in the outpost industry and can be characterised
by the efforts to turn these outposts into permanent settlements.
The report explains
that towards the end of 2003, hard-line Zionist settlers moved dozens
of trailers to new hilltops and mini-dummy hilltops that
could then be dismantled in return for concessions on more established
outposts. In total, 15 new outposts were established in 2003, while
some 20 were dismantled. But permanent structures are being constructed
on 15 illegal outposts, 12 have been connected to the electrical grid,
and roads have been or are being paved for another 11 outposts. In total,
some 34 settlements made significant extensions in the past
Peace Now director
Yariv Oppenheimer commented, Sharon talks about evacuating the
Gaza settlements and is coordinating this potentially historic move
with the Bush administration, but at the same time he is deepening Israels
grip on the West Bank.
One can only conclude
that the coordination between Bush and Sharon is over how best to conceal
the truth of settlement expansion behind counter-claims that both sides
know to be false.