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July 09, 2004



You seem to assume too readily that Israel's primary objective in building the wall is security. Why do you assume this? You might like to consider the following article from February's NYT:

"The New York Times, February 23, 2004
It is a virtual reflex for governments to plead security concerns when they undertake any controversial action, often as a pretext for something else. Careful scrutiny is always in order. Israel's so-called security fence, which is the subject of hearings starting today at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, is a case in point.
Few would question Israel's right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks like the one yesterday, even to build a security wall if that were an appropriate means. It is also clear where such a wall would be built if security were the guiding concern: inside Israel, within the internationally recognized border, the Green Line established after the 1948-49 war. The wall could then be as forbidding as the authorities chose: patrolled by the army on both sides, heavily mined, impenetrable. Such a wall would maximize security, and there would be no international protest or violation of international law.

This observation is well understood. While Britain supports America's opposition to the Hague hearings, its foreign minister, Jack Straw, has written that the wall is "unlawful." Another ministry official, who inspected the "security fence," said it should be on the Green Line or "indeed on the Israeli side of the line." A British parliamentary investigative commission also called for the wall to be built on Israeli land, condemning the barrier as part of a "deliberate" Israeli "strategy of bringing the population to heel."

What this wall is really doing is taking Palestinian lands. It is also — as the Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling has described Israel's war of "politicide" against the Palestinians — helping turn Palestinian communities into dungeons, next to which the bantustans of South Africa look like symbols of freedom, sovereignty and self-determination.

Even before construction of the barrier was under way, the United Nations estimated that Israeli barriers, infrastructure projects and settlements had created 50 disconnected Palestinian pockets in the West Bank. As the design of the wall was coming into view, the World Bank estimated that it might isolate 250,000 to 300,000 Palestinians, more than 10 percent of the population, and that it might effectively annex up to 10 percent of West Bank land. And when the government of Ariel Sharon finally published its proposed map, it became clear the the wall would cut the West Bank into 16 isolated enclaves, confined to just 42 percent of the West Bank land that Mr. Sharon had previously said could be ceded to a Palestinian state.

The wall has already claimed some of the most fertile lands of the West Bank. And, crucially, it extends Israel's control of critical water resources, which Israel and its settlers can appropriate as they choose, while the indigenous population often lacks water for drinking.

Palestinians in the seam between the wall and the Green Line will be permitted to apply for the right to live in their own homes; Israelis automatically have the right to use these lands. "Hiding behind security rationales and the seemingly neutral bureaucratic language of military orders is the gateway for expulsion," the Israeli journalist Amira Hass wrote in the daily Haaretz. "Drop by drop, unseen, not so many that it would be noticed internationally and shock public opinion." The same is true of the regular killings, terror and daily brutality and humiliation of the past 35 years of harsh occupation, while land and resources have been taken for settlers enticed by ample subsidies.

It also seems likely that Israel will transfer to the occupied West Bank the 7,500 settlers it said this month it would remove from the Gaza Strip. These Israelis now enjoy ample land and fresh water, while one million Palestinians barely survive, their meager water supplies virtually unusable. Gaza is a cage, and as the city of Rafah in the south is systematically demolished, residents may be blocked from any contact with Egypt and blockaded from the sea.

It is misleading to call these Israeli policies. They are American-Israeli policies — made possible by unremitting United States military, economic and diplomatic support of Israel. This has been true since 1971 when, with American support, Israel rejected a full peace offer from Egypt, preferring expansion to security. In 1976, the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a two-state settlement in accord with an overwhelming international consensus. The two-state proposal has the support of a majority of Americans today, and could be enacted immediately if Washington wanted to do so.

At most, the Hague hearings will end in an advisory ruling that the wall is illegal. It will change nothing. Any real chance for a political settlement — and for decent lives for the people of the region — depends on the United States."

Chris Lightfoot

Oliver: you're making two points here: (1) the ICJ is making a fool of itself here; (2) building the wall is a good and moral thing to do. (1) is probably fair, and (2) would be if Israel were building the wall on its own territory, as its original proponents intended. As it is in its current position it allows Israel to seize Palestinian land under old Ottoman law which Israel (quite properly) enforces in the territory it occupies. As the Economist pointed out last October,

"In the West Bank, the Israelis use an old Ottoman statute in which private land unworked for three years can be claimed by the state. Since 1967, Israel has invoked this law to take over 60% of the West Bank as state land, to build 135 settlements and to transplant 400,000 of its Jewish citizens into occupied territory, including East Jerusalem. Palestinians fear that the same fate will befall the newly requisitioned lands [i.e land on which the barrier is built, and parts of farms crossed by the barrier which become nonviable because of the time needed to travel from one side to the other]."

Now, while a consistent liberal must obviously support Israel's right to self-defence, it's not clear that they should support a land-grab under that pretext.



You forget to provide citation and author. Let me give a hand:


Why, it's none other than our friend Noam, who has cleverly surmised the intentions of the Israeli government (telepathy?) and spotted possibly the most pathetic and long-winded land-grab in history.


Yes, I omited the name, as I wanted to prevent a reflex sneering dismissal. It was folly - I failed.


From a more balanced source - todays Times claims that under the proposed route...

-16.5% of the territories would be annexed.
-51% of the total water supply for the territories would be under Israeli control.
-160,000 Palestinians would end up living in "encircled" areas including 40,000 people in the town of Qalqiliya.

Whatever the merits of Israel's securuity claims, surely such disruption is dificult to justify. The consolidation of settlements seems to have been given far to much weight.


It's one thing to debate the appropriateness of the path of the fence, and use diplomatic mechanisms to try to change it.

It's something else to make an entirely political decision in a splendid European chamber that someone has called a "court", and pretend that G-d or Nature has decreed that the fence must be torn down.


'a splendid European chamber that someone has called a "court"'. One might as well say that the House of Commons is a 'splendid neo-Gothic edifice' that someone has called a 'parliament'. You are simply proffering two different descriptions of the same thing in the guise of an argument. You're presumably suggesting that in the former case, the title is somehow illegitimate. Please substantiate this claim. It is ironic that you refer to G-d or nature, as teh court has certainly not used these to legitimise its rulings, while the state of Israel frequently of course has.


Ideally we could have some common judicial consensus between Israelis and Palestinians...but these are difficult times. I don't see how else a case involving legitimate claims on both sides (security for the Israeli's...access to land,water, services for the Palestinian Arabs) could be resolved. Putting things in the hands of a domestic court of one of the parties will only invoke claims of bias.

The case for the fence seems to have (judiciallly) failed not because of the failure of the Israeli's to make their legitimate claims to self-defence against murder-bombers but because of their opportunist annexation of Palestinain property.

Barry Meislin

That Palestinians should suffer because their leadership has decided to wage a terror war on Israel, a war meant to bring about Israel's ultimate annihilation, is most unfair.

In fact, that Palestinians should suffer because Israel has decided to take measures to prevent its eventual annihilation by the Palestinian leadership is criminal.

To even claim that the Palestinian leadership has planned to annihilate Israel is absurd and reeks of hysteria. Even if the idea has been stated by the Palestinian leadership, this does not mean that the Palestinians actually mean it. And even if it means what it says, this does not mean it will act on it. Even if it acts on it, this does not mean it can succeed in doing it. And even if it succeeds in doing it, this does not mean that it was unjustified in attempting to do so.

To even claim that the Palestinian leadership has planned to annihilate Israel is a most immoral claim, since it would appear to give Israel the right to defend itself, which self-defense causes Palestinians to suffer.

We have now been informed---though it was clearly the case beforehand---that to save Israeli lives at the expense of Palestinian rights is clearly against international law.

Those who have already understood that Israeli self-defense is illegal should not be unduly surprised. In fact, one might express wonderment that they had expected any other judgment.


>Ideally we could have some common judicial consensus between Israelis
>and Palestinians...but these are difficult times.

If there were "common judicial consensus", then getting a peace agreement to stick would be a snap.

Israel and the Palestinians are at war, and currently there is no potential for an agreement that is acceptable to both sides.

But even if you disagree with this assessment and think that if Israel would just offer a few more concessions then the Palestinians would end their maximalist demands and stop winking at the terrorists, this is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Just because you call something a "court" doesn't mean that it is one. Show me some evidence that these judges would adopt a similarly stringent approach if it were China, Russia, or the PA that's in the docket. Show me some evidence that the judges make judgements that don't take into account the diplomatic situations of their own countries.

> I don't see how else
>a case involving legitimate claims on both sides (security for the
>Israeli's...access to land,water, services for the Palestinian Arabs)
>could be resolved.

It can be resolved only via politics. Not via a pseudo-judiciary.

> Putting things in the hands of a domestic court of
>one of the parties will only invoke claims of bias.

The ICJ is far more biased than the Israeli supreme court, which is capable of taking a stance that goes against that of the Israeli government.



Your sarcasm posing as satire is becoming a little tiresome.You might find that presenting a reasoned argument is actually quite an engaging activity.

Barry Meislin

"winking at terrorists" - cute!
"stop winking at terrorists" = even cuter!

In any event, absurd times cry out for absurd commentary. Besides, I wouldn't overly worry. Sarcasm does not necessarily force anyone to stop believing falsehoods. One might argue that only reality can do that. Perhaps not even... (Besides, what is reality, anyway? Can anyone help out on this one? Albert Speer, perhaps?)

One thing is certain (just one?). Israel loses its deterrent ability and Israel is....gone. Pfft.
Simplistic perhaps, but it will have to do.

Gentlemen, start (or resume) your dreaming!


Thank G-d for the one ICJ dissentient, Thomas Buergenthal. Always count on America for a disinterested opinion from a "Holocaust survivor" who is "chairman of the Committee of Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council."


That's interesting about Buergenthal. I'm sure that the European press will lap it up. Though not as much as they would as if he had cast his vote with the rest of the politi-judges.


The concrete walls and coils of barbed wire that the Court ruled is “illegal” and must be dismantled is illegal because Israel is constructing it on occupied lands. The court rejected Israel’s argument, which was presented in an affidavit to the court, that these territories cannot be considered “occupied territories”. At the end of the day, the Israeli government could not get away with the argument that it is obliged to, as Henry Seigman laconically noted: “steal more Palestinian land to protect Israelis living on previously stolen Palestinian land."


a.user, Think this will be a precedent for Morocco, Yemen, India, Pakistan, N. Ireland, Cyprus, etc?

Or is Israel "special"?

Jimmy Doyle

Will Oliver address the 'land-grab' issue?


The article you brought was hilarious! Thanks!
(I particularly loved the part about how the 10% of the land behind the wall will somehow divide the Palestinians into 16 enclaves and take all the fertile land and water)

Jimmy Doyle,
I would have thought that since Israel is not annexing the land, the land is not annexed. But apparently, countries can "effectively" annex land even when they don't want to.

Clem Snide

"Woodrow Wilson believed in fostering democracy through international institutions. By contrast, President Bush is dismissive of the United Nations after its prolonged failure to implement its own Security Council resolutions on Iraq. He has a point, but his Administration has pursued it with unseemly slights against nations whose assistance is needed given the lamentable failure of postwar planning for Iraq." - Oliver Kamm

I think you have just seen why President Bush is dismissive of the United Nations and other international institutions. Perhaps if these international institutions wanted to be taken seriously by countries that matter, they should stop being so transparent in their true intentions.

And whatever "rights" the so-called "Palestinians" (or any other fraudulent muslim nationality fabricated as an instrument of islamic imperialism) may have had, they have long ago ceded them through failure to respect the rights of infidels. Muslims deserve to be treated with the same tolerance and respect they show to others.

Andrew Ian Dodge

Clem I disagree we need to treat Muslims with tolerance, however we should also demand they treat others with equal tolerance and respect.


A glance into history shows that in WW1 the German Army constructed the Hindenburg Line on French and Belgian land and in WW2 it built the Atlantic Wall on the French coast.
As Barry has pointed, the Palestinians themselves persistently claim to be at war with Israel. If they are, the rules of war allow the Israeli Army to build fortified positions wherever it likes.
They also allow Israel to "grab" as much territory as it pleases.


Shrewd stuff Grim, since it presumably implies that the Palestinians are allowed, under 'rules of war' to retaliate etc. 'Glancing' is seldom very wise, unless you want to snatch a few random (pseudo-)analogies for propaganda purposes.


No Israeli would mind if the Palestinians retaliated under the rules of war.
At the moment, the Palestinians initiate fighting while systematically violating the rules of war, so what you're suggesting would be a great improvement.

BTW, your answer suggests that you agree that Palestinian violence legitimizes Israeli fortifications on occupied land while the fighting is going on.


"-16.5% of the territories would be annexed.
-51% of the total water supply for the territories would be under Israeli control.
-160,000 Palestinians would end up living in "encircled" areas including 40,000 people in the town of Qalqiliya."

1)Odd assumption that building a wall automatically leads to annexation. Naturally, placing a piece of land within the boundaries indicates that Israel does not plan to give it up during negotiations. I suppose negotiating positions are against the law too (for Israel).
2)Irrelevant statistic. It is highly unlikely that the underground water in question will be divided according to how much land above is controlled by each side. The underground water has always been accessed from Israel (it's a shared resource) so it's not as if the Palestinians are losing water that they would have had sole control over. There is no other significant water source to be "grabbed".
3)Qalqiliya is "encircled" on 3 sides, not unsurprising for a border town. Coincidentally, the side without a fence is the side containing a road leading to the rest of the West Bank. Are we supposed to feel sorry for them?


'Odd assumption that building a wall automatically leads to annexation. Naturally, placing a piece of land within the boundaries indicates that Israel does not plan to give it up during negotiations.'

Yes, bizarre assumption. Incidentally, I'm not annexing your garden, I just don't intend to give back during negotiations. Can Palestinians attack this wall under 'rules of war'? p.s., you couldn't email me a copy of these rules, could you? Were these the one's drafted after the invasion of Lebanon, or... what? I'm unclear.


May I ask why anyone really cares about this minor conflict? It seems to me it's just used as an excuse by political foes to beat up on one another. There are several conflicts around the world that are more brutal and involve more people which no one gives a rats ass about. Why the obsession?


"Yes, bizarre assumption. Incidentally, I'm not annexing your garden, I just don't intend to give back during negotiations"

If you think it's necessary to expel the Jews from the West Bank and hand over control of 100% of the land to the PA, then you should oppose negotiations over the future border. Negotiations are based on the assumption that the future border is negotiable. This would be a logically consistent position.
However, too many people claim to support negotiations while opposing the right of Israel to do anything except retreat. This is self-righteousness. It also seems to be the UN position.

In either case, the wall is not a CAUSE of Israeli opposition to complete withdrawal. It is the RESULT. So claiming that the wall will lead to annexation is simply wrong.


Israel has a good track record of giving land won in war for peace, i.e. the Sinai. There were settlements there too and they were uprooted. So far there is no sign that the Pals genuinely want a peaceful state next door to Israel. Their obligation under the Road map was to quell terrorism, instead they foment it.
There is no point in Israel giving up land for nothing.

Also most of the various resolutions recognize Israel's right to secure borders. The 67 armistice line is not a secure border.

Padraig Pearse



Am I suppose to take an article from an online magazine that has Fisk and Chomsky as contributors seriously?

padraig pearse

I suggest you address the content of the article rather than its context. Incidentally, it was originally published in an Israeli paper (in Hebrew) - a context you're presumably less eager to dismiss.


Chip: "Am I suppose to take an article from an online magazine that has Fisk and Chomsky as contributors seriously?"

Are we supposed to take opinions emanating from a closed mind seriously?


'....essentially arbitrary judgement - [...] A legal judgement that is transparently political brings.'

Is it arbitrary or is it political? How can it be both?


>>Are we supposed to take opinions emanating from a closed mind seriously?<

That's pretty much the question I asked.


>>I suggest you address the content of the article rather than its context. Incidentally, it was originally published in an Israeli paper (in Hebrew) - a context you're presumably less eager to dismiss. <<

And what paper would that be? Talk about not putting something in context.

Tim Blake

What an outright show of ignorance and intellectual inferiority, dishonesty and prejudice by Oliver Kamm! Really too obvious...

White House spokesperson and other US officials received the ruling with the same tired argument, that the ICJ has no place in a political dispute, that the ruling will complicate matters not solve them, and that such a decision will make difficult the implementation of the US-advocated Road Map peace initiative.

If a transgression as deep and ingrained as that of the Arab-Israeli/US conflict, with its tremendous human cost on both sides and extensive harm and constant threat to an entire region, topped with an illegal wall twice as that of Berlin’s and one-fifth that of China’s is not a matter for the ICJ to decide, then the court’s are better off filing for an early retirement.

Israel’s construction of the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank constitutes a grave violation of human rights and international law. The Wall is being built within the context of the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza which, since 1967, has led to numerous violations of international law. Its route is designed to include Jewish settlements -that are themselves illegal - which are located deep inside the West Bank, thus de facto making them part of the State of Israel. Israel has continuously exhibited its contempt for international agreements, beginning with Israel’s violation of the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.

The Apartheid Wall will result in the unilateral demarcation of a new border in the West Bank and the effective annexation of occupied land. Other violations of international law include collective punishment of the civilian population, the seizing of private property by an occupying power, the demolition of houses and property, and the violation of such basic human rights as the right to work and freedom of movement, in the context of international humanitarian and human rights law as embodied by the Hague Regulations (1907), the IV Geneva Convention (GC IV, 1949)1, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989), the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (1966), and the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973).

The building of the Wall is illegal under international law in that it constitutes a permanent change of arrangements prevailing in an occupied territory, in violation of the administrative authorities vested in the occupying power. The most serious effect of the Wall is the annexation of occupied land, which is prohibited under the laws of war (humanitarian law). A basic principle of the laws of belligerent occupation is that legal rights to land are not acquired by way of military occupation. Israel’s unilateral decision to build the Wall in the Occupied Territories represents the creation of “facts on the ground” designed to impede the realization of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination by preventing the territorial contiguity necessary for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

States’ Obligation under International Humanitarian Law and examples of violation
1. Obligation: “Private property cannot be confiscated”. This prohibition applies without exception, not even for security needs.

Example of violation: At various points, the Wall is built 20 km inside the West Bank, cutting into over 1/10 of the West Bank width, leading to massive land annexations. In the Wall’s “first phase” some 121,455 dunums of land —2% of the West Bank—have been de facto annexed.

2. Obligation: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited”.

Example of violation: In the Wall’s “first phase” some 14,680 dunums have been confiscated and razed for the path of the Wall; over 102,000 trees have been uprooted; tens of wells, kilometers of irrigation networks have been destroyed, and over 200 shops and homes have been demolished.

3. Obligation: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited...Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited”.

Example of violation: “The Wall will directly harm at least 210,000 Palestinians, who live in 67 villages, towns, and cities…Palestinians between the Wall and the Green Line will effectively be cut off from their land and workplaces, schools, health clinics and other social services”.

4. Obligation: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

Example of violation: The Wall intrudes into the West Bank in order to include settlements which have had the Wall’s path altered to suit “their demands”. It is estimated that approximately 98% of the settler population will be incorporated on the “Israeli side” of the Wall.

The Wall is already directly violating the rights of hundreds of thousands of protected Palestinian civilians, while its impact extends to the entire population of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). It is clear that as future sections of the Wall are built more communities will be directly affected. The closures, sieges, curfews and checkpoints that have been used to severely curtail freedom of movement during the current intifada have already deprived whole communities of access to health, education and work, and the right to freedom of movement and property. The Wall is institutionalizing the stranglehold on these communities and solidifying the denial of basic human rights.

Using the pretext of security, Israel is creating a regime of apartheid. The indigenous Palestinian population is being oppressed for the benefit of non-Palestinians, most of whom settled in the area since 1947-48. The regulations designed to administer the area which lies between the Wall and the Green Line create, in practice, two types of inhabitants: (1) “Israelis,” who are defined in the Declaration Closing Territory in the Seam Zone as citizens or residents of Israel and those entitled to citizenship by the Israeli Law of Return, to whom the restrictive regulations do not apply and who are free to move about the zone and to freely enter and exit it; and (2) others – in practice, Palestinians, who require all sorts of permits to enter and exit the zone. The Seam Zone is a closed military area for Palestinians who have been living there for generations, and an open area without any restriction on freedom of movement for any Jew, including those of the Diaspora who do not even reside in Israel. A discriminatory structure has thus been established in which one community is a detention camp for powerless inhabitants, adjacent to settlements inhabited by free people whose civil and legal rights are equal to those of citizens of Israel. Such segregation and unequal treatment on the basis of national origin is legal apartheid, which is both illegal and immoral. Such a regime constitutes an international crime in itself.

From http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/455907.html

Israel has asked the United Kingdom for explanations as to why it changed its position and voted in favor of the UN resolution calling on Israel to dismantle the separation barrier, despite promising to abstain. Diplomatic sources said that there has been a frank exchange of letters with officials in the Foreign Office and in the office of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, after the British promised through various channels that they would abstain from the UN vote and not "toe the line" with the anti-Israel approach led by France. Israel hoped that the British abstention would crack the united European Union front, and prevent a Palestinian diplomatic victory.

A few hours before last week's vote, the U.K. told Israel that it would abstain because the proposed wording, even the softened version, was not acceptable. A senior British official even declared this position publicly. Israel was so sure that the UK would keep its promise that it sent thanks for the refusal to buckle to intra-European dictates and pressure.

However, Israel was very surprised to discover that the British changed their position at the last minute, and immediately demanded clarifications. UK officials stated in response that the decision to join the rest of the EU countries was taken after two clauses that the British had demanded were added to the final draft of the resolution. One, which mentions the road map, thus indirectly mentioning the demand that the Palestinians fight terror, and another clause that deals with the rights of states to defend themselves. Inclusion of the clauses softened the wording enough to convince the British - they felt - that it was worth maintaining European unity.

In addition, Israel was told, the UN resolution was non-binding and did not call for sanctions against Israel.

Diplomatic sources in London stated that Israel is having trouble accepting the explanation, but at this stage it will not make any formal protest.

Talk about hush-hush political manipulation.

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