FOLLOWING the closing Oral Arguments in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the illegality of the Wall in the West Bank, Israeli Occupation Forces killed three Palestinians who were defending their land against the new atrocity. On February 27th, hundreds of residents from communities southwest of Ramallah demonstrated against the destruction to make way for the Wall which had begun the day before in the village of Biddu. Immediately after gathering on the land that bulldozers were razing and ripping apart, undercover soldiers infiltrated the crowd and opened fire – killing three men and wounding at least 70 others. Palestinians were targeted with gunfire consistent with the Occupation’s ushoot to kill” policy.1 Hundreds of tear-gas canisters were fired upon the crowd; a fourth martyr died from inhalation of these gases; a fifth from injuries a few days later. As this took place, destruction continued practically unchecked.
Now, two years after construction began, international criticism has increased, notably in the months leading up to the case in the ICJ yet without resulting in concrete action. In October 200g, a resolution against the Wall was initially put forward in the United Nations Security Council only to be vetoed by the United States. Later that month, a UN General Assembly Resolution was passed which demanded for an immediate stop to and reversing of construction on the Wall. On December 8th, the UN General Assembly passed another resolution requesting that the ICJ provide an advisory opinion on the Wall’s illegality.
The United Nations, and countless international organizations and governmental bodies have debated the Wall’s status under international humanitarian and human rights law. Yet nearly all have pulled the Wall out of its actual context: another pre-meditated measure in the Zionist conquest of Palestinian Arab soil and the forced exile of indigenous people. The human rights violations that are being committed against hundreds of thousands of Palestinians – imprisonment, starvation, humiliation, theft of property – all aimed at the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland makes it clear that the Wall is part of the Zionist rule of growth: “more land, less Arabs”.
THE WALL’S GENESIS
In June 2002, the Wall’s foundation was laid after construction plans were approved in November 2000 by then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. However, the plans for the confiscation, isolation and annexation of land by the Wall became part of Zionist strategy directly after the 1967 Occupation, as in the so-called Allon Plan. This proposal sought to preserve a “Jewish identity” over historic Palestine by handing over densely populated Arab areas in the West Bank to Jordan, while retaining control over “essential” areas such as Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. Today, we see that this was a blueprint for the Wall’s path.
Demolition and construction of the Wall began in the western part of Jenin district in June 2002 as part of the so-called “first phase”; this 145 km section staggers through the districts of Jenin, Tulkarem, and Qalqiliya and thirteen months later was declared completed. Between the Wall and the Green Line in this massive stretch is 2% of the West Bank where sixteen Palestinian villages and ten Jewish-only settlements are located. On October 2nd, 2003 an Occupation military order declared all the lands between the Wall and the Green Line to be a “seam zone.” According to the order, anyone living in or entering the zone must obtain permits from Occupation Forces. As part of Israeli apartheid policy, the order exempts Israeli citizens, who have unhindered access, demonstrating the aim to fortify the Occupation’s grip over Palestinian land.
Parallel with the construction of the Wall’s “first phase”, was the razing of land south of Ramallah and north of Bethlehem – concretizing thereby the illegal annexation of Jerusalem. Today, these areas have been walled completely as have the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Abu Dis, Eizarya, and Sawahreh. Throughout the West Bank, the Wall is closing in all sides with destruction also taking place at the Salfit, Tubas, and Hebron districts.
To date, a full map indicating the Wall’s path has not been publicly released, thus any adjustments or shortening of the Wall’s route and length are no more than the media strategy and public show of “Israeli concessions”. In February this year, when the media reported that sections of the Wall were being dismantled in the northern West Bank towns of Baqa ash-Sharqiyya and Nazlet Issa, no one made mention of the completion of another Wall west of the communities – leaving them locked into an openaired prison. More recently, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s claim to shorten the Wall’s length by 170 km proved another play for the media given that a total length of the Wall has never been “officially” announced.
The Wall’s route, whether 730, 600, or 450 km, is based on expansionism marked by the inclusion throughout the West Bank of Jewish-only settlements, themselves illegal under international law,2 and the annexation of Palestinian land. The Wall cuts deep into Palestinian land so as to grab major settlements, such as Ariel which lies some 16 km inside the West Bank. In addition, the Wall’s route has changed as work continued in order to swallow entire blocs of settlements. If the Wall’s path is completed, statistics reveal that nearly half of the lands inside the West Bank will be “outside” the Wall, leaving only 12% of historic Palestine to its indigenous Arab population.
The [Wall’s] various violations of international law are a logical and predictable consequence of the violation of international agreements – the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine that lead to the foundation of Israel in 1948 and the annexation of Jerusalem. Indeed, the actual effect of the Wall is to ensure that furtiier tracts of Palestinian territories are de facto annexed . . .
-MOHAMMAD ABU HARTHIEH, Lawyer5
The unilateral building of the Wall is in and of itself a clear violation of international law, which prohibits the confiscation of private property, destruction of individual, collective, private, or public property, and the collective punishment of civilian populations. In the Wall’s “first phase” alone, some 121,455 dunums of land (approximately 30,000 acres not including land already occupied by Jewish-only settlements) became isolated west of the Wall and from owners who reside east of the Wall. It further constitutes a violation of the prohibition against acquisition of territory by force. John Dugard, UN Special Rapporteur for the Commission on Human Rights, states in regard to its confiscation of Palestinian land, “… the fact must be faced that what we are presently witnessing in the West Bank is a visible and clear act of territorial annexation under the guise of security … Annexation of this kind goes by another name in international law – conquest.”
The widescale destruction of communities along the Wall is relentlessly underway. To date, at least 300 shops and homes have been demolished to make way for the Wall. Communities in the de facto annexed area are targeted particularly with demolitions, underscoring the forcible eviction of residents and confiscation of land. In Nazlet Issa, a village isolated in the “seam zone”, some 218 houses and shops were razed to the ground. Homes are regularly demolished in all districts by the Occupation Forces for being “too close” to the Wall.
A direct intended consequence of the Wall is to deprive Palestinians of any ability to move freely, a basic right protected under international law which Palestinians have long had violated under the Occupation. The Wall snakes between communities, rendering education, medical, social and economic services inaccessible for hundreds of thousands of people. The socalled access gates along the Wall’s route serve as an extension of the racist permit system, a product of the “Oslo years”, marked by military checkpoints, unrelenting holding periods, and brutal humiliation.
The Occupation Forces claim that the gates “open” three times a day for intervals of twenty minuets. However, the reality is that times are at the whim of soldiers who bear die keys. On January 14th 2004, over 500 people from Baqa ash-Sharqiyya and Nazlet Issa were barred from returning to their villages in the “seam zone”; they waited hours in the cold until 9 p.m. when soldiers finally opened die gates. Such closures are widespread. Hundreds of children crossing the Wall to reach their now isolated schools are delayed for an average of one to three hours waiting at the gates. When they finally are permitted to pass, they are forced to having their belongings searched by soldiers who often confiscate books, lunches, or whatever items they feel inclined to take for the day.
Agricultural workers, merchants, and laborers suffer degrading treatment and beatings while waiting to cross the Wall. In one known instance, soldiers confiscated the identification card from a shepherd from the village Zeita, tied his hands together and forced him to perform sex acts with his donkey.4 Soldiers attempt daily to trample Palestinians’ dignity by forcing them to undress, by opening fire and shooting tear gas at the crowds of people waiting, by beating young men randomly while people must bear being told that the land is not theirs and that they are “entering Israel”.
STRANGLING THE ECONOMY
I sat amidst the ruins of my land, in my grief and pain … I went back to my home and to my children but without my heart … there is nothing more to promise to my children. My only source of income was confiscated. I had never before come home empty handed.
-ABDEL NASSER QUZMAR, Farmerfrom ‘IzbatSalman5
The Wall strangles all economic activity in communities and amplifies the Occupation’s economic stranglehold imposed on the Palestinians. Several communities now trapped between the Wall and the Green Line, such as Nazlet Issa, were previously central markets for Palestinians throughout the West Bank. The demolition of the village’s entire market – the razing of 218 shops – is a clear indication of the Zionist attempt to destroy residents’ ability to survive. In another example, the Wall now hermetically seals the city of Qalqiliya, once another strong market location, with only one military checkpoint acting as the sole entrance/exit forcing at least 600 shops to close.6
A report from PENGON/Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign on the Wall’s impact revealed that in 18 communities closed off along the Wall’s “first phase”, the average unemployment rate grew from 18% in 2000 to a dramatic 78% in May 2003. Farmers, merchants, and workers suffer intense economic deprivation throughout the West Bank as the Wall prohibits the transport of goods and agricultural products, trade, and labor. Sharif Omar Rhaled, a resident from Jayyus village, describes the situation facing people forced to cross the Wall in order to reach their workplaces:
Allowing access without tractors and trucks [forbidden by the Occupation Forces] results in transportation problems for the farmers’ produce. Often they don’t allow people under thirty-live onto the land and impose a ban on certain chemical fertilizers such as potassium nitrate or urea. Sometimes they don’t allow us to take gas cylinders which we need to cook our food, along with diesel which is needed for our water pumps. They don’t allow merchants from other villages access in order to buy our produce. This has caused many problems in our city markets ..7
During the harvest season last fall, farmers in Jayyus lost 75% of their guava, citrus, and greenhouse crops, a devastating blow as more than three-fourths of residents depend on agriculture as their main income source. Ibrahim Atmawi, a resident of Azzun Atma which is now encircled by the Wall, is but one among many to endure the destruction of land and livelihood. In a documented testimony he expressed that once, while going to his land and groves to demonstrate against their destruction “he started to pray, realizing that one day he would no longer be able to work it”.
The Wall, with a path mapped to maximize the theft of Palestinian land and water resources, is violating the international rights of Palestinians to property, food and water. The right to own and not be arbitrarily deprived of one’s property is at the core of the Wall’s dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians. In addition to extensive demolition of homes and shops situated along its route, the Wall completely isolates countless people from their land. The 2% of the West Bank isolated behind the Wall in the “first phase” of construction amounts to the property, heritage, economic livelihood and sustenance for residents in 65 communities. The 12,000 or so residents in this “seam zone” are now forced to carry permits in order to remain in their homes, on their land, and in their villages. The alternative is immediate expulsion.
Around Jerusalem, the Wall acts a strategic tool in the further “judaization” of the historic city; a process which demands the expulsion of Arabs under Zionist ideology. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are threatened with eviction from their homes for being on the “wrong side” of the Wall under the pretext of their failure to acquire the necessary permit; of course, permits are issued and regulated by the Zionist Occupiers. Palestinians who hold West Bank identification cards are entirely barred from reaching Jerusalem; at the same time the Wall through Jerusalem has divided communities in such a way that many in possession of West Bank ID cards find themselves on the Jerusalem side of the Wall. A recent report from the United Nations Relief aad Works Agency (UNRWA) documented the growing situation stated:
It is likely that West Bank ID holders, whose place of residence is being included “inside” will be classified as illegal residents, and required to move out Some early warning signs of such policy could be noticed in Nu’man village, where an IDF [Occupation Forces] night-time operation gathered all young men from the locality and asked them to give up their title deeds to their land.8
If completed, the Wall around Jerusalem will cut deep into the district and render nearly 90% of the Palestinian lands de facto annexed. Residents in tens of other communities around Jerusalem, and hundreds tiiroughout die rest of the West Bank, face a fate similar to tiiose in Nu’man.
Today we have food to eat from donations! We are spending our last savings . . . people have lost their employment. Now we wait for the donors to bring food supplies so we can eat. Nothing more to be said … people are helpless and hungry. The Wall doesn’t feed anybody. Does it?!
– FATIMA AL-BAZ, Farmer from Qalqiliya9
The Wall’s patii through the “first phase” targets some of the most agriculturally productive areas in the West Bank, areas rich with essential water resources. An average of 60% of the population in communities living along the Wall depends entirely on agriculture as a main income source. Now, some 20,000 individuals living east of die Wall are separated from their crops, greenhouses, orchards and grazing land – thus deprived of their livelihoods. Last fall, during harvest, the separation hit farmers and families tiiroughout die West Bank particularly hard. At that time, die municipality of Jayyus, a village in die Qalqüiya district with 72% of its agricultural land isolated by the Wall, sent out an appeal for international intervention. A section that underscored the severity of the situation read:
Jayyus has six groundwater wells, all of which have been seized and are now behind the Wall, and in addition to 2,500 acres of the most fertile land. The area behind the Wall produces annually 7 million kilograms of vegetables and fruits. It also creates about 65,000 work days for the village per year. The sustainable life that farmers used to have and the jobs for three hundred families (2,000 people) are now frozen and vanishing slowly.10
The path of the Wall’s “first phase” is visibly motivated in hydrological terms as it runs along the Western Aquifer, the second largest water resource in the region after the Jordan River, which Zionist policy and practice has already controlled since the 1967 Occupation. As hydrologist Abdel Rahman al-Tamimi makes clear in an article addressing die Wall’s confiscation of Palestinian water resources:
From a hydrological perspective, the appearance of the Wall was in no way a surprise, but an extreme physical application of the theoretical and the various efforts of Israel of the last decades to control the vital Western Aquifer. If one looks at the engineering line/path of the Wall, it is virtually the same border of the groundwater. At the least, the Wall will make the upstream of the aquifer inaccessible to Palestinians ensuring that Israel will control both the quantity and the quality of the water.”
Along the Wall’s “first phase” 50 agricultural and domestic groundwater wells, over 200 cisterns and tens of reservoirs are isolated from Palestinian communities either west of the Wall or in the Wall’s “buffer zone”. These 50 wells alone produce 6.7 MGM of water annually, an amount sufficient for the domestic and agricultural needs of more man 122,000 people. The inaccessibility of these wells is transforming once fertile croplands into desolated areas while communities are denied their right to one of the most essential resources in life. The Occupation Forces also prohibit the passage of water tankers, now even more essential as an alternative water source, to villages west of the Wall, as is the case in Baqa ash-Sharqiyya.
The survival of entire communities is threatened by the violation of international rights to property, food and water – violations which are starving Palestinians into expulsion.
This wall is like a heavy burden placed on my chest causi ng me to suffocate and lose my breath each time I look at my land. This wall besieges my mind and existence. It steals the sustenance from my children. It represents the feeling of sufferingand oppression and tyranny … Iseeilas a symbol of hate that will prevail among people.
-MUFIDA AHMAD KHALED, Farmer from Jayyus.12
The Wall’s obstruction to movement is increasingly becoming an issue of life-or-death for individuals, a violation to the international right to health, as medical services and hospitals are isolated from tens of communities. In Qalqiliya city, the UNRWA hospital was the designated center for refugees throughout the northern West Bank seeking medical attention. Since 2000, when the city was essentially sealed to anyone “outside” of the city, the hospital has seen a 40% decrease in regular treatment. In Jerusalem, the UNRWA Jerusalem Health Center receives 60% of all patients from the rest of the West Bank, patients who now face immense obstacles when trying to reach Jerusalem due to the Wall and the extensive military checkpoints they are forced to cross on the journey. An UNRWA study at the Jerusalem Health Center found that for people coming from areas around Jerusalem the average travel time was three hours.
Beyond blockading access to general health care, the Wall is a deathly tool against Palestinians when emergencies occur and urgent care is needed. This was the fate of a two-yearold child who died aller not being able to cross the Wall and receive the necessary treatment. Though his village, Ras Atieh, is only a stone’s throw from Qalqiliya city his parents were forced to travel ten times the normal length in order to get to the hospital. The report from AJAqsa Hospital in Qalqiliya states:
The patient was living in Ras Atieh, a village 3 km s from Qalqiliya … He was suffering from high fever, and convulsions. He was only able t 0 reach the hospital after one and a half hour. He had to travel about 30 kms around his village to be able to reach the ambulance at Azzoun village. Sadly, this was too late to rescue him and he died.’3
The fact that Palestinians are collectively deprived of the right to health, through both the Occupation’s lock-down and the Wall’s blockade, and instances of emergencies where doctors and patients are forbidden to cross the Wall to reach medical centers and hospitals only increases the fear and reality that illnesses can easily end in death.
The right to education, inscribed in several international conventions and declarations is denied to Palestinian students living in the Wall’s shadow. They are separated from schools, forced to wait extensive periods at the Wall’s gates, and suffer the contemptuous treatment of Occupa- tion soldiers. Throughout the West Bank, it is common for communities to share education systems – though this union is now torn apart in areas along the Wall. In villages such as Ad Dab’a and Jubara students and teachers are forced to cross the Wall in order to reach their schools. Though the Occupation Forces claim to open the gates for students, countless documented instances demonstrate that children are often hours late going to and from school after having to wait to pass through the gate.
The extensive waiting, harassment, and physical danger that students now face has become a significant concern for many families. What results is a painful debate for some as to whether to pull their children out from school altogether. In the village Azzun Atma, sealed by the Wall on all sides with a military checkpoint and sniper-tower as the only passage way, students from neighboring communities are on an average two hours late arriving to and returning from school. Furthermore, children over eight years old are now forced by the Occupation Forces to obtain permits in order to enter the village while teenage girls have repeatedly reported harassment from soldiers.
The targeting of the education system is a policy and practice that works to break down all aspects of community networks and ties – for people of all ages.
COLONIZATION AND TRANSFER
They are trying to suppress the people’s resistance, but the more the Wall comes near our lands, where thousands of ancient olive trees will be uprooted, the more we become insistent on stopping them.
– WAFA, School teacher from Budrus’4
The Zionist movement has long denied the existence and identity of the Palestinian people along the ideological lines of “a land without a people for a people without a land”. During the 1948 Nakba, this manifested itself in the form of massacres, the mass expulsion of over 800,000 Arabs and the leveling of over 400 Palestinian communities. The Wall now serves as a further tool in the Zionist attempt to erase the Palestinian identity.
In villages between the Wall and the Green Line, in the Zionist-declared “seam zone”, residents are being denied the right to register their children’s birth certificates – all are forced to prove their own residency or face eviction from their homes. In Ad Dab’a, this has been the case for all newborn children whose parents are not born in the village. Due to Zionist colonial policies Palestinians have to show they are registered residents under the Occupation system (which deliberately denies them this possibility) or face eviction, thus, turning the normal burden of proof over landownership on its head. What results is an automatic inability for children to have their identity documented which leads to a future of dispossession.
Rooted Zionism’s colonist strategy and its practice of expulsion is the Wall’s “bantustanization” of the West Bank. The apartheid conditions established by the Wall, by which Palestinians are denied fundamental human rights, does not aim at sustained segregation – rather, it is the displacement and demise of Palestinian communities by forcing them to leave their homes and lands in search of basic survival. The context of this forced expulsion with regards to international law is clearly explained by Amira Howeidy:
Because the wall amounts to a form of collective punishment of Palestinians, prohibited under international law, OXPIL’s [the Oxford Public Interest Lawyers] legal experts concluded that this *may result in the unlawful forcible transfer of some Palestinians from their homes. ‘Transfer’, the politically correct word for ethnic cleansing, is a crime against humanity recently codified by Article 7 of the Rome Statute.15
If “completed” entirely, the Wall will isolate approximately 18% of Palestinians in the West Bank “outside” the Wall (i.e. in de facto annexed areas) while separating another 32% from their land; dirctly effecting the lives of nearly 50% of the West Bank population.16 This extensive impact creates a reality more severe than any “humanitarian crisis”, as too often described by international organizations and governing institutions. The reality is already transpiring in Qalqilya. The Wall’s closure of the city has forced nearly 15% residents, with a population of 42,000, to leave the community in search of subsistence. Thousands more are facing this fate while the international community debate of the Wall’s illegality and inaction persist.
Over half a century has passed during which Palestinians have been subject to endless violations of their rights. The Wall is yet another assault. The lack of international intervention to stop the Wall and reverse the disastrous consequences is a signal to Palestinians living its horrors that international justice is but insubstantial rhetoric.
Following the” closing Oral Arguments in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the illegality of the Wall in the West Bank, Israeli Occupation Forces killed three Palestinians who were defending their land …