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Don't call it a fence. If we call it a fence we buy in to the Israeli myth. Don't call it a security barrier, because it is not that either. It is a wall, a big, huge, stonking great wall, a monstrous erection that to date has affected more than 200,000 Palestinians through land confiscation, tree uprooting, creating inaccessibility to lands and water and the caging off of entire communities. The Israelis say it is to keep suicide bombers out of Israel. It won't do that. These are men and women prepared to strap explosives to their body and blow themselves to smithereens. With that sort of conviction--however misplaced--is it probable that a wall, even an eight metre high one, will persuade them to change their minds and go home? The wall is being built to control, destroy and oppress Palestinians ,to herd them, like cattle, into a fenced area and keep them there.

In December the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution requesting an urgent advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the issue of the legality of the wall, which on completion will cordon off the whole of the West Bank, or at least what remains of the territory, after the Israelis have misappropriated what sections of it they select for themselves.

When completed the wall will incorporate substantial portions of occupied Palestinian land into Israel. The question that the ICJ must ponder is whether or not this is a violation of international law.

The wall will eventually stretch to more than 700kms by the time it is completed at the end of 2005. The 200km section constructed so far has cut off villages from markets, medical services and schools in the northern West Bank and limited access to water in an area whose wells are some of the best of the western aquifer. It has resulted in the confiscation of more than a thousand hectares of privately owned Palestinian land, thus depriving entire families of their livelihood. This land, which employs 25% of the population is some of the most fertile in the West Bank. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) predicts that if work on the wall is not stopped more than 16,000 hectares of "high-income Palestinian land" will be affected in the northern West Bank alone.

The UN organisation's field workers documented cases of villagers around the town of Qalqilya, who are cut off from the main social, education and health facilities since the eight metre high wall cut a swathe through their once thriving community. "Residents of these villages were once within three to five kilometres of the hospitals, schools and markets of Qalqilya, they now face a journey of more than 20kms and must pass through an Israeli Defence Force checkpoint to visit the same facilities." OCHA drew similar conclusions about the wall's impact on annexed east Jerusalem. Some 274,000 Palestinians in 122 villages and towns will either live in closed areas--between the wail and the 1949 Green Line, which separates the West Bank from Israel--or in 12 enclaves entirely surrounded by the fence. According to OCHA "little consideration appears to have been given by the Israeli government to the wall's impact on Palestinian lives."

Don't you believe it. Every consideration has been given to the route this repugnant abomination will follow. How else was it ensured that over its 700km length not a single millimetre of Israeli land would be ceded to the Occupied Territories?

The UN has already confirmed the illegality of the Israeli action. In his 28 November 2003 report, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the the wall was "not in compliance" with the General assembly resolution ES-10/13, adopted by a vote of 144-4 on 21 October 2003, demanding that Israel halt its construction activities and dismantle the existing parts of the wall.

Israel has refused point blank to cooperate. In February the government of Ariel Sharon announced that it would not participate in the legal hearings on the wall at the International Court of Justice in the Hague denying that the ICJ had the jurisdiction to give an opinion. Incredibly the governments of George Bush and Tony Blair supported the Israeli position. Both seem prepared to turn away from the illegality of the wall and the extent of human suffering it will entail. Maybe someone should suggest there are weapons of mass destruction buried beneath it.
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Author:Lancaster, Pat
Publication:The Middle East
Geographic Code:7PALE
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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