New challenges to Israels apartheid wall

More than 3,000 Israelis and Palestinians participated in the largest demonstration yet against the Israeli “separation wall” on Feb. 7. The demonstration took place in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, where a segment of the 30-foot-high concrete and wire barrier is being built.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Feb. 18 that the wall is contrary to international humanitarian law and should be dismantled.

The wall, which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government alleges is needed to enhance Israel’s security, currently runs about 125 miles along the country’s border with the West Bank. It will be 450 miles long if and when it is completed.

Plans call for the wall to zigzag deep into Palestinian territory. Over 7,000 acres of Palestinian land have already been expropriated, and about 100,000 trees uprooted. The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs estimates the wall will ultimately swallow up about 48 percent of the West Bank, prompting Palestinians to charge that Israel is making a land grab under the guise of keeping out terrorists.

Uri Avnery, a longtime leader of the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, was among the speakers at the Abu Dis demonstration.

“We stand in the shadow of the monster (the wall),” Avnery said. “The monster that kills peace, kills co-existence, kills security, kills Jerusalem and the whole country. To the creators of this monster we say: You build a wall of hatred, a wall of separation, a wall of apartheid. … We work for peace between the two peoples of this country, a peace that will give security to all of us.”

Avnery said “the government of the settlers” will ultimately fall, and Jerusalem will be the capital of both Israel and Palestine: “Two states, two capitals, without walls, without fences – one common future for all of us!”

In a related development, on Feb. 11 the Israeli government said it would boycott oral hearings on the legality of the wall being held by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Netherlands on Feb. 23. It said the ICJ has no authority to discuss the matter since it relates to Israel’s “basic right of self-defense.”

The United States, Canada, and the European Union backed Israel’s position, saying the court’s intervention would be “inappropriate.”

On Dec. 8, 2003, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution in which it requested the World Court to “urgently render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in and around East Jerusalem, considering the rules and principles of international law.”

For more information, visit www.gush-shalom.org and www.electronicintifada.net.