Tomorrow, Palestinians will commemorate the seven year anniversary of the International Court of Justices (ICJ) ruling that the Israeli built wall and settlements in the Occupied Territories were against International law and International human rights.
The ICJ at that ruling on July 9th 2004 called for the dismantling of the wall and compensation for those affected by it. The Israeli government has ignored these calls repeatedly.
Although construction of the wall has slowed down, it is nearing completion, further forcing the abuses and human rights violations that tag along in its shadow to be imposed on more Palestinians.
The Wall is a construction of fence, barbered wire and concrete on different places along its route. In some Palestinian population centers the wall is concrete and up to 8 meters tall; twice the height of the Berlin Wall.
A press briefing by the Palestinian Liberation Organisations Negotiations Office released today sheds light on a variety of aspects concerning the construction of the wall and the hardships of Palestinians living in its shadow.
The Wall cuts deep into the West Bank, currently annexing 9% of West Bank land, 85% of the wall snakes through the West Bank and is a total of 711 km long: twice the length of the 1967 Border. The illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel has the wall running around it so as to include it on the Israeli side; this rerouting involves the wall protruding 22 km into the West Bank.
The snaking of the Wall is to incorporate as many settlers as possible onto the ‘Israeli’ side: currently 385,000 settlers are included on that side. As an interesting note, the amount of Palestinians left on the same side because of the Wall cutting through the 1967 border is just over 300,000. The Wall therefore does very little to tame the demographic threat the Israeli Government is so fearful about.
125,000 Palestinians are surrounded on 3 or more sides by the Wall, and thus have their freedom of movement grossly violated. Freedom of movement is a basic human right.
Because of the Wall 12.4% of the Palestinian West Bank population has their land on the ‘Israeli’ side. To cultivate land, that in some cases has been in the family for hundreds of years, then requires special permits that are granted by Israel. These permits can often be rejected for no reason. If land is left uncultivated for three years or more, the Israeli state often annexes that land as state land citing archaic Ottoman law. The Wall however often does not allow Palestinians access to their privately owned land and so it is impossible to cultivate.
The impact of the Wall on the lives of Palestinians is huge. UK Medical Journal ‘The Lancet’ in March this year stated that because of the wall: ‘Restrictions on movement are an everyday irritant in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPT): Apart from tedious and humiliating searches at checkpoints, residents never know for sure how long their journeys will take, or whether, indeed, they can be made at all. But in a medical emergency these restrictions can be a matter of life or death.’
The same journal estimated that 1 in 10 pregnant women were delayed while seeking medical treatment because of restrictions in place as a result of the Wall.
The PLO Negotiations Office in their press release believes the most devastating impact of the Wall is the destruction of homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the consequent displacement of hundreds of Palestinians every year. In 2010 alone, 431 Palestinian buildings were demolished, leaving 594 Palestinians displaced and 14,136 others affected.
Seven years on, and the International community despite the ICJ ruling has allowed the construction of the Wall and the human right violations that exist with it to continue with barely a whimper of disagreement against the Israeli government. An International legal ruling is little use when the International community is unwilling to implement it.
On a more positive note, there were celebrations last week in the Palestinian village of Bi’lin as villagers – after years of weekly protests and legal proceedings – forced the Israeli government to move the Wall and return back some of the stolen land to the villagers.
If a small village can take on the Israeli government and win a small victory, it makes you wonder just how much could be achieved with International might on the Palestinian side.
***- PNN Exclusive***