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Apartheid Wall: 10 years of existence


June 18, 2012
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Under the slogan 'Annexation Wall: Ten Years Too Long’, the Palestinian NGO for the protection of human rights Al Haq launched a month-long campaign to reignite the debate on the Apartheid Wall between Israel and the West Bank.

“The campaign is an occasion to talk about the fact that ten years later the Wall is still here and Israel continues to build,” explains Shawan Jabareen, director general of Al Haq. Thanks to the publication of a booklet detailing the impact of the barrier on the Palestinian people, a photo exhibition, and the launch of a website packed with testimonies, interactive maps, advocacy actions and statistics, Al Haq wants to bring the Wall back on the agenda of the international community, in addition to mobilizing civil society to demand its dismantlement.

The plan for the barrier was initially approved by the Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000, ostensibly for security reasons. The first military orders for the confiscation of Palestinian land were then implemented under the Sharon government in April 2002. By June of the same year, the tear gas, sound bombs, and bullets of the Israeli army were already offering protection to bulldozers busy uprooting trees and disfiguring the land. Of the 708 kilometers planned, 438 kilometers have already been built. The result is a new border, which de-facto annexes to Israel a total of 530 kilometer square of Palestinian land. Together with the land, the wall has also trapped 350,000 people between the barrier and the green line in a 'no-rights’ limbo known as the 'seam zones’.

The campaign will end on July 9, a symbolic date that marks eight years since the advisory opinion on 'the legal consequences of the construction of the wall’ was produced by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004. The ICJ defined the wall as illegal and advised on its dismantling, reminding other states of their duty not recognize the illegal situation created by the wall and not to lend assistance to the enforcement of that situation. Using international law over the past 10 years, Al Haq has based much of its legal strategies on this opinion and the numerous breaches of it. It has not only demanded accountability from Israel but also of the states and private companies complicit in the ongoing abuse of the rights of Palestinians.

In the Netherlands, Al Haq has recently submitted a criminal complaint against the Dutch company Riwal, whose construction equipment, says the NGO, has been used to erect the wall. The complaint alleges that Riwal is complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Responsibility of the states and private companies is a new area,” explains Jabareen. “The potential here is very high.”

By extending the resistance from the streets of the West Bank to the Ducth Court of Justice, Al Haq faces massive pressure from the powerful industrial and Israeli lobbies but at the same time is able to disrupt and taint their business dealings. In the European context, Al Haq has also found in the tribunals and civil society interlocutors who are ready to engage, mobilize and demand accountability.

“Ideally we would be able to bring all our cases in front of the Israeli Courts,” says Jabareen, “but too often in that context we are asked to go against our values and we risk legitimising practices that are in breach of international law.”

An example was the case of Bil’in, a Palestinian village that lost about 2000 dunums to the Wall. Years of legal battles and weekly demonstrations pushed the Israeli High Court to order a re-routing of the barrier and partial reparation to the village. However, the new Wall still rises in the middle of Bil’in’s land, a few meters towards the green line but not quite on it. The status quo therefore has remained unchanged.

To be satisfied with empty shows of justice leads to a legalisation of the illegal and to the normalization of a dangerous oxymoron. According to Al Haq we must not ignore those eight meters of tall slabs of concrete, because they not only impede the road to school, the doctor or the market, they also block the road to a just solution. “It is fundamental that the Palestinian people are able to exercise their right to self-determination,” says Jabareen. “The wall prevents that and therefore it needs to be dismantled.”

With 'Ten Years too Long’, Al Haq moves beyond the physical obstacle of the barrier and pushes us to engage with ideas that are much bigger than 'Israel and Palestine’. What is made clear is that the means to redress illegal situations are available within international law. These means belong to civil society and it is the duty of civil society to ensure that they are implemented.

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