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Palestinians mount international campaign to stop the illegal Separation Wall

July 01, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Stop the Wall] [the Wall] [Apartheid Wall]

Ten years after the International Criminal Court declared Israel’s Separation Barrier illegal under international law, Palestinian civil society actors are calling for a “Month Against the Wall.” 

In April 2002, then-Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon ordered the construction of a wall that would ostensibly protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian suicide bombers. Two months later, the first blocks of the separation barrier were laid east of Jenin in the northern West Bank.

Twelve years later, one fifth of the wall’s planned route (nearly 679 kilometers in total) still needs to be constructed. By the time it is finished, an estimated 85% of the wall will be situated inside the West Bank, significantly restricting Palestinians’ access to their lands, services, and relatives left at the other side of the barrier.

While the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem estimates that the wall will annex 6% of the West Bank, Palestinian grassroots campaign Stop the Wall assesses that taking the area of Jerusalem into account, the real number will be 10%. If the settlements and Jordan valley are included as well, Israel is in the process of de facto annexing about 46%-60% of the West Bank.

In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared the wall illegal and called for Israel to tear it down. So far, the wall’s construction has continued unabated.

Palestinian leaders to UN General Assembly

As the tenth anniversary of the ICJ decision approaches, Palestinian civil society actors are calling for an international campaign named “Month Against the Wall.” Individuals and organizations worldwide are encouraged to raise awareness about the separation barrier and pressure decision-makers and businessmen to act against it.

So far, organizers estimate that groups from over 20 countries, from all five continents, are mobilizing for media initiatives, street action, and conferences to support the initiative. 

“We need serious lobbying rather than big protests,” said Jamal Juma’, campaign coordinator from Stop the Wall, also known as the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.

Palestinian NGOs aim to convince the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to go to the UN General Assembly in September and demand the implementation of the ICJ decision.

Although Juma’ thinks that international campaigning will be very important to reach this goal, he does not think the PA has many other options left. After peace negotiations with Israel broke down last April, few other solutions remain to end the occupation, he says.

“The PA cannot continue working as an agent for Israelis,” Juma’ said.

Palestinians need to support BDS

In addition to lobbying politicians, campaigners believe that individual actions can also make a change. According to Juma’, Palestinians should more actively support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. With shops full of Israeli products, he admits that the challenge is not easy.

“After the Oslo accords, the Palestinian economy has become totally dependent on Israel,” he said. “We encourage people to boycott what they can.”

On 9 July, a conference about the wall will be organized with the PLO, civil society actors and local activists. Other conferences will be held in different parts of the West Bank. Additionally, four demonstrations are planned around the same time period.

“The challenge is that the anniversary will be in the middle of Ramadan,” Juma’ said. “So we will see how much we can do.”

South Africa as a model

The campaigners will also address the media, trying to spread the message about the ICJ decision. At the international level, Juma’ hopes people understand the real nature of the occupation.

“It is not just occupation: It is settler colonialism,” said Juma’. “If we could get to the level of solidarity that South Africa had, when politicians, investors, and states laid sanctions against the apartheid regime, that would be an achievement.”

The campaign coordinator recognizes that Palestinians also need to push for a change. For him, reforming the local leadership would be a crucial step.

 “We don’t have a leadership at the moment. The PLO is a disaster; they cannot lead anything anywhere,” Juma’ said.

Although the campaign focuses on the wall, Juma’ maintains that the separation barrier cannot be differentiated from the occupation and the “very sophisticated” system of control it is a part of.

“Israel is creating two different systems to separate two communities living on the same land. They control the movement of Palestinians through the network of roads and checkpoints, while the settlers are enjoying most part of the West Bank and using its natural resources,” he said. “It’s an apartheid system.”

According to Stop the Wall, there are 634 checkpoints (in addition to 34 fortified checkpoints), and 1,661 km settler-only roads connected to the settlements in the West Bank. Also B’Tselem claims there are 99 fixed checkpoints (as of February 2014) in addition to hundreds of flying surprise checkpoints. 

Although there seems to be no end in sight for construction of the wall, the coordinator has not lost his hope.

“No occupation will last forever,” Juma’ said. “This area has been occupied 14 times during the past 3,000 years. And the Israelis are nothing compared to the huge emperors like the Ottomans or the British.” 

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