wall illegal, israel told
WORKERS, SEPT 2004 ISSUE
The International Court of Justice ruled on 9 July that Israel's 450-mile-long wall around Palestine was illegal and should come down, and that Israel should compensate the Palestinians for the hardship caused. The Court called on all countries to act against the project, and called on the UN Security Council to consider "further action" to halt construction.
The court ruled that "the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law." It said, "Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated."
The court rejected the Sharon government's claim that the wall was essential for security, saying that the wall "cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of national security or public order".
About 975 square kilometres (or 16.6% of the West Bank) would, according to the report of the UN Secretary General, lie between the 1967 Green Line (between Israel and the occupied territories) and the wall. This area is home to 237,000 Palestinians. If the full wall were completed as planned, another 160,000 Palestinians would live in almost completely encircled communities. As a result of the planned route, nearly 320,000 Israeli settlers (of whom 178,000 are in East Jerusalem) would be living in the area between the Green Line and the wall. The court reiterated that "Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law."
In 1971, the court ruled that South Africa's occupation of Namibia was illegal, which led to sanctions against South Africa. In 1984, the court ruled that the US government had broken international law by mining Nicaragua's harbours, and ordered it to stop attacking Nicaragua.
Like the Israeli and US governments, the Labour government had not wanted the issue of the wall referred to the court. Now, along with the other EU governments, it will do all it can to protect the illegal wall. Workers should ask whether the $9 billion annual US subsidy to Israel and the EU's favourable trade arrangements with Israel should continue.