Five years ago today, the international court of justice in The Hague published its advisory opinion on Israel’s separation wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The keenly awaited verdict, requested by the UN’s general assembly, was clear: Israel’s wall is illegal, it must be removed and adequate compensation paid.
The wall’s illegality, and Israel’s obligation to dismantle the structure and pay damages for the consequences of the wall thus far, were all agreed by the judges by a margin of 14-1. (The ICJ also accepted the use of the term “wall”, since “other expressions” are “no more accurate”.) There was also confirmation that Israel’s settlements were “a flagrant violation” of the convention, established “in breach of international law” (contrast this with the mealy-mouthed nitpicking over outposts and “freezes” by Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu). Overall, the court found that the route of the wall threatened to create “de facto annexation”, with the wall itself described as severely impeding “the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to Read more
The West Bank, despite its centrality to Israeli designs and Palestinian aspirations, is often overshadowed by other events in the Middle East. Last summer, Gaza ‘disengagement’ grabbed the headlines, and indeed since then, Qassam fire and Israeli military operations in the Strip have stayed at the top of the news agenda. When you also consider more recent events in Lebanon, and a general regional focus on Syria-Iran, West Bank Palestinians have continued their lives under Israeli occupation without international publicity or outcry. Often, when concerned friends from the West contact those they know in Bethlehem to ensure they are not in danger, we reply that here, everything is ‘normal’. Read more
THE NEW ISRAELI government of Ehud Olmert is the beneficiary of the many helpful distractions deflecting world attention from its occupation of Palestine. International diplomacy focuses on Hamas’ alleged “intransigence” and “rejectionism,” and the subsequent need for a cut-off of aid to the Palestinian Authority—and, collaterally, to jobless, hungry Palestinians. On a regional level, meanwhile, attention is fixed on Iraq and the growing tension with Iran. Read more
History is a tangible presence in Wadi Fukin, from the Aramaic origins of its name to the still-standing Byzantine church column, and the archaeological remains just outside the village. Also just beyond the village nestle some caves where the villagers sheltered during repeated Israeli attacks in the years following the Nakba.
The course of the conflict here has meant that the villagers find themselves right on the Green Line. It is a boundary whose path could yet mean that history has a further twist of the knife for Wadi Fukin, as Israel’s separation barrier continues on its winding way, dipping into the West Bank and isolating Palestinian communities unfortunate enough to sit next to settlements. Read more
Returning to Bethlehem after an absence of around nine months, one of the first things I noticed were the new posters. Even by the summer of 2004, the pictures of the shahid were fading, and recent additions were few and far between. A year on, and the faces of martyrs have been replaced by aspiring politicians, a reminder of the local elections that took place in the Bethlehem district not so long ago. Perhaps this is an example of the kind of ‘reform’ urged on the Palestinians by the U.S. and her allies. Read more
From Nabil Saba’s terrace there is a clear view of the Wall snaking its way around Beit Jala. Sitting underneath his family’s vineyard, enjoying the protection it offers from the afternoon sun, the peace is sometimes interrupted by the sound of construction work.
For Nabil, history has a habit of repeating itself. At the beginning of the 1970s, he was still living with his family in their ancestral home on Ras Beit Jala, the highest point in the town. But in 1972 the Israelis came to the house and offered to buy the land from Nabil’s father.
“We refused. So almost every day and night they would come to the house, to threaten us, to intimidate us. They would take me and my brothers to jail. They falsely accused us of supporting the guerrillas with 300 dinars, which was a lot of money in those days. They beat my brother in jail.” Read more