On Wednesday 30 June 2004, the Occupation's high court gave its decision ruling out 30 km of the Wall's route in the Northwest Jerusalem villages of Beit Surik, Biddu, Qatanna, Beit Ijza, Qubieba, Beit Inan, Beit Duqqu, and Beit Liqiya. The Occupation's court asked the Occupation military to come back with new maps for the Wall's path in that area that will take into consideration the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians living in these villages, while security considerations are also to be maintained. By doing so, the Occupation court gave its government and military the legal cover they needed -stating that the Wall is a "security" issue, not a political one, and that the Wall can be built on Palestinian lands.
Emphasizing the Wall's route, rather than its existence on the whole, is an attempt by Occupation Forces to hide the fact that the Wall - in and of itself -creates the Apartheid system in the West Bank; that the Wall in and of itself, not just its route, is what destroys Palestinians' lives, aiming at their expulsion.
For Israel, this comes as a clear message to the world that Israel is not willing to recognize the illegality of the Wall. Further, in a step to undermine any decision that may come out from the ICJ on July 9th, Israel has stated that even if the ICJ rules that the Wall is illegal, the Wall's route may be reconsidered, but not the Wall itself.
Humanitarian Considerations or Political Considerations?
The maps and confiscation orders that the Palestinian villages in Northwest Jerusalem received between January and February, showed that the Wall would be built close to their built up areas, isolating most of their lands. According to the maps, more than fifty thousand dunums would have been left behind the Wall.
Since the nineties, major settlement expansion has been planned, mainly for the Giv'at Ze'ev settlement that was built on lands occupied in 1967, in the middle of the West Bank, but is still considered by Occupation Forces as one of the major Jewish settlements in Jerusalem. The Wall in that area is meant to cement those settlements to Israeli Greater Jerusalem, to secure its domination within the West Bank's very core, which at the same time, forces the Palestinian population to definitively lose that land.
The Wall squeezes the 8 Northwest Jerusalem villages, together with southwest Ramallah villages, in what is practically a ghetto cut off from Jerusalem, remaining only tenuously linked to Ramallah, which forces a large and costly detour.
The lands of these villages, together with the settlements around Jerusalem, impose the new factual borders of "Metropolitan Jerusalem" the "Jewish Capital" of Israel. However, to create the "Jewish Capital" of Israel, Palestinians must be isolated from the city by the Wall, and in the same time settlements like Ramot, Haradar, Giv'on, and Giv'at Ze'ev must be annexed as major "Jewish towns" that are within the expanded Jerusalem boundaries. This makes the Wall around Jerusalem as much about reducing the number of Palestinians in the city as it is about land annexation. The goal is clear: in the first step, the Wall is to separate Palestinians from the city, annexing as many lands as possible, but on the long term, the Wall is an expulsion project as well.
The Northwest Jerusalem villages are a few kilometers from the center of Jerusalem city, and they are closer to West Jerusalem, Occupied in 1948, than they are to East Jerusalem, Occupied in 1967. With the Wall encircling them, the villages are to be connected by one way or another (a detour road link may be considered to connect these villages) with Ramallah to the north.
Nevertheless, will this really solve the way the Wall will affect the people in these villages? The court's verdict changes nothing to the overall designs and effects of the Wall. It just requires that Occupation Forces carve out an adapted Wall path. A woman from Biddu made the point clear when she said, "It makes no difference to move it few meters away, many of our lands are beyond the settlement, how are we going to reach these lands?"
The people in Beit Ijza are more suspicious. Abu Al Abed, the Mayor in Beit Ijza says, "I do not know how much we can trust that they are going to change anything. The changes in the Wall's path could be worse, they have already destroyed many lands and uprooted many trees, if they are going to move it another 40 or 60 meters, then they are going to destroy more lands. I do not know how they are going to change the Wall's route between us and the settlement, the settlement is on parts of the built up area of the village, some of our houses will be isolated, but nothing will stop the Occupation Forces, we saw what they did in Rafah, it is no problem for them".
Leaving the people some of their lands by changing the Wall's route may enable them to continue to cultivate the pieces of land that are left, however, the question is how much they will be able to market their products, since the Wall separates them from the two main marketing centers they used to rely on: Jerusalem, before the closure imposed on the city since the nineties, and Ram, the main marketing and service center for all northwestern villages. Ramallah, for these people is too far, unlike Jerusalem or Ram, which means that the transportation costs will be more expensive. During the last years, when the people had to use the Ramallah road to transport their grapes, plums or figs, production losses where higher than their profits. This also applies to those who work or study outside the villages, as the transportation and long distance they have to go to reach their work, university or school will force them to choose between the unfair options of either quitting their work/studies or of leaving their villages.
The point is that the court's decision to change the Wall's route will not really change the impacts the Wall will have on these people, because it is the Wall that is the main problem, the main illegal violation of these people's humanitarian rights, not its path.
Violation of Palestinians' Rights
The court and the lawyer who represented the village emphasized that the Wall can be built in a way that does not violate Palestinians rights. However, in a contradictory statement, the court's decision stated that the military can build the Wall on Palestinian lands, which is an inherent violation of those same Palestinians rights. It also recognized the need to "secure" the settlements.
However, as it is internationally recognized, Palestinian's rights will come by ending the Occupation of all lands Occupied in 1967 and dismantling of all settlements. Settlements are illegally built on Palestinian lands, which makes the very construction of them in the first place a violation of Palestinians' rights. Annexing them is a further violation of Palestinians' rights, while leaving enough lands behind the Wall for settlements to expand on is yet another violation of Palestinian rights.
The Wall being built on Palestinian Occupied land represents a major violation of international law by unilaterally demarcating a new border with the West Bank. (see "The Wall and International Law" in Stop the Wall in Palestine: Facts, Testimonies, Analysis, and Call to Action, the Anti Apartheid Wall Campaign book for more details on how the Wall violates International Law or the International Law section of www.StoptheWall.org)
The annexation of Jerusalem is a violation of International Law, and is a violation of Palestinian rights to freedom of movement and freedom of religion.
In short, the Occupation is a violation of Palestinian rights -the Wall perpetuates the Occupation and thus the Wall is a violation of International Law. The Wall and Palestinians rights are mutually exclusive and can never exist together.
Ruling out 30 km of the Wall: Cosmetic Changes
When hearing that the court ruled out 30 km of the Wall's route in Northwest Jerusalem, the questions that came to mind in that very moment were: What about the rest of the Wall? What about the completed first phase of the Wall in the northern West Bank, and the new sections that are under construction? What about all of the remaining sections of the 768 km that makes the whole length of the Wall around the West Bank? Why this section and why now?
The Wall in Northwest Jerusalem, as ugly a form of apartheid as it is, is not the ugliest. The Wall in Abu Dis and in the Southeast Jerusalem area is another example of how ugly the Wall can be. The Wall goes between people's houses, separating Palestinians from Palestinians. Already, major damages have been caused -hundreds of families have left the villages of Eizarya, Abu Dis, and Sheikh Saed and hundreds of businesses in Eizarya were destroyed, what about the "humanitarian considerations" for the people living there?
Why has the Occupation's court, for years now, failed to solve the problem of Walaja and Nu'man people - in Bethlehem district- who are threatened with expulsion from their villages. Nu'man is now isolated by the Wall from the rest of the West Bank. Its lands are annexed to the "Jerusalem boundaries" while its people have West Bank IDs and are threatened with expulsion. The court's order barring the state not to expel the people from the village means nothing when the people are living in an area annexed to "Jerusalem boundaries", while the people still have West Bank IDs. Through this, the people are imprisoned in their tiny village, they cannot reach the west Bank nor can they access Jerusalem. Regarding the court order to stop construction on sections of the Wall where it is less then fifty meters away from the houses, the people from Nu'man say, "It is no help for us, the Wall will still isolate us, it is more than 150 meters away from our houses but we are being suffocated by it".
In the northern West Bank, Occupation Forces started building the Wall in the Salfit district, where the Wall goes some 22 km inside the West Bank, annexing tens of thousands of dunums of Palestinian lands. Houses are being demolished trees uprooted, families isolated from each other. If the Wall is completed, Salfit as a district will cease to exist, because the Wall will fracture it into four different pieces; one Salfit city will be connected to Ramallah, some villages will be isolated in separated cantons, while the other of its villages will have more connection to Qalqiliya or Nablus than to Salfit.
In Jenin, Tulkarem, and Qalqiliya districts where the First Phase of the Wall was completed, lands were destroyed and settlements and large areas of lands were annexed. 16 villages with 13,000 people were isolated from the rest of the West bank. The lands were declared as a "seam zone" where Palestinians have to obtain permits to reach their lands or, even, must stay in their isolated houses. They have to get permits to go to their schools, work, or hospitals; they have to get permits to have bread and water transported for them. More than 70,000 Palestinians in 51 villages lost their lands, their only source of living. Farmers who still had access to their lands had to watch their products perish because of their inability to transport them.
Why did the high court last august fail to stop Occupation Forces from demolishing 218 commercial buildings and houses in Nazlat Issa in Tulkarem? The Occupation's court can never be separated from the Occupation system; it functions for the advantage of its regime when needed. By its decision, the court is trying to give Israel the democratic face it needs to have in front of the world --by ruling out sections of the Wall, by emphasizing that the Wall's route is illegal in certain sections, it gives "legitimacy" to an illegitimate Wall. The Occupation court, by stating in its decision that the military is the only capable apparatus of deciding the best route of the Wall that will provide "security for Israel", emphasizes the complimentary role that the Occupation's high court plays within the Occupation system.
Perhaps some insight into why the Occupation Court would choose to make their decision about the Northwest Jerusalem area of the Wall now can be guessed from past experiences. In February, when the ICJ held its hearing to look into the legality of the Wall, Occupation Forces dismantled parts of the Wall in Baqa Sharqiya, though built another one, somewhat closer to the Green Line, for which the 218 buildings in Nazlat Issa were demolished; Nazlat Issa is now as called by its people "a ghost town". During that time, the Occupation media deceptively covered the dismantling of that section of the Wall as if the entire Wall in that area was being dismantled. The media ignored the fact that another 8 meter high Wall was still being built on the ruins of the Nazlat Issa market, still turning Baqa Sharqiya and Nazlat Issa into dead towns.
Now, the same scenario is being played out as the ICJ prepares to give its decision in less than a week. The Occupation Media is ignoring the fact that the Wall in and of is itself illegal, diverting people's attention with a very false "victory." Wherever the Apartheid Wall is routed, it is destroying people's lands and lives --it is the Wall that is creating a Bantustan state that the Israelis would want to call "a Palestinian state". The Apartheid Wall is what violates Palestinians rights; it is the Wall and the Occupation that stand between the Palestinians and anything that would offer them a life better than the one of slavery and imprisonment that they are now sentenced to.
Occupation Forces are now trying to repeat the same game in which another "unprecedented" step is taken by court ruling, supposedly emphasizing the significance of humanitarian considerations, while actually legitimizing its system's violations of international Law and Palestinians rights. It is a clear attempt to attract attention away from the ICJ decision while undermining it at the same time.
For Occupation Forces, this is a good trade: give back a few dunums of the northwest Jerusalem villages, and gain their court's approval, keep their democratic face in front of the world, all while continuing the bantustanization of the West Bank by building the Apartheid Wall. As for Palestinians, the new media game being used by Israel to escape their responsibility for the apartheid crimes they are committing by building the Wall, cannot, and will not, disguise the fact that it is the Wall, not its route that is illegal -- that the entire Wall must be dismantled.
The Wall - Not its Route -