Ten years ago today, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled illegal Israel's massive separation wall that runs alongside and inside the Palestinian territories.
On July 9, 2004, at the behest of the UN General Assembly, the ICJ, legal arm of the United Nations, indeed issued an Advisory opinion saying "the construction of the wall (by occupying power Israel), and its associated régime (imposed on the Palestinians), are contrary to international law."
The ICJ Advisory deemed that "Israel cannot rely on a right of self-defense or on a state of necessity to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall."
Its ruling called for the barrier to be removed, for residents to be compensated and for UN member States, including Canada, to act to obtain Israel's compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) -- of which Canada is a signatory.
Behind the Wall, a land and resource grab
Israel's Wall does not follow the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank. Rather, it goes far inside the Palestinian Territory, protecting illegal Jewish settlements, expropriating precious Palestinian water and farm land and isolating some Palestinian cities and towns.
This important anniversary highlights two opposing trends on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. The Harper government and Israel aim at annexing more Palestinian territory while maintaining a withering occupation and siege. Conversely, the UN, world civil society and a growing number of States are striving for diplomatic solutions to end the occupation and restore the human rights of the Palestinians.
Israel, the occupying state, bears responsibility to end the conditions fueling the violent conflict -- whose most recent victims have been a number of Israeli and Palestinian youths brutally murdered.
The GCIV covers the protection of civilians in time of war, and imposes specific obligations on occupying powers as regards population transfers, education of children, destruction of property and medical services (Articles 47 to 78). For example, Article 49 states that anoccupying power cannot forcibly deport protected persons, nor can it transfer parts of its own civilian population into occupied territory.
In other words, Israel violates the Geneva Convention by building Jewish settlements inside the Palestinian West Bank, and then using the Wall to annex settlement lands into Israel proper.
The ICJ Advisory and the Global BDS Campaign
On the first anniversary of the ICJ's Advisory opinion, nearly 200 Palestinian civil society organizations launched a global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Campaign (BDS) to bring Israel to meet its obligations under international law.
The BDS campaign demands Israel end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands, dismantle the wall, recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and respect the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties under UN Resolution 194.
With support from important figures like veteran anti-Apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu and UN Special rapporteurs on Human Rights and on Palestine, and Public intellectuals like Naomi Klein and Alice Walker, the BDS campaign keeps growing as a dynamic global movement linking students, trade unions, Churches, Human rights organizations and now even some governments, worldwide.
Several major Canadian and Quebec unions such as CUPW (the Canadian Postal Workers' Union), the Quebec Teachers Union FNEEQ, the Association pour solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSE), bodies like the Quebec Federation of Women (FFQ) and les Artistes pour lapaix (APLP), political parties like Québec Solidaire and many other organizations, support BDS.
Growing involvement of unions and churches
The U.S. Presbyterian Church voted recently to divest from Hewlett Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar -- on the basis of their record of complicity in the oppression and denial of human rights of Palestinians. The United Church of Canada approved in 2012 alimited boycott of Israeli goods made in the Occupied territories.
BDS targets business, security, military, cultural and academic relations with Israel. The Economist reported this year that BDS "is turning mainstream" as "some European pension funds have withdrawn investments" and "some large corporations have cancelled contracts."
Last week in Liverpool, Unite, Britain's largest trade union (1.4 million members in all sectors), voted to join the BDS Campaign. Delegates condemned the persecution and ethnic cleansing Israel inflicts on the Palestinian people, the torture of children , and the racist laws aimed at Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Growing U.S. and EU pressure on Israel
As Israel continues to build new Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, it draws more vocal criticism from the U.S. and the EU. The EU is also ratcheting up pressure: Spain and Italy recently joined France, Germany and Britain in advising their citizens not to invest in Israeli settlements.
In line with the UN, both the U.S. and the EU regard Israeli settlements on Occupied land as illegal. Spain declared the settlements "constitute an obstacle to peace" and hinder efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via a two-state solution.
Canada and Quebec were leaders in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against South African Apartheid. It's time the Canadian government joined in the BDS Campaign and threw its weight behind the ten-year-old ICJ call to dismantle Israel's Wall and restore Palestinian Human rights. As Naomi Klein says, "it's long past time." And, last but not least, Canada needs to genuinely and fully support the search for a diplomatic solution to the festering, decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict.
Aroa El Horani
Amir Maasoumi member of Artists for Peace poet
Aalya Ahmad, Ph.D.Communications Specialist, Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Aziz Choudry, Professor Mcgill University, member of College and University Workers United (CUWU)
Abby Lippman Emiratus Professor Mcgill University and member of Independent Jewish Voices
Ann E. Pollock
Helena Beatriz Muñoz Ramírez activist
Bob Aubin de Joliette
Bruce Katz member of Palestinian and Jewish Unity
Brian Aboud, Vanier College
Cindy McCallum Miller, President CUPW Local Castlegar
Curtis Marwood-Retired United Church Minister
Christian Martel CUPW National Director Quebec Region
Chadi Marouf member of Palestinian and Jewish Unity
Charles Beckett, Member United Church of Canada,
Charlotte Gaudreau, Beirut
Cllotilde Bertrand, Member of Palestinian unity and jewish
Dave Bleakeny, Union of Postal Workers
David Heap, London, Ontario, People for Peace, London.
Daniel John Primeau
Dawn Robichaud Denise Ouellet
Dominique Daigneault, Central Council of Metropolitan Montreal - CSN
Donald Grayston, Building Bridges Vancouver, Anglican Church
Diane Lamoureux, Professor Université Laval
Denis Kosseim, member of committee of solidarity internationals CSN Denise Ouellet
Denis Barrette, lawyer
Rev. Desmond Jagger-Parsons United Church of Canada
Newtown, Newfoundland and Labrador
Elizabeth Block, Toronto, ON IJV, NION (Not In Our Name), Jewish Women `s Committee to End the Occupation
Ehab Lotayef's Gaza's Ark
Eric Shragge, retired professor Concordia University
Feroz Mehdi, Alternatives International
Freda Guttman, Tadamon!
George Bartlett, retired lawyer and United Church member
Pierre Jasmin, Artists for Peace
Jooneed Khan form writer for La Presse
John Turnbull, Vancouver, member CanPalNet
Joy Moore, Dawson College College and University Workers United
Ken DeLisle, United Church of Canada
Kevin Gould, professor Concordia University, Univesity College and Workers United
Lesvia Vela, Guatemala / Canada
Lorraine Guay, Coaliiton for Justice and Peace in Palestine
Mira Khazzam (member, IJV Canada).
Michael Seguin, United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI).
Mahmoud Abdelal Tadamon
Mostafa Henaway, Immigrant Workers Centre
Mcgill University professor Michelle Hartman College and University Workers United
Marion Pollack - retired union member
Ford Ormsby, Quebec Solidaire
Patricia Mercer, United Church member
Paul Eid, Professor Department of Sociology, UQAM
Richard Langlois, Central International Relations of Quebec unions
Rushdia Mehreen, BDS Quebec
Rashad Antonious, Professor, UQAM
Ronald Cameron, Alternatives
Sabine Friesinger Pelestinian and Jewish Unity
Scott Weinstein, Independent Jewish Voices
Sid Shniad Member, national steering committee Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Susan Stout member trade union branch of CanPalnet retired local Unifor 2002
Rev. Steve Berube, St. Paul's United
Yom Shamash - Vancouver IJV
CanPalNet (Canada - Palestine Support Network)
Artists for Peace
Association for Student Union Solidarity (ASSE)
Federation of CSN-Construction
Photo: flickr/Montecruz Foto