A Security Wall, What Security?

The legendary Scottish king, Macbeth, lamented that having “stepped so far in blood, returning were as tedious as go o’er.”

It seems that the ongoing Palestinian-“Israeli tragedy is turning the ill-fated Shakespearean king’s words into harsh reality. For just as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) prepares to consider the legality of the separation wall Israel is building on occupied Palestinian lands, nine more (eight Israelis and one Palestinian) have been killed in Jerusalem.

The ICJ will most likely rule that the wall is illegal under international law and this will certainly come as a moral victory for Palestinians. But it is just as certain that Israel and its supporters will condemn the ICJ ruling, and that Israel will continue to build the wall in defiance of it.

At the request of Israeli human rights NGOs, the Oxford Public Interest Lawyers (OXPIL) — a non-profit association affiliated with the faculty of law at the University of Oxford — has already found Israel in legal violation of international and humanitarian law. It argues that the construction and route of the wall are "not necessary, proportionate or legitimate measures of control and security under humanitarian law" and that by deviating from the 1949 Armistice Line to "protect illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, the wall seeks to unlawfully misuse security powers…"

OXPIL also emphasized that Israel’s requisition / expropriation of Palestinian property to construct the wall "violates prohibitions on the confiscation of private property in Occupied Territory and its duties of trusteeship over public lands." OXPIL’s legal experts concluded that the wall "may result in the unlawful forcible transfer of some Palestinians from their homes."

In the meantime the Sharon government is waging a huge public relations campaign to influence the ICJ’s decision, including sending the wreckage of Jerusalem bus number 19 — blown up by a suicide bomber last month -” (and maybe also yesterday bus) to be displayed across the street from the ICJ in support of its position that the "fence" is a security, not a legal issue.

But the fact remains that, if completed, the wall will affect nearly 50 per cent of the West Bank Palestinian population and will de facto annex about 50 per cent of West Bank land, thus further isolating its communities into cantons, enclaves and "military zones."

The wall is nothing less than an aggressive new chapter in Israel’s policy of creating "facts on the ground", intended to serve as high-pressure bargaining tools in negotiations with the Palestinians.

But will the wall even give Israel the security it needs? Will it effectively deter the spirit of suicidal desperation felt by Palestinians suffering under 36 years of Israeli occupation?

Traditionally, for any political issue in which one country occupied the land of another, pressure from the international community would have forced a workable solution long ago.

But sadly, for both Israelis and Palestinians, it has gone on for so long because the country in question is a created Jewish state, making the situation unjustly special.

The West’s collective guilt-consciousness resulting from the Holocaust seems to make it right for Jews to kill Palestinians in order to acquire land for their new settlements, yet Palestinians are condemned and punished when their efforts to liberate their land from occupation result in the death of Jews. And this dogma is not new; it has been the order of the day since the late 1940s.

On April 9, 1948 in the village of Deir Yassin, 254 Palestinian civilians were massacred by the Irgun Jewish terrorist organization in collaboration with the Haganah, the embryonic Israeli army.

And in 1953, the notorious Israeli army Unit 101, led by the same Ariel Sharon who is now Israel’s Prime Minister, attacked the West Bank village of Qibya, blowing up 30 houses over the heads of their inhabitants and killing more than 50 Palestinian men, women and children. This time, there was a brief international outcry and Israel was censured by the UN Security Council. But since no retributive action followed, the price of Israel’s short-lived shame was negligible.

Three years later, in October 1956, 49 Palestinian civilians who were also Israeli citizens, were shot in cold blood by Israeli border guards at the Palestinian village of Kafr Qasim.

Today, all the Israelis can hope to maintain with their so-called security wall is a tense status quo — at the expense of any prospect for lasting peace.

The better alternative, which is still not too late to implement, would be an immediate and courageous change of policy to end the occupation, and move toward genuine reconciliation, purposeful negotiation, and the acceptance of a free and autonomous Palestinian state.

The crucial question is, can Israel make that bold adjustment? Can an entire people collectively, and effectively, decide that the time is now — to stop more death, destruction and misery?

Can they be persuaded that the risks in adopting a conciliatory policy are in the long run immeasurably less than the escalating dangers of continued domination and occupation?

Israelis must face the fact that their destiny in the Middle East lies in peaceful co-existence with their neighbours, for they cannot maintain themselves indefinitely by relying on force of arms, foreign aid (political, military and economic) and security walls — no matter how high they are.

Canadians, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who sincerely take Israel’s interests to heart, should urge the Sharon government to set a new political objective, aimed at ending this mutually debilitating occupation, and to initiate a process of reconciliation. Only in this way, it seems to me, the blood bath will stop and both Israelis and Palestinians will get the security they deserve, instead of forever retracing Macbeth’s agony at having “stepped so far in blood, returning were as tedious as go o’er.”