Because the Qalandia Checkpoint still stands …

Because the disgraceful Qalandia Checkpoint still stands — a monstrosity that defies easy description, mostly because of disbelief that anything could be deliberately made so bad — as we enter a new year, we will call attention to it, yet again.

Today, we will leave aside the awfulness of all other passage through Qalandia Checkpoint, and focus just on the issue of pedestrian crossing of Palestinians from the West Bank of those who need to be at work, or who have any other appointment early in the day on the other side.

Here is a video compilation comparing the situation facing of people [yes, human beings] waiting to get through the checkpoint in January 2008, and again on another morning in December 2011, nearly 4 years later. The video — prepared by friends at Machsom Watch, the organization of Israeli women for human rights — was posted on the Mondoweiss blog on 24 December by Adam Horowitz [Co-Editor of] here.

It can also be watched on Youtube here:

Horowitz wrote about it on his post on Mondoweiss, simply saying: “As you watch this video keep in mind that the Qalandia checkpoint is not a border crossing between Israel and the West Bank. Like most Israeli checkpoints in the occupied territories, Qalandia is located squarely in Palestinian territory”…

For Israel, Qalandia Checkpoint — and a stretch of the road further north going from Jerusalem towards Ramallah — is within the boundaries of the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality” — a unilateral composite extension of “Jerusalem” in late June 1967, several weeks after the Israeli military conquest of the area in the June 1967 Six-Day war.

For Palestinians, for the United Nations, and for most European and many other countries, Qalandia Checkpoint is within the West Bank — as defined by the UN-negotiated cease-fire lines of 1949 [later known as the Green Line], which is not quite exactly, but still largely, the same line across which Israeli and Jordanian forces faced each other until 4 June 1967.

As such, according to the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory“, posted here, in English + French, which was developed in response to a request from the United Nations General Assembly after Israel started building The Wall in mid-2002, and which was handed down by the ICJ in the Hague on 9 July 2004:

    “In the light of the material before it, the Court is not convinced that the construction of the wall along the route chosen was the only means to safeguard the interests of Israel against the peril which it has invoked as justification for that construction.[141.] The fact remains that Israel has to face numerous indiscriminate and deadly acts of violence against its civilian population. It has the right, and indeed the duty, to respond in order to protect the life of its citizens. The measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.

    [142.] In conclusion, the Court considers that Israel cannot rely on a right of self-defence (or on a state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall resulting from the considerations mentioned in paragraphs 122 and 137 above. The Court accordingly finds that the construction of the wall, and its associated régime, are contrary to international lawContinue reading Because the Qalandia Checkpoint still stands …

The Wall is only about 70 percent complete, new deadline for completion is … not until 2020

Jamal Juma’, in an interview with Ida Audeh published on the Electronic Intifada [EI] website, said, about the announced intention of the Palestinian leadership to go to the UN in September, that: “We have been talking to the national forces and leftist and democratic forces and institutions, as well as to the Palestinian human rights [and civil society organizations]. We developed a working paper that outlines our positions. We wanted to get a legal perspective on what international law says about going to the UN. We concluded that we should in fact go to the UN but not in order to establish a state on the 1967 borders. We should be demanding that the membership of the PLO be raised to state status“…

What should go to the UN Security Council, Juma said, is the un-implemented Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in the Hague on The Wall.

Continue reading The Wall is only about 70 percent complete, new deadline for completion is … not until 2020

There is no legal determination on Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, only opinions + debate

Here are some excerpts, which I’m recording here as notes for the record, from a discussion about the Israeli seizure of the Flotillas headed to Gaza and Israel’s continuing naval blockade of Gaza, in comments made on a post on Mondoweiss, written by Steve Fake and published on 19 July, entitled “Destination? Gaza!: The Freedom Flotilla II meets the Israeli military:, which is posted here.

What I found interesting was the exchange about legality.

Hostage wrote on July 20, 2011 at 7:26 am:

The official commentary on Article 59 of the Geneva Conventions describes many of the customary prohibitions that Israel is deliberately violating regarding supplies of essential items and relief consignments to a civilian population. The convention provides that free passage of relief consignments is mandatory:
The principle of free passage, as set forth in this clause, means that relief consignments for the population of an occupied territory must be allowed to pass through the blockade; they cannot under any circumstances be declared war contraband or be seized as such by those enforcing the blockade. The obligation to authorize the free passage of relief consignments is accompanied by the obligation to guarantee their protection. It will not be enough merely to lift the blockade and refrain from attacking or confiscating the goods. More than that will be required: all the States concerned must respect the consignments and protect them when they are exposed to danger through military operations“.

The official commentary also stipulates that the safeguards for verification and supervision,
which were prescribed in the interests of the Powers granting free passage, must in no case be misused in order to make the rule [i.e. free passage] itself inoperative or unduly delay the forwarding of relief“.

France and Turkey were the parties to the landmark S.S. Lotus case in which the PCIJ ruled that “the first and foremost restriction imposed by international law upon a State is that – failing the existence of a permissive rule to the contrary – it may not exercise its power in any form in the territory of another State.” The US abstained from the vote on UN SC 1860. I doubt that Bibi is eager to take on a permanent member of the Security Council in an international court over the the legality of Israel’s blockade or which state owns Gaza’s territorial waters 😉

Continue reading There is no legal determination on Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, only opinions + debate

Today is the 7th anniversary of ICJ Advisory Opinion on The Wall

It was on 9 July 2004 that the International Court of Justice in The Hague handed down its Advisory Opinion — issued after more than a year of deliberations following a request from the UN General Assembly [this request for opinion was limited to “the legal consequences of the construction of those parts of the wall situated in Occupied Palestinian Territory”].

Part of the argument it considers says, in summary form, that: “Construction of the wall and its associated regime create a ‘fait accompli” on the ground that could well become permanent -Risk of situation tantamount to de facto annexation – Construction of the wall severely impedes the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination and is therefore a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect that right“.

The ICJ concludes, in this Advisory Opinion, that: “Construction of the wall and its associated regime are contrary to international law”.

It also concludes that there is a “need for efforts to be encouraged, with a view to achieving as soon as possible, on the basis of international law, a negotiated solution to the outstanding problems and the establishment of a Palestinian State, with peace, and security, for all in the region”.

Continue reading Today is the 7th anniversary of ICJ Advisory Opinion on The Wall

Nabil ElAraby named Foreign Minister of the new Egypt

Nabil El-Araby (ElAraby) has been named the Foreign Minister of the new Egypt.

A brilliant choice.

See his separate opinion on the Advisory Opinion on the Wall, here, written when he served as a Judge on the International Court of Justice:

“What I consider relevant to emphasize is that this special responsibility [of the United Nations for Palestine, as mentioned in the main body of the Advisory Opinion of July 2004] was discharged for five decades without proper regard for the rule of law. The question of Palestine has dominated the work of the United Nations since its inception, yet no organ has ever requested the International Court of Justice to clarify the complex legal aspects of the matters under its purview. Decisions with far-reaching consequences were taken on the basis of political expediency, without due regard for the legal requirements. Even when decisions were adopted, the will to follow through to implementation soon evaporated. Competent United Nations organs, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, have adopted streams of resolutions that have remained wholly or partially unfulfilled. The United Nations special responsibility has its origins in General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, hereafter the Partition Resolution”…

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Jerusalem: "I don't do politics, I do law"

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, wrapped up Friday a couple of days visit in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

(0Pt = UN terminology, adopted from the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Wall, which she mentions below).

In a statement to the media, Pillay said “The settlement of Israeli citizens in the occupied Palestinian territory is clearly prohibited under international law. As a result, all State actions in support of the establishment and maintenance of the settlements, including incentives to create them and the establishment of infrastructure to support them, are illegal under international law. They should be stopped altogether. The idea that a partial or temporary halt is a valuable concession in the peace process, to be traded against something else, is turning the law on its head. The annexation of East Jerusalem contravenes customary international law, as confirmed by Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. This has also been recognized by the International Court of Justice. Because of its illegality, the annexation has not been recognized by any State. Under international law, East Jerusalem remains part of the West Bank and is occupied territory. All settlement-related activities, and any legal or administrative decision or practice that directly or indirectly coerce Palestinians to leave East Jerusalem, including evictions, demolitions, forced displacements and cancelation of residence permits on a discriminatory basis, should be halted and restrictions on access to East Jerusalem by other West Bank inhabitants should be lifted…”

Continue reading UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Jerusalem: "I don't do politics, I do law"

Today is the sixth anniversary of the ICJ opinion on The Wall

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has published a report for the occasion, entitled “The Impact of the Barrier [The Wall] on Health”.

Here is one of the most dismal pieces of information in the report: “The Barrier gate opening times pose potential health risks for the thousands of farmers who enter their land in the ‘Seam Zone’ on a daily or seasonal basis. The majority of gates open for brief periods, two to three times daily: only two Barrier gates out of 13 open continuously throughout the day. As the gates
are locked and unstaffed by soldiers between these short opening times, a widespread anxiety among farmers is that in the event of a work accident, snake bite or pesticide inhalation, they are unable to leave the ‘Seam Zone.’ Unless they succeed in attracting the attention of the military patrol which controls the gates (or communicate through the Humanitarian Hotline to the DCL – Israeli District Coordination Liaison Office) they are stuck until the next opening time, without access to first aid or emergency care. Restrictions on vehicles passing through the Barrier gates means that an injured person needs to be
transported by horse, mule or tractor to the gates, which often necessitates a long detour over rugged terrain. The farmers’ anxiety is compounded by the realization that access restrictions to the ‘Seam Zone’ also prevent the entry of health professionals and ambulances from assisting those in need of medical care. (See OCHA oPt, ‘Five Years after the International
Court of Justice Advisory Opinion’, July 2009, p. 36, for the case of a farmer who severed his fingers with a chainsaw while working in the closed are behind the Barrier)…

Continue reading Today is the sixth anniversary of the ICJ opinion on The Wall

Boycott Cellcom (not Leonard Cohen)

Boycotts are in the air — billed as a peaceful alternative to war and conflict of all sorts. The definitive worth of the tactic is debatable — and in some circles it is being debated. Naomi Klein recently visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory [West Bank + Gazayes, the Israeli military allowed her visit Gaza] despite her support of an/the economic and cultural boycott of Israel to promote the publication of her latest book in Hebrew.

In an interview with Haaretz, Klein explained, basically, that she would not have come if the boycott committee had asked her not to.

The Haaretz article said that Klein and her publisher “carefully planned Klein’s itinerary in Israel to avoid the impression that she supports institutions connected to the State of Israel and the Israeli economy. ‘It certainly would have been a lot easier not to have come to Israel, and I wouldn’t have come had the Palestinian Boycott National Committee asked me not to’, said Klein in an interview before her arrival, at her Toronto home. ‘But I went to them with a proposal for the way I wanted to visit Israel and they were very open to it. It is important to me not to boycott Israelis but rather to boycott the normalization of Israel and the conflict’.”

She then gave several hair-splitting justifications about her visit to Israel, but was at the same time critical of the Israeli and pro-Israeli boycott of the UN’s Durban Two follow-up conference against racism held in Geneva not too long ago.

The Haaretz article quickly gets bored of the boycott issue, and veers into other areas, and can be read in full here .

In a conversation this afternoon a propos the demand from various quarters that Leonard Cohen  cancel his performance in Tel Aviv [apparently still scheduled for 24 September], an Israeli friend and admirable activist said to me that there is actually not a boycott of Israel at the moment.

But there is.  It is understandable that somebody could be confused, especially because there seems to be several different boycotts, and several different boycott committees, and the whole thing is unclear.

In any case, it was reported today by PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [apparently launched in Ramallah in April 2004] that “We are now pleased to announce that we have received confirmation from the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society that they will not be hosting Leonard Cohen in Ramallah. A strong consensus has emerged among all parties concerned that Cohen is not welcome in Ramallah as long as he insists on performing in Tel Aviv, even though it had been claimed that Cohen would dedicate his concert in Palestine to the cause of Palestinian prisoners. Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel‘s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel. PACBI has always rejected any attempt to ‘balance’ concerts or other artistic events in Israel–conscious acts of complicity in Israel‘s violation of international law and human rights–with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory”.

We reported on the Leonard Cohen dilemma earlier here. In that earlier post, we mentioned that the decision was put into the hands of Fatah “Young Guard” leader Qaddura Fares, who is head of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club Society, and who told us that “his suggestion was that Leonard Cohen should come if he would agree to sing for the release of Palestinian prisoners (there are over 11,000 of them, including several hundred children) — and for the release of the Israeli soldier who is believed to be still held captive somewhere in Gaza, Corporal Gilad Shalit. ‘Yes, why not?’, Qaddura Fares said, and smiled. ‘All of them are prisoners, and they have the right to be free …. Maybe if he [Leonard Cohen] comes for such a sensitive issue, it will be useful for Palestinians and for Israelis”.

A call to Qaddura Fares for confirmation this evening went unanswered.

In an informal poll I’ve been conducting in Ramallah the last two days, I didn’t find any Palestinian who knew who Leonard Cohen was.

On the other side of the coin, I have been wondering who would brief Leonard Cohen about what he would encounter on the other side — that is, in Ramallah — should he actually perform there. If he allowed himself to be booked into Tel Aviv without realizing that there might be a reaction, and without apparently thinking very much about the Palestinians penned into the West Bank (and Gaza), what would it take to brief Leonard Cohen about this alternate reality [which Haaretz’s Gideon Levy aptly calls the “Twilight Zone”]? Would Leonard Cohen know how reach out to the Ramallah audience?

It’s not clear that the last act of this boycott drama has played out yet, but today’s PACBI statement argued that “Those sincerely interested in defending Palestinian rights and taking a moral and courageous stance against the Israeli occupation and apartheid should not play Israel, period. That is the minimum form of solidarity Palestinian civil society has called for. We feel that this is an occasion to reaffirm our position first articulated two years ago in relation to visits to the occupied Palestinian territory by artists, performers, and academics who wish to show solidarity with Palestinians while primarily coming to Israel to perform or participate in academic or artistic activities. As we noted then, Palestinians have always warmly welcomed solidarity visits by international visitors; however, most Palestinians firmly believe that such solidarity visits should not be used as an occasion to organize performances, film screenings or exhibits in mainstream Israeli venues or to give lectures at Israeli universities; collaborate in any way with Israeli political, cultural or academic institutions; or participate in activities sponsored or supported — directly or indirectly — by the Israeli government or any of its agencies”. This statement is published in full here ,

The boycott success story par excellence is supposed to be South Africa — though there was as much evasion as compliance [including certain well-connected Palestinians, with connections all the way to the top, who had fun and helped finance the revolution by selling oil from countries in the Persian Gulf to South Africa, avoiding the boycott by changing the flag of the tanker ship while at sea, or substituting new bills of lading, or new ports of destination… ]

And if we’re going to talk about sanctions, did either Saddam Hussein or Hamas “change their stripes” after heavy-hitting international sanctions? (Even more importantly, did those sanctions avert war?)

However, a new Israeli Cellcom that nonchalantly uses The Wall as a prop, and just-fun-loving Israeli soldiers and Border Police-persons as the actors, is so extraordinarily insensitive that it merits a boycott call.

Adam Horowitz has an unsettling post on Mondoweiss here contrasting what we see in the Cellcom ad with how Israeli soldiers and Border Police usually behave at The Wall [even when it is a fence as it is in Bil’in and Nil’in].

CORRECTION: The video referred to just above was of Friday’s demonstration in Ni’lin, not Bil’in.

The video of Friday’s demonstration in Nil’in in the Mondoweiss post is particularly creepy because it shows that at least ten undercover Israeli agents were pretending to participate as demonstrators, before they revealed themselves as uniformed Israeli forces rushed through the hole that had been cut in the fence to seize two of the Palestinian demonstrators and carry them off in army vehicles. Was this the first time that this Trojan-Horse tactic has been used at these weekly demonstrations in the two villages about 20 minutes drive east of Ramallah? 

(One savvy Palestinian commentator said last evening that these weekly demonstrations had done much more to explain and advance the Palestinian position than the current Palestinian government).

The Cellcom ad is posted here on Youtube  (as are videos of the Bil’in and Nil’in demonstrations).

It seems that the ad agency that produced this Cellcom ad did not use the real Wall, but built a set with a small section of identical 9-meter-high concrete slabs. What shows it’s not the real thing? First of all, section in this set ends abruptly, instead of extending as far as the eye can see (in later shots, an extension seems to be Photoshopped into the film). Secondly, the “soldiers” in the ad are patrolling next to an area decorated with grafitti. In reality, most of the graffiti is on the Palestinian side of the Wall, while the side that the Israelis usually patrol is much more bare concrete (in the Jerusalem area there is some graffiti on both sides, but the Palestinian side is definitely much more decorated).

The Wall is a Wall in residential areas, which is not what is shown in the ad. In a rural or uninhabited area, The Wall becomes a fence.

And, all those high kicks over what the ad calls a 10-meter-high wall are not so credible, either.

The English-language Israeli-centered blogosphere is going wild on this Cellcom ad — here and here, with excellent comments from a journalist for Maariv; as well as here and here.

Anyway, why arent’t we hearing immediate calls for a boycott of Cellcom (Israeli cellcom mobile phone numbers begin with 052, or, from abroad, 972 52 …). There are plenty of Palestinians (and radically progressive Israelis) who have Cellcom sim cards or subscriptions, so there could be a real impact in boycotting Cellcom until this truly offensive ad is pulled, and The Wall is torn down — and why not until the Israeli occupation is ended, as well.

And, why not also boycott the advertising agency too (McCann Erickson) — until it Repents? At the very least, it should take its account executives, and art directors, and other creative types out on a tour of The Wall and some of the most infamous (and still there) Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank. They should also be called on to replace this lousy ad with a public service announcement discussing the real impact of The Wall on the lives of millions — yes, millions — of Palestinians, and debunking the self-serving myth that The Wall [still open in many areas, so any determined attackers could easily get through if they wanted] has stopped suicide attacks within Israel.

So, boycott Cellcom!

Or, is it that boycotts are only as good as they are convenient, and the minute they start really pinching, we’ll start hair-splitting and justifying why and how we are not obliged to comply, though we really do support their goals — we really, really do.

More on The Wall

Items for reflection:
(1) At a briefing for journalists at Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that there is “concrete data which attests to the fact that the security fence has no impact on economic activities and there are many, many ways actually, to kind of circumvent that, and we have it here. Certainly the security fence has not been in the way of the one point two million tourists that visited [the West Bank — I think he must have meant mainly Bethlehem]. And I can tell you that three more can come if we have more facilities, more hotels and more investment over there”… The full text of Deputy FM Ayalon’s remarks is posted here.

(2) The Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency has reported that “The Roman Orthodox Church’s Jerusalem archbishop on Thursday said the Israeli separation wall should be removed immediately. ‘The wall must be removed in the same way as it was built – quickly, and should be demolished even faster’, Bishop Atallah Hanna said at a mass on Thursday. Speaking to congregants at the Jerusalem Old City’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Hanna added that ‘the wall demonstrates Palestinian suffering and defines their lives, which have turned into Hell’. This story is posted here.
Aryeh Green, who is the Director of Media Central, which helps journalist cover Israeli issues, once said that he was told by someone in the military that The Wall could be torn down in thirty days…

5th anniversary – International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of A Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

The Advisory Opinion was a landmark — and it has been ignored.

A reminder: five years ago today, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, handed down an Advisory Opinion – on 9 July 2009 – which 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 régime, are contrary to international law”.

Continue reading 5th anniversary – International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of A Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory