The Separation Barrier

What is the Separation Barrier? In the name of security, the Israelis are building a barrier on West Bank land east of, and along, the armistice line (called the Green Line). This land, in most people's mind is the future state of Palestine. It is sometimes called a wall, a fence, an apartheid wall, a security barrier, etc. The International Court of Justice has used the term "wall" in its decision.

What is the Separation Barrier? 
In the name of security, the Israelis are building a barrier on West Bank land east of, and along, the armistice line (called the Green Line).  This land, in most people's mind is the future state of Palestine.   It is sometimes called a wall, a fence, an apartheid wall, a security barrier, etc.  The International Court of Justice has used the term "wall" in its decision.

What is the Israeli's stated goal in building this barrier? 
The Israeli reasoning is that it will prevent Palestinian terrorism from reaching Israeli citizens, particularly those living in Israeli settlements.  Many other people believe it is a plan to confiscate more land from the Palestinians or to make them flee the area.  Since the barrier goes deep inside the West Bank in some places, they also believe it undermines the viability of a future Palestinian State.

What is the route of this barrier?
The wall is built along the Green Line in some places with much of it on West Bank land. It weaves in and out of the West Bank "attaching" settlements to Israel.  It will be close to 700 kilometers long and will prevent Palestinian access to about 55% of the West Bank and 65% of the water resources. According to past agreements the final border between Israel and the Palestinian Territory was to be negotiated. The Israeli government has also announced that another barrier will be built to the east separating the Palestinians lands from the Jordan River.

The current Wall is a wide expanse (60 to 100 meters wide) of concrete walls, trenches, roads, razor wire and electronic surveillance.  It also includes guard towers and gates at intervals.  See map at http://www.btselem.org/maps

What is the effect of this wall on the Palestinian people? 
The wall partly separates Palestinians from Israelis but in many places it separates Palestinians from Palestinians.  It separates Palestinian children and teachers from schools, villages from clinics and hospitals, farmers from their farm lands and sources of water, etc.  In some cases it goes right through convents and monasteries or down the middle of a street.

What is the "Seam Zone"?
 One-half million of the three million Palestinians in the West Bank will be trapped between the Green Line and the Separation Barrier.  Palestinians, whose homes are in the so called "Seam Zone," will have to get permits to live in their own houses, farm their own land, pick their own olives, etc.  These permits have to be renewed every few months and there is no guarantee that a permit will be renewed.  There is also no promise that the permit will be appropriate to the harvest or planting time.

For example, The Mennonite Central Committee reports on farmers in Jayyous who rely on agriculture for their livelihood.  "Seventy percent of Jayyous' farmland, including all seven village wells needed for crop irrigation, ended up on the other side of the barrier.  There are gates, but Israeli soldiers determine when they are opened and for whom."  (page 7, A Common Place, September/October 2004)

What is the result of the court case brought before the Israeli high court? 
In late July, 2004 the Israeli High Court ordered the rerouting of a segment of the barrier and froze construction on another part of the barrier.  In its first decision the court ordered the Israeli government to reroute about 20 miles of the barrier northwest of Jerusalem.  The court did not determine a new route.  In the second decision the court put a temporary suspension on construction near Har Homa, a settlement in the Bethlehem district.
 
How did the United Nations react to the barrier? 
The General Assembly, in 2003, asked the International Court of Justice to give an advisory opinion on the barrier.  The Court issued its opinion on July 9, 2004 saying that "the 450 mile-long system of walls and fences in the occupied territory ‘gravely’ infringed on the rights of Palestinians, could not be justified by military needs or national security, and violated international law." (Press Release GA/10248 from the UN) 

The Advisory said that the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip were under military occupation by Israel and that the Fourth Geneva Convention applied.  It also declared that it is the location of the wall, not the concept, that is illegal and that Israel owes reparations for its destruction of Palestinian land and buildings.

The Court recognized that Israel had suffered from violence and has the duty to protect its own citizens.  On the other hand, it stated that the route of the wall gravely infringes on Palestinian rights.  The Court also stated that the policy of building settlements in occupied territory is illegal under international law.  All Nation States who are party to the Fourth Geneva Convention have an obligation to ensure compliance by Israel.

What has been the follow up to the ICJ decision? 
The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on July 20, 2004 to demand that Israel comply with its legal obligations as in the advisory opinion issued by the ICJ (150  in favor with 6 against and 10 abstentions.).  It also called on all United National Member States to comply with their obligations as outlined in the advisory opinion.  Switzerland, as the depository of the Geneva Conventions, has been asked to report back to the General Assembly on the matter.

The United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have both adopted resolutions on the Separation Barrier.

2005 General Assembly: Breaking Down the Dividing Wall
2005 General Synod Resolution: Tear Down the Wall

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