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Interview :: Civil & Human Rights

Jamil Dakwar of Human Rights Watch speaks about the recent decision in the International Court of Justice regarding the Wall that Israel is constructing in the West Bank

George Cadman speaks with Jamil Dakwar about the recent decision at the Hague regarding the Wall that Israel is constructing in the West Bank. Jamil Dakwar is a research fellow at Human Rights Watch and formerly a senior staff attorney at Adalah, one of Israel’s leading human rights
organizations.
The International Court of Justice ruled on Friday, July 9th that the separation fence contravenes international law, that it must be dismantled, and that compensation must be paid to the Palestinian owners of property confiscated for its construction.
( 20:40 minutes / 16.6 megabytes )

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JamilDakwarTheHagueDecisionAboutTheWall.mp3
JamilDakwarTheHagueDecisionAboutTheWall.mp3 (8192 k)
George Cadman speaks with Jamil Dakwar about the recent decision at the Hague regarding the Wall that Israel is constructing in the West Bank. Jamil Dakwar is a research fellow at Human Rights Watch and formerly a senior staff attorney at Adalah, one of Israel’s leading human rights organizations.
The International Court of Justice ruled on Friday, July 9th that the separation fence contravenes international law, that it must be dismantled, and that compensation must be paid to the Palestinian owners of property confiscated for its construction.
 
 


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World Court a Haven for Dictators

The Israeli government has both a legal and a moral obligation to comply with the Israeli Supreme Court's decision regarding the security fence.

After all, the Supreme Court is a creation of the Knesset and is therefore representative of all of the people -- Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. Moreover, the Supreme Court has a real stake in both sides of the fence dispute. Its job is to balance the security needs of its citizens against the humanitarian concerns of West Bank Palestinians. It tried to strike that balance by upholding the concept of a security fence while insisting that the Israeli military authorities give due weight to the needs of the Palestinians, even if that requires some compromise on the security of Israelis.

Contrast this with the questionable status of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. No Israeli judge may serve on that court as a permanent member, while sworn enemies of Israel serve among its judges, several of whom represent countries that do not abide by the rule of law.

Virtually every democracy voted against that court's taking jurisdiction over the fence case, while nearly every country that voted to take jurisdiction was a tyranny. Israel owes the International Court absolutely no deference. It is under neither a moral nor a legal obligation to give any weight to its predetermined decision. By showing its preference for Palestinian property rights over the lives of Jews, the International Court displayed its bigotry.

The Supreme Court of Israel recognized the unquestionable reality that the security fence has saved numerous lives and promises to save more, but it also recognized that this benefit must be weighed against the material disadvantages to West Bank Palestinians. The International Court, on the other hand, discounted the saving of lives and focused only on the Palestinian interests.

The International Court of Justice is much like a Mississippi court in the 1930s. The all-white Mississippi court, which excluded blacks from serving on it, could do justice in disputes between whites, but it was incapable of doing justice in cases between a white and a black. It would always favor white litigants. So, too, the International Court. It is perfectly capable of resolving disputes between Sweden and Norway, but it is incapable of doing justice where Israel is involved, because Israel is the excluded black when it comes to that court -- indeed when it comes to most United Nations organs.

A judicial decision can have no legitimacy when rendered against a nation that is willfully excluded from the court's membership by bigotry.

Just as the world should have disregarded any decision against blacks rendered by a Mississippi court in the 1930s, so too should all decent people contemptuously disregard the bigoted decisions of the International Court of Justice when it comes to Israel. To give any credence to the decisions of that court is to legitimize bigotry.

The International Court of Justice should be a court of last resort to which aggrieved litigants can appeal when their own country's domestic courts are closed to them. The Israeli Supreme Court is not only open to all Israeli Arabs, but also to all West Bank and Gaza Arabs. Israel's Supreme Court is the only court in the Middle East where an Arab can actually win a case against his government.

The decision of the International Court of Justice against Israel should harm the reputation of that court in the minds of objective observers rather than damage the credibility of Israel. The Israeli government will comply with the rule of law by following the decision of its own Supreme Court.

If the International Court of Justice were itself to apply the rule of law instead of the calculus of politics, it might deserve respect.

Now -- like the general assembly of which it's a creation and the Mississippi courts of the 1930s of which it's a clone -- all it deserves is the contempt of decent people for its bigoted processes and its predetermined partisan result.
 

Pitty

In choosing to judge Israel rather than the Palestinian leadership, the International Court legitimizes Palestinian self-pity and sabotages the possibility of change. That is a disaster for the moral health of Palestinian society, and for the possibility of reconciliation in the Middle East.
 

Arabs want the world to ignor their targetted killings of Jewish children

Instead of placing Palestinian terrorists and those who send them on trial, the United Nations-sponsored international court placed the Jewish state in the dock, on the charge that Israel is harming the Palestinians' quality of life. But saving lives is more important than preserving the quality of life. Quality of life is always amenable to improvement. Death is permanent. The Palestinians complain that their children are late to school because of the fence. But too many Jewish children never get to school — they are blown to pieces by terrorists who pass into Israel where there is still no fence.

In the last four years, Palestinian terrorists have attacked Israel's buses, cafes, discos and pizza shops, murdering 1,000 of our citizens. Despite this unprecedented savagery, the court's 60-page opinion mentions terrorism only twice, and only in citations of Israel's own position on the fence. Because the court's decision makes a mockery of the Jewish right to defend themselves, the government of Israel will ignore it. Israel will never sacrifice Jewish life on the debased altar of "international justice."
 

Re: Massacre of the Palestinian People

The Wall is Illegal and Immoral

The Massacre of the Palestinian people by the Israelis has finally seeped into the collective conciousness of the entire world. Disgusting bulldozers and F16's bombing cars, kids and homes inside Nablus. How low can the IDF go. The Wall Will Fall !!!! !!!!
 

The Barrier is saving Jewish lives

reply to Demieir S.: 14 YOU WROTE:
"The Wall is Illegal and Immoral"

BECKY: The Israeli Supreme Court ruled the wall is legal. The Hague disagrees. Attacks on civilians are immoral. There have been 20,000 attacks on Israeli civilians in the past 3 1/2 years by Palestinian groups. A wall put in place to save lives without taking any doesnt sound immoral to me.

YOUR WROTE: "The Massacre of the Palestinian people by the Israelis"

BECKY: What massacre? The Palestinian population on the West Bank has TRIPLED since 1967.

YOU WROTE: "... has finally seeped into the collective conciousness of the entire world.


BECKY: Not the entire world. Apparently only in the military dictatorships of the world. Most of the democracies did not buy into this attack on Israel's security barrier.

YOU WROTE: " Disgusting bulldozers and F16's bombing cars, kids and homes inside Nablus."

BECKY: The IDF does not target civilians. Palestinian suicide bombers do.

YOU WROTE: "How low can the IDF go."

BECKY: Imagine! Building a passive resistant device that saves lives! What will those evil IDF people do next? Give blood to wounded Palestinians? Whoops!! the IDF does that already!


YOU WROTE: "The Wall Will Fall !!!! !!!! "

BECKY: And if it does, you will start reading more names of dead babies, and children, and moms, dads, and grandparents who would have lived if the barrier had remained in place. BTW its a fence, not a wall.
 

Turning Reality Upside Down: Dershowitz, Israel's Wall and the Jim Crow Era

Turning History Upside Down
Dershowitz, the ICJ and the Jim Crow Era
By SHERVAN SARDAR

In a recent editorial, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz compared the International Court of Justice to the white courts of Mississippi during the Jim Crow era. Dershowitz believes that the Court unfairly singled out Israel for human rights violations. He maintains that the ICJ is inherently biased against Israel because undemocratic nations are disproportionately represented in the UN and the Court, while Israel is excluded from the potential pool of International Court of Justice judges (failing to note that Palestinians are similarly excluded). Thus, he concludes that the ICJ is precluded from objectively examining the legal issues before it where Israel is concerned and therefore, Israel has no obligation to follow the advisory opinion which held that Israel should tear down the barrier and pay Palestinians compensation for all damages.

As usual, Mr. Dershowitz has it backwards. He would like to place Israel above the law in the same way that the courts of Mississippi tried to place white citizens above the law who blatantly and wantonly violated the rights of African Americans. Let's not forget that in the past four years, three times as many Palestinians have been killed by Israeli violence, the homes of more than 3,000 Palestinians civilians have been destroyed (according to Amnesty International) and that 20,000 people have been made homeless as a result. To date, Israel has built more than 150 settlements outside of its legally recognized territory -- and seeks to make additional "security" decisions based on those illegal settlements by building a "security barrier."

Contrary to Mr. Dershowitz assertions, all human rights organizations and virtually all democratic and non-democratic countries agree that Israel's conduct during the course of its 37 year occupation has blatantly violated the rule of law. What rule of law? The law of occupation as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention, and many other international treaties. It was the atrocities of World War II that led to the development of this highly specific body of law regarding the permissible conduct of an occupying power during the course of an occupation. The subject of the exploitation of occupied (European) territories was significantly dealt with during the trials of Nuremberg.

Any occupying power (not just Israel) is prohibited from annexing territory that it occupies (East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza), building civilian settlements in occupied territory, making security decisions based on those illegal settlements, demolishing civilian homes, engaging in practices of collective punishment, wantonly killing civilians, denying access to medical care, torturing prisoner detainees, deporting residents from the occupied territory, and expropriating the land and water resources of an occupied population. After tirelessly passing decades of Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions on various aspects of the illegal conduct of Israel's occupation -- and without any accountability from Israel -- the ICJ was finally consulted on the legal consequences to Israel for building the wall.

Almost all the judges found the International Court to have jurisdiction and competence to hear the case, regardless of their country of origin (democratic or not). The ICJ ruling simply rejected Israel's self-serving attempts to avoid its responsibilities under international law -- while it colonized, annexed, and exploited the Palestinian people and their land. Even the lone dissenting American judge found Israel's practice of building settlements in occupied territory to be highly objectionable. If Israel wanted to build a wall to protect itself from attacks, the wall should have been built on the Green Line -- virtually all parties and judges agreed that Israel had a right to build the security barrier in its own territory, not on Palestinian land.

A court presiding over an apartheid society better characterizes the Israeli Supreme Court in contrast to the International Court of Justice. While three million Palestinians live under Israeli military jurisdiction, Israelis (including settlers) live under Israeli civil and criminal jurisdiction clearly an apartheid state of affairs. Even Israeli settlers are authorized by Israeli military jurisdiction to arrest any Palestinian, need I say more.

Beyond that, remember, Israel is a Jewish democracy, not a liberal democratic society -- the distinction being that a liberal democracy is equally accountable to all of its citizens regardless of their race or religion. Israel has no constitution. The protection of the non-Jewish minority is subject to the whim of the majority in their system of parliamentary supremacy. In Israel, there is rampant discrimination against non-Jews in all aspects of society including their education, employment, housing, and indeed the ability to become a citizen -- where any Jewish person can become a citizen, but Palestinians are denied a right of return to their homes that they lived in prior to the 1948 war. Candidates for political office running on a platform of equality for all Israeli citizens can be seen as traitorous and subject to disqualification of their candidacy for "threatening" the Jewish state.

In addition, the Supreme Court of Israel is not a co-equal branch of authority with a Congress and the Presidency as in the United States.

Thus, the ability of the Israeli Supreme Court to overturn racist or unjust laws is subordinate to the will of the Israeli Knesset. I am not suggesting that we are better off without the Israeli Supreme Court -- as the court is perceived as "liberal" and "progressive" within the context of Israeli society. However, make no mistake, the Israeli Supreme Court is highly deferential to the testimony and interests of the Israeli military and rarely follows international standards of human rights, particularly when it comes to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Many, if not all, of the above practices have been approved by the Israeli Supreme Court as security measures.

In America's ugly past, the Jim Crow courts of Mississippi turned a blind eye to the rule of law by allowing white citizens to exploit African Americans through a reign of terror that affected every aspect of their lives. Similarly, Mr. Dershowitz would like Israel to continue to have free reign to deal with the Palestinians as it sees fit, subject only to its own legal interpretations (Sheriff Bull Conner, the White Knights, and Governor Barnett would have loved to play by these rules), however self-serving or limited such interpretations may be in terms of international legal standards of decency. Thankfully, the ICJ saw through the endless rationalizations of Israel's human rights violations and scored a major (even if only symbolic) victory for justice, the rule of law, and the Palestinian cause.

Shervan Sardar is a lawyer in Washington DC and has a Master's degree in international affairs from American University.
 

International Law expert?

Reply to Shervan Sardar:

YOU WROTE: "Let's not forget that in the past four years, three times as many Palestinians have been killed by Israeli violence,..."

BECKY: And a thousand Israelis have been killed. The differential death toll can be seen in the context of a society which encourages its young men to daily go throw rocks at armed IDF soldiers. Where young people are daily sacraficed by strapping suicide bombs around their waists.
Also note: that although the death toll is higher for Palestinians in sheer numbers, the percentage of Israeli children and women killed is MUCH higher than for Palestinian deaths, meaning that the male Palestinians are the likely aggressors.

YOU WROTE: What rule of law? The law of occupation as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention, and many other international treaties.

BECKY: Your entire argument of occupation is based on Israel occupying another country. But what COUNTRY is Israel occupying? I think the only reasonable answer you can come up with is Israel. If Israel is occupying Israel then its not much of an occupation is it?

For readers who are less learned than you, let me briefly say that in 1967 when Israel took over both militarily and administratively Samaria, Judea, Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the Sinai, that Egypt was "occupying" Gaza. And Jordan was "occupying" Samara and Judea --called "The West Bank" by that same Jordan occupier.

So, under international law, and UN resolution 242, Israel was to negotiate a peaceful return of "territories". NOTE!! It does NOT say ALL territories. Much discussion at the time revolved around minor border adjustments being necessary for Israel's security needs.

Israel has followed International law by returning the Sinai to Egypt, negotiating a peace treaty with both Egypt and Jordan. It has attempted to negotiate peace treaties with the Palestinian Arabs many times and signed an agreement with Yassir Arafat in 1993 under the Oslo accords only to suffer INCREASED attacks from Palestinian terror groups strictly outlawed by Oslo.


So---- WHAT COUNTRY IS ISRAEL "OCCUPYING?"

The Palestinian Arabs have been given an opportunity to found their own independent country 14 times since 1937 (per Dr. David Meir-Levi) but have opted to instead wage war on Israel--either directly by joining militarily with neighboring Arab countries, or through a guerilla war "the Intifada" which has resulted in major loss of life, loss of liberty, and increased poverty and suffering for the Palestinians.

YOU WROTE: Any occupying power (not just Israel) is prohibited from annexing territory that it occupies (East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza), building civilian settlements in occupied territory, making security decisions based on those illegal settlements, demolishing civilian homes, engaging in practices of collective punishment, wantonly killing civilians, denying access to medical care, torturing prisoner detainees, deporting residents from the occupied territory, and expropriating the land and water resources of an occupied population.

BECKY: What a list of "charges" all of them false. Israel was NOT prohibitted under Oslo or any other agreement from building settlements on the West Bank. Indeed, many Jewish settlements pre-date 1948 as the lands of Judea and Samaria have been homelands for Jewish people for 3,300 yrs. As for demolishing homes---Israel destroys the homes of suicide bombers in order to act as a deterrent for more. Israel also destroys homes which are used to fire at IDF positions,house bomb-factories, or illegal weapon-smuggling tunnels. Israel also destroys SOME homes which have been built without permits but is way behind on doing much of this. Homes destroyed by the security barrier were usually built without permits --so no compensation was owed-- but land owners are paid for the use of their property and ownership of the land remains with the property owner.

Wantonly killing civilians??? Hardly!! The IDF has a STRICT policy of minimizing civilian deaths or injuries. The proof is that the death toll of Palestinians is 97.2% male (source:www.us-israel.org/jsource/myths/mftoc.html)

Denied medical care? -- From 1967 - 1993 Israel provided universal insurance and health care for all Palestinians. Contrast this with the United States in which 40% of Americans are uninsured.

Torturing prisoner detainees? The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the only coercive technique allowed by Israeli law in order to extract information from prisoners is sleep deprivation. Contrast this with ANY ARAB COUNTRY.

Deportations? Israel HAS deported some from the West Bank to Gaza. A few negotiated deportation to Cypress have occurred as well. So what?

Seized land and water resources? From 1967 to 1993, Israel installed water and sewer systems throughout the West Bank and Gaza delivering these services to those areas for the first time ever. Currently Israel and the Palestinians share resources but there are some disputes. Any party can use Israeli courts to mediate these disputes.

YOU WROTE: While three million Palestinians live under Israeli military jurisdiction, Israelis (including settlers) live under Israeli civil and criminal jurisdiction clearly an apartheid state of affairs. Even Israeli settlers are authorized by Israeli military jurisdiction to arrest any Palestinian, need I say more.

BECKY: Under Oslo, Israel was to provide miliary security while the PA the civil administration including a police force. Unfortunately Arafat's police were just another group of armed terrorists. 97% of Palestinian Arabs are under the PA self-rule.

Palestinian Arabs ARE NOT citizens of the State of Israel. Hence, they are not subject to Israeli civil administation but PA administration--which has pretty much been a failure. This HARDLY makes Israel an apartheid state. Instead, it makes it a state in which a large number of non-citizens have illegally immigrated.

As for Israeli settlers allowed to arrest Palestinians ---even in the USA, any citizen may invoke the power of citizen's arrest.
 

Re: Jamil Dakwar of Human Rights Watch speaks about the recent decision in the International Court of Justice regarding the Wall that Israel is constructing in the West Bank

", under international law, and UN resolution 242, Israel was to negotiate a peaceful return of "territories". NOTE!! It does NOT say ALL territories" The wording "withdrawal from territories conquered.." was taken from "withdrawal from the territories conquered". The US, who proposed the language, insisted that it meant less territories. The Palestine Liberation adamantly disagreed with this interpretation. This resolution was presented and adopted in one day. I think that citing UN resolutions is a disingenuous argument. The US doesn't play fair. Israel has a right to survive; but the US has always backed Israel for reasons of it's own. The Palestinians on the other hand are disenfranchised. Disenfranchised is not equivalent to having no rights to the land. They have a historical right. They are unwanted elsewhere (remember Lebanon). How incongruous to want to shuffle the Palestinians from the land where their ancestors lived and raise your voice when the santa cruz homeless are refused a right to sleep. A Palestinian Disapora is not necessary for Israel's survival. Israel is a nuclear power, it's major deterrent to attack (that and the support of the US).
 

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