On the 12 Year Anniversary of the ICJ Advisory Opinion
The International Community Violates its Own Obligation to Ensure the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination
On 14 April 2002 the Israeli government adopted a decision to build a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Under this decision, 88 percent of the Wall’s path will be built inside occupied Palestine, separating Palestinians from their lands, jobs, social and health services, and holy sites, including the total isolation of Occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of Occupied Palestine.
The Wall is an integral part of Israel’s settlement enterprise in the West Bank. As proven by its route, the main goal of the Wall is further annex Palestinian territory to Israel, in violation of international law and UN resolutions. This de facto annexation includes areas such as East Jerusalem and the Latrun Heights, both considered to be essential areas of the Occupied State of Palestine, and recognized as such under UN resolutions.
Following a request by the General Assembly for an Advisory Opinion by the International Court of Justice on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israel (9 July 2004), the Court concluded that:
- The construction of the Wall is an attempt to annex territory in violation of international law which prohibits the acquisition of territory by the use of force;
- The seizure of land by Israel to construct the wall is a de facto annexation of law which obstructs Palestinian territorial sovereignty and right to self-determination;
- Israel has an obligation to cease construction of the Wall, dismantle parts already built, and make reparations to those affected by its construction; and
- Under international law, all States have an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall, including an obligation not to assist or maintain the situation resulting from the Wall’s construction. This extends to an obligation to ensure the end of any violations to the Palestinian right to self-determination.
The Court noted that “it is apparent from an examination of the map (…) that the wall’s sinuous route has been traced in such a way as to include within that area the great majority of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem).” The Court recalled Security Council Resolution 446 which established that the policy and practices of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land “have no legal validity”, including those in and around Occupied East Jerusalem. Further, the Court reiterated established customary international law and its relevance to Israel’ belligerent military occupation, that the settlements are in breach of international law.
The Israeli Response
Exploiting unprecedented impunity from the international community, Israel did not terminate its plans to build its Annexation Wall in Occupied Palestine. The official response from Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office was:
“I believe that after all the rancour dies, this resolution will find its place in the garbage can of history. The court has made an unjust ruling denying Israel its right of self-defence” (Raanan Gisin, a spokesman and close adviser to the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon).
The International Response
Though the international community has never recognized the legality or legitimacy to Israel’s settlement enterprise, including its Annexation Wall, it has largely failed to take action in order to protect the Palestinian right to self-determination as stipulated by the ICJ Advisory Opinion. For example:
- Officials from Canada, Australia, Honduras and Kenya have conducted official visits to areas that Israel plans to annex through the construction of the Wall, mainly Occupied East Jerusalem. A number of parliamentarians from various countries have also done the same.
- Several international companies continue to take part in activities that directly or indirectly support Israeli strategies for annexation of territory and the denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination. This includes prominent cases of multi-national companies that facilitated and/or continue to facilitate and provide machinery for the construction of the Wall and infrastructure in Israeli settlements, including in and around Occupied East Jerusalem.
- Colombia recently signed a Free Trade Agreement with Israel, without the distinction between Israel and Occupied Palestine. Other countries that had done the same before the ICJ Advisory Opinion, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and Mexico, have not amended their agreements, allowing illegal settlement products to enjoy free trade benefits in their respective markets.
- Organizations with tax-exempt charitable status in these respective countries and others continue to fund settlement infrastructure and even promote violence against Palestinians.
The ICJ reaffirmed that the Palestinian right to self-determination is an obligation of all states and called upon the UN General Assembly and the Security Council to take action on that matter. Unfortunately, instead of taking action, several countries and even regional representatives have yet to implement policies to complement their stated positions against the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestine.
Some practical steps that should be taken by the international community are:
- Contribute to the UN – Human Rights Council Database on companies involved with the Israeli colonization of Palestine.
- Label and ban products originating from illegal settlements from international markets.
- Recognize the State of Palestine on the 1967 border.
The way for peace is justice, not impunity. By continuing to tolerate 50 years of Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestine, the international community is facilitating Israeli plans and strategies for annexation of Palestinian land and violating their own obligations vis-à-vis the inalienable right of the Palestinian people for self-determination.