This year, the 9th of July is a bitter day for Palestinians. The Occupation Army besieges Gaza, massacres its people and attacks its infrastructure. The ghettos of the West Bank take shape as the Apartheid Wall edges closer to completion and the Palestinian exodus from Jerusalem has begun. Over 9000 Palestinians sit in Israeli prison cells whilst Palestinians who remain on their 1948 lands do so under the subjugation of the most vicious and discriminatory Apartheid system.
The brief euphoria of two years ago, following the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Wall, is a distant memory. Some hailed a victory for international law in Palestine when the ICJ ruled the Wall illegal and condemned the Occupation along with other Israeli crimes. It asked the international community to enforce the IV Geneva convention and “not to render any aid or assistance to the Wall and the associated regime”.
Two years later, as the Palestinian people prepare to march to the UN offices, they know that nobody has taken up this latest verdict to stop the escalation of the Occupation in Palestine. The Apartheid Wall scythes through the landscape as it nears completion, forming part of an intricate system of control with the fortified settler-only roads to steal 48% of lands in the West Bank. Palestinians in Gaza, 80% of whom are refugees from the lands they were expelled from in 1948, are imprisoned behind two Walls. Cut-off from the rest of the world, their privilege after the Israeli sham of “disengagement” is to starve in the world’s largest open-air prison, subject to continuous bombings, sonic booms and service cut-offs.
In front of these crimes, at a time when Palestinians struggling for their freedom call for increased ties of solidarity, the reaction of the international community and member states of the UN is to show their disdain for Palestinian efforts to shake off the shackles of Occupation. The global community pleads for the release of one Israeli taken from a tank, stationed outside the Gaza ghetto, whilst Palestinians are taken from their beds and killed in the streets and half of their government and 1/3 of the Palestinian Legislative Council are taken hostage. They beg for his return whilst ignoring the 9000 Palestinians rotting in Israeli jails, over 400 of whom are children.
Global agencies confine their operations to fact-finding missions on the “Palestinian situation” speculating endlessly on humanitarian issues as if Palestine were in the throws of some natural disaster. Reeling off further UN humanitarian reports are not asked for. Palestinians don’t need to be told by the World Bank about their own poverty and they don’t need the hollow rhetorical support of governments which fail to follow up words with deeds. The facts on the ground in Palestine are there for all to see. We need action. We need political pressure on the Occupation. We need freedom.
The manner in which the international community has dealt with the ICJ decision (and indeed with any other UN resolution including the refugees’ right of return) shows the UN as an impotent and discredited institution where the unity of the powerful in the Security Council continues to oversee and comply with the expulsion of our people.
The General Assembly resolution, which endorsed the ICJ decision, only asked the General Secretary to build up a registry for damages and losses from the Wall. The absurdity of building a registry of the ever-rising damages, instead of preparing concrete measures to pressure Israel to dismantle the Wall is evident. Worse still, the General Secretary has refused to even visit the Wall, preferring not to provoke his masters in Washington and New York who pull the strings. And now, it would appear that registry might not complete any evaluation of losses, effectively ensuring that no reparations will ever be requisitioned from the Occupation. This ensures the criminal doesn’t stop its war crimes, but moreover, that it will never be held accountable.
While the silence of the international community might be shocking, Palestinians and their supporters are well aware of the deft machinations of global powers complicit with their Occupation. Increasingly they have witnessed global government abscond from the responsibilities of international law and pursue the globalization of the Occupation. Now the international community, together with Israel, places sanctions on the Palestinian people for having conducted the democratic vote the world asked them for.
They aim to topple a Palestinian leadership which refuses to be compliant with the wishes of the Occupation. With that goal comes the vision of creating new mechanisms of control to bypass the Palestinian Authority and any source of democratic accountability to the Palestinian people. The result is the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM), the new structure proselytised by the EU to ensure political and economic control for the World Bank to rule and subjugate the Palestinian people. The mechanism is apparently set out to destroy the PA administrative structure (excluding the Presidential Office) while international banks are to distribute money for the starving. $40 million - roughly a third of the money made available to create this International Mechanism of support for the Occupation - goes directly to Apartheid Israel to pay its companies for fuel and other basic supplies. This comes as the Occupation continues to steal some $75 million every month of Palestinian tax money and from which such expenses were previously covered.
While Israel controls us militarily, confines us behind Walls and carves out our ghettos, powerful global agencies take over the administrative and financial burdens of the Occupation seeking minimum subsistence for the people imprisoned in the Bantustans. Any glimmer of hope that the UN, the EU, the ICJ or the “Free World” might work towards implementing Palestinian rights appears more distant than ever. Latin America negotiates Free Trade Agreements with the Occupation and Asian countries display overtures of normalization with Apartheid Israel as our people are massacred in the streets.
Our hopes thus rest with the people themselves, to accelerate boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to isolate apartheid Israel and punish it for the war crimes it pursues against us. It is our supporters, amongst the millions of justice seeking people across the world that we look to in pushing forward solidarity actions and restoring some dignity to international law.
We urge the implementation of the ICJ, we urge the signatories of the Geneva Convention to fulfil their commitments, and we call for immediate measures to ensure that all UN resolutions are carried out, that the Occupation ends and our refugees return home. While the World Bank, the United States and the Occupation itself may be powerful, they will continue to find an unwilling subject in the Palestinian people who stay steadfast to the greater ideals of freedom, justice and liberation.
Jamal Juma’ is the coordinator of the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.