Take action against the Apartheid Wall in Palestine

Palestinian children standing against Israel’s apartheid wall built around the Palestinian town Qalqiliya. The wall is 8-meters high (Photo: AEF, 2002)

Information made available by “The Apartheid Wall Campaign,” a Palestinian initiative coordinated by the Palestinian Environment NGO Network (PENGON), a member of Habitat International Coalition (HIC)- Housing & Land Rights Network (HLRN), reports the urgent situation and grave housing rights violations arising from Israel’s construction of its “separation fence,” more popularly known as the “Apartheid Wall,” in Palestine’s West Bank. The PENGON appeal calls for an immediate stop to the wall’s construction.

In April 2002, the Israeli government of Gen. Ariel Sharon established a steering committee to implement the separation wall plan, which called for its immediate construction in the northern West Bank and the Jerusalem area. At present, the wall is being built in the Qalqiliya, Tulkarem, Jenin, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem Districts (five of the nine West Bank districts), and up to 6 km east of the Green Line, inside the West Bank. In the northern three districts alone, subjects ofthe wall’s “first phase,” the wall is isolating - and de facto annexing - over120,000 dunums (some 30,000 acres) of land, and at least 35 water wells west of the wall belonging to some 50 communities, including thousands of farmers. In this “first phase,” an additional 16 communities already are trapped between the wall and the Green Line (1948 armistice line border of Israel). While Israel extends this so-called “security” measure deep inside the West Bank, the wall will enclave 95,000 Palestinians - 4.5% of West Bank population - in addition to 200,000 Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem, who will be totally cut off from the rest of the West Bank.

Contrary to common belief, the Apartheid Wall is not on, or, in most cases,not even near, the Green Line. Israel’smassive land grab along the wall, if completed, will seal the fate of the West Bank into caged cantons. The wall’s size, magnitude, and consequences on the ground are considered one of the most destructive measures initiated by Israel since its depopulation of over 500 Palestinian villages 55 years ago. Amid the pretense of negotiations and a “road map” for peacethat prevail in the media, the Israeli authorities continue to wreak more destruction every day, making the Apartheid Wall map a clear indicator of the actual path that is being laid out for the further decimation of Palestine.

Consequences to the Victims and the Agenda of the Violators

Not including the various proposed wall expansions, the present construction translates into the confiscation of at least 10% of the West Bank. As of May 2003, some 25 Israeli companies have been contracted to work on the wall, and 250 bulldozers have already razed over 14,500 dunums of land for the footprint of the wall, including the uprooting of some 102,000 trees, and the destruction of 35,000 meters of water pipes. Inhabitants of the affected areas, therefore,are loosing most of their agricultural lands, infrastructure and livelihoods on which they have dependedfor many generations, indeed centuries. In notable cases, this destruction also forecloses Palestinian villager’s only access to water sources.

Moreover, the wall totally severs the economic, social and family relations among the affected inhabitants. Theyare trapped between the wall and the Green Line, and will be compelled to leave or face complete isolation from all economic survival and vital services. Some 40,000 residents of Qalqiliya town, which used to be a major economic center in the region,is now completely surrounded by the wall with a military checkpoint as the sole passage. Consequently, Qalqilya already faces a 70% unemployment rate. At least 10% of the town’s population have had to leave their caged community,exemplifying the fate of Qalqiliya and the tens of other villages and towns near the Apartheid Wall.

The wall is made up of either an 8 meter-high (25 feet) concrete barrier that includes concrete watchtowers, along with a 30-100 meter-wide buffer zone intended for electrified fences, trenches, cameras, sensors and security patrols; or it takes the form of a barbed wire wall with the same buffer zone. Both versions fully prevent indigenous inhabitants’ access to land, services, and employment. In many instances, the wall stands just meters away from houses.

The wall’s building plans and path have changed several times to confiscate further land and water and annex illegal Jewish settler colonies, further revealing Israel’s true objectives. The government is now formally adopting the latest expansion plan that the Yesha settlers council formulatedin direct consultation with the Israeli Ministry of Defense. This latest plan, which is already being implemented in the northern West Bank, was made public in mid-March 2003, when the Israeli government announced that the wall’s path would be altered to include Ariel and Immanuel settler colonies to accommodate the settlers’wishes. The following week, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon declared the building of a second wall, in addition to the minimum 360 kilometers of the wall presently under construction. The second wall would be located in the eastern West Bank, encompassing the settler colonies near the Jordan Valley and its water resources under total Israeli control. If completed, both walls will reach 650 km in length, effectively slicing the West Bank into three separated Palestinian ghettos.

Human Rights Violations and the State Legal Duty:

By this latest device of the occupation, the Israeli state violates, among others, the human rights to property, work, freedom of movement, water, and all the elements of the right to adequate housing, especially security of tenure, access to public goods and services (including education and health), enjoyment of natural resources (including land and water), freedom from dispossession and deprivation of means of subsistence, the right to participation & self-expression and physical security. All of these are internationally recognized elements of the right to adequate housing. Thereby also, Israel flouts articles 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23 & 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and instrument of customary internal law.

Moreover, on 3 January 1979, the State of Israel ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and, on 3 October 1991, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economical, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Consequently, as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing has pointed out in the report he submitted to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in May 2003, Israel now violates its treaty obligations, inter alia, under articles 6, 7, 11 & 12 of the ICESCR, including duties spelled out in General Comments 4 & 7 on the human right to adequate housing, and General Comment 15 on the right to water. Israel hereby also breaches articles 1, 17.1 & 19 of the ICCPR, and articles 1, 5(e) & 6 of CERD. The first article of these international treaties, as with the three other main UN human rights conventions that Israel has ratified, reaffirms the important obligations to implement the principles that override all human rights, namely self-determination, nondiscrimination and, in the case of ICESCR, nonregressivity.

Finally, as an occupying power, the Israeli state has violated the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Regulations of 1907, as they prohibit any requisition of land in occupied territories, the destruction or seizure of property and any changes to property not required by military necessity;prohibitions against altering the legal system in an occupied territory, practicing collective punishment and transferring population, including the implantation of settlers.

In addition to the State and Government of Israel, violators/duty holders include theWorld Zionist Organization, Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund, which are public institutions linked to the State of Israel by a special “Status Law.” These “national” institutions operate to transfer Palestinian land and property to exclusive possession and use by persons having “Jewish nationality,” an apartheid-like civil status that confers special benefits and rights at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian people, whether inside the Green Line or in the occupied territories. These institutions are also among the most consistently active agents of illegal settler colony development and recruitment of settler colonists abroad. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has repeatedly recognized the State’s obligation to reconsider its relationship with these institutions in conformity with its treaty obligations (See CESCR Concluding Observations E/C.12/1/Add.90, of 23 May 2003, and E/C.12/1/Add.27, of 4 December 1998.

The Actions Undertaken and What YOU Can Do

While the Wall is now a major issue for most of the NGOs and general population in the West Bank, a Coordinating Committee of NGOmembers of PENGON has launched a campaign from October 2002, based on documentation, researches, development of information tools for public awareness (through media and a new website), international advocacy, but also direct support to the deprived communities through emergency centers. For more information, you can write to outreach@pengon.org, or visit the PENGON website at www.pengon.org.

To support this campaign, please send immediately a critical letter. Sample drafts will follow.

To officials in Israel:

  • Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel;
  • Shaul Mofaz, Minister of Defense;
  • Sallai Meridor, Chairman of the Executive, World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency for [the Land of] Israel;
  • Josh Schwarcz, Secretary General, The Jewish Agency for Israel;
  • Itzhak Elyashive, Director-General, Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael;

    The Israeli Embassy or other official representation in your country

    To officials in your country/region:

    The Israeli embassy or other mission, World Zionist Organization, Jewish Agency for Israel and Jewish National Fund representation in your country. (Note: in many countries, these State of Israel institutions are registered and operateas nonpolitical, charitable associations).

    For a list of offices and locations:

  • Jewish Agency for Israel;
  • World Zionist Organization;
  • Jewish National Fund.

    Copy to the following UN Special Rapporteurs:

  • Mr. John Dugard, SR on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967;
  • Mr. Miloon Kothari, SR on the Right to Adequate Housing;
  • Mr. Jean Ziegler, SR on the Right to Food.

    Please also send us an e-mail copy with your contact information at: mmignot@hic-mena.org, outreach@pengon.org. You will receive the follow-up of this case and future urgent action appeals.

    Click here for Sample Letters