For the past twelve years, a long shadow has been cast over occupied Palestine. It is an ever-growing shadow, consuming lands and livelihoods as it slices through cities and villages, boxing an indigenous population into tiny bantustans as it encompasses more and more terrain, forming the backbone of a settler-colonial project.
This shadow emanates from Israel’s apartheid wall, looming over the Palestinian landscape — an amalgamation of concrete, guard towers and razor wire; of checkpoints, buffer zones and motion sensors. A wall that has withstood an intifada, round after round of farcical negotiations, and countless condemnations from human rights groups far and wide.
Despite its seeming immutability, a crack in the wall appeared ten years ago, when on 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the wall constructed in the occupied West Bank was illegal, must be torn down, and that Israel was obliged to pay reparations for the damage caused by its construction.
Furthermore, the ICJ underlined the obligation of governments around the world not to recognize, aid or assist the wall or Israel’s settlement enterprise, and for it to compel Israel’s compliance with the ICJ ruling.
Ten years have passed, and as powerful governments have shirked their responsibilities, the wall has expanded with impunity. Seventy percent completed already, when finished the wall will stretch 800 kilometers and will enable the de facto annexation of 46 percent of the West Bank.
In the face of official inaction, dozens of Palestinian organizations recently issued a call for ordinary people around the world to mark ten years since the ICJ ruling by making July the month of action against the apartheid wall.
Organizations and individuals worldwide are being encouraged to use this opportunity to raise awareness about the wall, start or strengthen boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns focused on companies involved in the construction of the wall and to pressure governments to live up to their obligations as outlined by the ICJ decision.
The effects of the wall in Palestine have been devastating. It cuts people off from their families, employment, education and medical care; it robs them of their lands and resources and facilitates the expansion of Israeli settlements.
But the impact of the wall stretches far beyond Palestine’s borders. There are dozens of companies involved in the building of the wall — companies not only complicit in a grave breach of international humanitarian law (a war crime), but who are using the skills and knowledge acquired through the commission of a war crime to perpetuate policies of exclusion, marginalization and segregation around the globe.
For example, the Israeli company Elbit Systems not only produces drones and equipment for Merkava tanks, but has made millions from “intrusion detection systems” for the wall. Elbit has exported the knowledge and materiel developed through oppressing Palestinians to the US, where in 2006 it won part of a $2 billion contract to build the US-Mexico border wall, a wall designed to prevent human beings from seeking a better life. Earlier this year, the US Department of Homeland Security awarded Elbit with a new contract worth $145 million for more aggressive surveillance along the border.
Similar to Elbit, Magal Security Systems has earned millions by fencing in both Gaza and the West Bank. Nowadays, Magal technology can be found deployed along India’s “line of control” in Kashmir, the US border with Mexico and in Canadian prisons.
Finally, there is the infamous British-Danish security firm G4S, which not only provides services to Israeli prisons where the abuse and torture of Palestinians is commonplace, but also supplies full-body and luggage-scanning equipment to Israeli checkpoints.
G4S operates in 125 countries and its checkpoint technology has since been deployed worldwide. In Canada alone, it won a $366 million contract to provide airport screening services, in addition to the 61 other airports it operates in around the globe.
Ten years after the ICJ ruling, the wall’s shadow of oppression can be felt from Palestine to Kashmir to the US-Mexico border. Occupation profiteers rake in millions from discrimination and dispossession.
In Palestine, Israel continues its 66-year-old project of unilaterally creating facts on the ground, facts the apartheid wall is designed to make permanent. Meanwhile, powerful governments duck their obligations, offering nothing more than empty rhetoric and fruitless negotiations.
In the face of this reality, we ask you to join us this July to shine a light on the shadow of impunity, to take action in your community in concert with others around the world, to expand that crack in the wall so eventually the entire structure of apartheid may collapse.
Jamal Juma’ is coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign. To get involved in the July month of action to #StopImpunity, visit icj10.stopthewall.org.