Today marks the five-year anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion which found Israel’s Separation Wall in the West Bank to be “contrary to international law.” Although the Court called for Israel to cease construction, dismantle the parts of the Wall that had already been built, and offer reparations for damages caused, none of this has been done. Instead, Israel has continued to build the structure which effectively annexes Palestinian land and furthers the Israeli colonization of the West Bank.
The UN has recognized the five year anniversary by demanding that Israel implement the ICJ ruling. Oxfam UK has marked the occasion by releasing a new scathing 30-page report – Five years of illegality: Time to dismantle the Wall and respect the rights of Palestinians. Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International, explains how the inability of the international community to respond to the Court’s opinion puts the entire peace process in doubt:
“For five years now, different Israeli governments and the international community have turned a deaf ear to the appeals by the General Assembly of the United Nations and have refused to respect and observe the opinion of the International Court of Justice. This inaction gives the wrong signal: that international law can be violated without accountability. For the sake of Palestinians and Israelis alike, it is time for the rule of law to triumph. If not, it will be very difficult to achieve a just, negotiated, and durable peace in the Middle East”
But today is not only the five year anniversary of the ICJ opinion, it is also the four year anniversary of the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The call for BDS was initiated after watching a year of inaction among the international community to the ICJ opinion. It was quickly obvious that Palestinians would not be able to rely on other governments to hold Israel accountable, even with the ICJ opinion. Instead, it would be left to civil society to leverage the power they have, even if it’s just on a personal level. The Bethlehem-based BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights issued a statement on the fifth anniversary of the ICJ ruling, both to mark the anniversary and to renew the call to hold Israel accountable. From the statement:
The ICJ ruling should have been a victory for the forces demanding respect for and implementation of international law. Instead it has become a symbol of Israel’s disrespect for international law and of the international community’s failure to hold Israel accountable to its crimes; despite the devastating consequences such impunity has upon the lives of Palestinians who continue to be displaced from their homeland.
The wall has definitively created six ghettos throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories containing 98 enclaves with 312,810 Palestinians surrounded by barbed wire, walls and control towers. At least 14,364 persons have been displaced in the 145 localities through which the wall passes with some 90,000 Palestinians directly threatened by displacement as the Wall’s construction is completed.
Without recourse to an adequate non-partisan mechanism to implement the ICJ ruling, Palestinians are left with few options to defend their rights and to resist displacement. While weekly grassroots protests continue in villages like Bil’in, Ni’lin, and Ma’sara whose lands continue to be robbed, they have so far lacked the sufficient leverage to resist Israel’s sheer military might and the accompanying impunity provided Israel by the international community.
In this context, there is no substitute to advancing the broad, international civil society struggle to boycott, divest and sanction Israel as called for by Palestinian civil society since 2005. Such a campaign has the moral authority and power to counter balance the forces supporting Israeli apartheid. Those who pay taxes to governments that support Israel; those who handle Israeli products whether as vendors or consumers; and those who engage in international academic, cultural and sports fora that normalize Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid – all have within their hands the power to stop the machine that makes Israeli apartheid politically viable and materially profitable.
Four years later, the BDS movement is quickly growing. Today is a useful reminder of why it’s necessary.