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The way forward may be buried in the wall

Middle East
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I first made contact with Palestinian documentary filmmaker Mohammed Alatar on Friday, March 30, 2007. I still have the email that I sent him to thank him for producing The Iron Wall, which at the time was the highest selling Palestinian documentary ever. The film caught my attention from the opening screen where he displayed this quote from the father of the Zionist right, Vladimir Jabotinsky, written back in November 1923:

“Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach. That is our Arab policy; not what it should be, but what it actually is, whether we admit it or not.”

In 2008, Mohammed outdid himself. He released a new documentary titled “Jerusalem…the east side story,” one of the most-viewed political documentaries on Palestine. It presented the effects and injustices of, what at the time was, 42 years of Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem. The documentary raised the eyebrows of many Israelis and Jews living abroad who had little insight into the dynamics of how right-wing elements inside Israel were entrenching the occupation in a fashion that could only lead to permanent occupation.

As the world awaits President Donald Trump’s long-touted “Deal of the Century” to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, conditions on the ground are worsening by the day and permanent occupation has become an acceptable path forward for many, except those persons on the receiving end, Palestinians.

Palestinians and Israelis alike are collectively holding their breath for what may be a prelude to yet another round of bloody violence, leaving a resolution to the conflict, or even a mere step in the right direction, a remote thought.

Filmmaker Mohammed Alatar is back.

Mohammed Alatar

One physical element of the deterioration on the ground is the building of what has become known to the Palestinian as the “Separation Wall” and to the Israelis as a “Security Fence.”

Beginning construction in 2002, the Israeli government set out to build a 700 kilometer-long wall (about 420 miles) in the West Bank, predominantly on the Palestinian side of the “Green Line”. US President George W. Bush once described this monstrous eyesore as a “problem” and went on to state while on the White House Rose Garden back in 2003 that, “It is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and the Israelis … with a wall snaking through the West Bank.”

This very same “problem” may have buried within it a way forward that has exponentially better chances for success than Trump’s yet-to-be announced “deal.”

Two years into construction, the establishment of the Separation Wall brought with it a case heard before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that resulted in the landmark 2004 Advisory Opinion that not only declared that the construction of a wall within occupied Palestinian territory is contrary to International Law, but also called upon Israel to desist from construction, and to make reparations for all damages caused by its construction. The Advisory Opinion was crystal clear; it also admonished all States to refuse recognition of the illegal situation, to render neither aid nor assistance in maintaining it, and to ensure compliance by Israel with International Humanitarian Law. Immediately, the General Assembly asked the UN Secretary General and the member states to implement the Opinion.

Today, more than a decade later, Israel has not desisted or made reparations; on the contrary, the Wall is nearing completion, and most States have made little effort to secure compliance.

 

BROKEN

Although much has been written about the Wall, few efforts have sought to dig deeper into why States turned a blind eye to all its illegalities, which were clearly ingredients for a troubling road ahead, as we are now witnessing. Mohammed Alatar has taken this aspect of the Wall head on in a newly released documentary titled, “BROKEN.”

“BROKEN” takes a direct and factual approach to the story of the Wall. It does not shy away from showing both narratives surrounding the debate but remains grounded in the one that is neutral to the parties, international law. This same legal reference point provides States with a way out of the coming collapse.

Filmmaker Alatar is fanatic about being accurate, and it shows. The lineup of interviews in “BROKEN” is proof that a veteran filmmaker is at work behind the scenes. The story is supported by a very distinguished group of characters: judges, diplomats, experts, United Nations officials as well as Israeli and Palestinian voices.

Personalities with significant stature are featured in their own voice, such as Colonel Danny Tirza, Israel Defense Forces Reserves (IDF), West Bank settler, former head of the military body charged with planning the route of the Wall (Rainbow Operation Administration) 1994-2007; Judge Theodor Meron, President of the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (the Hague), former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), former Professor of International Law at the Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies, former legal counsel to the Israeli Foreign Ministry; Judge Thomas Buergenthal, former Judge at the International Court of Justice (2000-10), Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence, George Washington University Law School (United States); Judge Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh, former Judge of the ICJ and former Prime Minister of Jordan; and Ambassador Nasser Al-Kidwa, former Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations (1991-2005), until 2014 United Nations Deputy Mediator on Syria, among others

Danny Tirza, in the documentary BROKEN.

International Law is the elephant in the room that States have shied away from to base their actions on. Holding both Israel and Palestine legally accountable, proportionally as dictated by law, has the potential to bring at least common sense in to the conflict, if not a resolution.

Short of introducing common sense into State actions, Palestinians will be left to invest in two wooden ladders, one propped up on each side of the wall and each costing approximately $42, to get to the other side of the Wall. Israel will be left to foot the nearly $2B bill for the Wall’s construction, and Palestinian and Israeli youth will continue to seek a life elsewhere, leaving the deterioration to further and ultimately turn deadly.

BROKEN” was produced by AdvocacyProductions Sàrl, a Geneva-based film production company. The trailer may be viewed here.

Sam Bahour is a board member with Just Vision, a policy analyst with Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and a secretariat member of the Palestine Strategy Group. He blogs at www.epalestine.com. Twitter: @SamBahour

sbahour
About Sam Bahour

Sam Bahour is a board member with Just Vision, a policy analyst with Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and a secretariat member of the Palestine Strategy Group. He blogs at www.epalestine.com. Twitter: @SamBahour

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11 Responses

  1. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    August 4, 2018, 2:37 pm

    Israel appears to be “flying high” right now, but in reality, it is headed straight for a major crash. As history attests, such is the inevitable fate of all racist/fascistic/expansionist entities.

    • bcg
      bcg
      August 5, 2018, 11:59 am

      I hope you are right but I always remember the remark Nathan “The Only Language They Understand” Thrall made somewhere, who said that the Occupation could go on for another 50 years if the right kinds of pressure aren’t applied. Unfortunately I don’t see BDS taking off (yet) to the extent it could really make a difference, and while critical thinking about Israel seems to be increasing, I think it’s overly optimistic to think we’re reached some kind of inflection point. :-(

  2. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    August 4, 2018, 2:39 pm

    The Iron Wall 2006
    45,536 views

    Public Disturbance Now
    Published on Feb 13, 2011

    From that day these words became the official and unspoken policy of the Zionist movement and later the state of Israel. Settlements were used from the beginning to create a Zionist foothold in Palestine.

    After 1967 and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the aim of the settlement movement became clear — create facts on the ground and make the creation of a Palestinian state impossible. Thirty nine years of occupation and the policy started showing results. There are now more than 200 settlements and outposts scattered throughout the West Bank blocking the geographic possibility of a contiguous Palestinian territory.

    The Iron Wall documentary exposes this phenomenon and follows the timeline, size, population of the settlements, and its impact on the peace process. This film also touches on the latest project to make the settlements a permanent fact on the ground — the wall that Israel is building in the West Bank and its impact on the Palestinian’s peoples.

    Settlements and related infrastructures are impacting every aspect of life for all Palestinians from land confiscation, theft of natural resources, confiscation of the basic human rights, creation of an apartheid-like system, to the devastating impact in regards to the future of the region and the prospect of the peace process.

    Palestinians and Israelis began the peace process based on a very simple principle: land for peace. Settlements destroy that principle and create a land with no peace.

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      August 4, 2018, 8:33 pm

      Jerusalem The East Side Story (Full Documentary)

      Mohammed Alatar
      Published on Dec 9, 2017
      The film documents Palestinian everyday’s life under Isreali occupation in East Jerusalem. It uncovers Isreal’s policy of judaizing the city in order to gain Jewish majority by driving out Palestinian people from the city. The documentary includes interviews with Palestinian as well as Isreali political leaders, political analysts and human right activists.

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      August 4, 2018, 8:59 pm

      BROKEN
      from AdvocacyProductions PRO on May 23, 2018
      Genres: Documentary
      Duration: 52 minutes
      Availability: Worldwide
      BROKEN is a film by renowned film director Mohammed Alatar about International Law, the International Court of Justice, and the Israeli Wall in Palestine. In 2002, the Israeli government began the construction of a 700 km-long wall in the West Bank, predominantly on the Palestinian side of the “Green Line”. Two years later, in 2004, the UN General Assembly asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to advise on the legality of the Wall. In an Advisory Opinion, the ICJ declared that the construction of a wall within occupied Palestinian territory to be contrary to International Law, called upon Israel to desist, and to make reparations for all damages caused by its construction. It also admonished all States to refuse recognition of the illegal situation, to render neither aid nor assistance in maintaining it, and to ensure compliance by Israel with International Humanitarian Law. Immediately, the General Assembly asked the UN Secretary General and the member states to implement the Opinion. Today, more than a decade later, Israel has not desisted or made reparations; on the contrary, the Wall is nearing completion, and most States have made little effort to secure compliance. To understand what happened the filmmaker weaves together film archives from the United Nations debates and the Court’s deliberations, allowing us to see what happened with our own eyes. He crosses three continents, interviewing three of the ICJ judges who were on the Court at the time, and who speak with unrestrained candour, providing compelling insights. He also interviews another prominent judge who previously advised the Israeli government, the Palestinian diplomat who presented the Palestinian case at the court, and the Israeli military officer who built the Wall. At the end of the film, we understand the importance of international law in this dispute, and in others, and catch a glimpse of how international law might show us the path out of this imbroglio.
      🎥 TO WATCH/STREAM ONLINE – https://vimeo.com/ondemand/brokenfilm

  3. lenny
    lenny
    August 6, 2018, 12:22 am

    After the suicide bombings of the 2000’s the israeli psyche must have been fragile.the loss of so many people to the bombings in a country with a small population such as israel would be devastating.
    the solution was the building of the wall.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      August 6, 2018, 4:38 am

      Oh, lenny, I allready told you to mark my words. Your pathetic little game is absolutely see through.

      Now after considering what Israelis have done to the Palestinian “psyche” since 1947 how about locking all Israeli Jews into the 6% land of historic Palestine they legally acquired and build walls around these enclaves?

      I’m sure you will support this, too, don’t you?

    • eljay
      eljay
      August 6, 2018, 6:47 am

      || lenny: After the suicide bombings of the 2000’s the israeli psyche must have been fragile. … ||

      Yup, it was so fragile that Israelis decided they’d had enough and, so, Israel:
      – immediately ended its on-going occupation and colonization of territory outside of its / Partition borders;
      – withdrew to within those borders;
      – honoured its obligations under international law (incl. RoR); and
      – accepted responsibility and accountability for its (war) crimes.

      Kidding!  :-)

      Israelis – well, Jewish supremacist (Zionist) Israelis, anyway – overcame their fragility and doubled down on their decades-long campaign of theft, oppression, colonialism, (war) crimes and supremacism.

    • amigo
      amigo
      August 6, 2018, 2:49 pm

      “After the suicide bombings of the 2000’s the israeli psyche must have been fragile.the loss of so many people to the bombings in a country with a small population such as israel would be devastating.
      the solution was the building of the wall.” lenny

      But,but , lenny , when are they going to complete the remaining 40 %. The goi is endangering the Lives of it,s citizens.

      “Sixteen years since works on the barrier began, only 60% of the route has been completed. The large gaps in the barrier are regularly used by Palestinians to enter into Israel without permits in order to work, but also by some to smuggle weapons. If someone wishes to commit a terror attack against Israelis, the barrier can easily be penetrated, given it is not complete.”

      https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/whats-stopping-israel-from-completing-the-separation-barrier/

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        August 6, 2018, 9:45 pm

        @lenny

        An estimated 50,000 people per day cross into Israel bypassing the wall and security checks.

        The suggestion that the wall is ‘security’ related is laughable.

        It is all about apartheid and land theft, strangling the Palestinian economy.

        Israel is a rogue state and should be shunned by responsible states

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        August 7, 2018, 8:49 am

        The biggest factor in the decline of suicide bombings was Hamas’ decision to stop using them as a tactic. It has nothing to do with the Junta’s Apartheid wall.

        “The Shin Bet’s statistics on terror attacks confirm the public perception that terrorist activity in 2005 dropped considerably compared to the previous four and a half years. The main reason for the sharp decline is the truce in the territories, the security service said yesterday. …

        The security fence is no longer mentioned as the major factor in preventing suicide bombings, mainly because the terrorists have found ways to bypass it. The fence does make it harder for them, but the flawed inspection procedures at its checkpoints, the gaps and uncompleted sections enable suicide bombers to enter Israel.”
        https://www.haaretz.com/1.5301742

        Statistics
        https://electronicintifada.net/sites/default/files/styles/original_800w/public/2014-01/wasitjustthewall_final_hq_0.jpg?itok=QwjGo8ue&amp%3Btimestamp=1448949295

        And of course the wall on Palestinian territory is illegal and must be dismantled
        International Court of Justice finds Israeli barrier in Palestinian territory is illegal
        https://news.un.org/en/story/2004/07/108912-international-court-justice-finds-israeli-barrier-palestinian-territory-illegal

        And the settlements this wall allegedly protects are illegal and must be dismantled:
        “6. Strongly deplores the continuation and persistence of Israel in pursuing those policies and practices and calls upon the Government and people of Israel to rescind those measures, to dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem;”
        https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/0/5AA254A1C8F8B1CB852560E50075D7D5

        Is there anything that Israel does in occupied Palestine that is actually legal? Like protecting the occupied and their properties? It doesn’t seem so:
        Settlers destroy 2,000+ Palestinian-owned trees and vines, backed by Israeli authorities
        https://www.btselem.org/settler_violence/20180802_settlers_destroy_2000_palestinian_owned_trees

        So much for state backed “arson terrorism”

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