Conquest of the West Bank: UN Report Calls Wall Annexation
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Conquest of the West Bank: UN Report Calls Wall Annexation

On September 8, 2003 the United Nations published an official document, Question of the Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine, which includes a special chapter analyzing the impact of the Wall on Palestinians as well as the illegality of the Wall itself. This report, written by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, John Dugard, states clearly how the Wall is a means for the illegal annexation of Palestinian land with severe implications for displacing residents.

The following excerpts have been abstracted from the chapter on the Wall:

– Language is a powerful instrument…The word “annexation” is avoided as it is too accurate a description and too unconcerned about the need to obfuscate the truth in the interests of anti-terrorism measures. However, the fact must be faced that what we are presently witnessing in the West Bank is a visible and clear act of territorial annexation under the guise of security…but it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that we are here faced with annexation of Palestinian territory.

– At present the Wall intrudes six to seven kilometers within Palestine, but there are proposals to penetrate still deeper into Palestinian territory in order to include the settlements of Ariel, Immanuel and Kedumim. In some places the winding route creates a barrier that completely encircles Palestinian villages while at many points it separates Palestinian villages from the rest of the West Bank and converts them into isolated enclaves. Qalqiliya, a city with a population of 40,000, is completely surrounded by the Wall and residents can only enter or leave through a single military checkpoint open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Palestinians between the Wall and the Green Line will effectively be cut off from their land and workplaces, schools, health clinics and other social services. Much of the Palestinian land on the Israeli side of the Wall consists of fertile agricultural land and some of the most important water wells in the region.

– It is reported that already some 600 shops and enterprises have closed in Qalqiliya as a result of the construction of the Wall. The Wall will therefore create a new generation of refugees or internally displaced persons.***image2***

– The path of the Wall changes regularly in response to demands from settlers and other political interest groups within Israel. There is no transparency surrounding the construction of the Wall and its final course seems to be known only to an inner circle of the military and political establishment within Israel. It is, however, widely expected that, following the completion of the Wall separating Israel from the West Bank on the western side, an eastern wall will be constructed, along the mountain ridge west of the Jordan Valley, which will separate Palestine from the Jordan Valley.

– The Wall must be seen in the context of settlement activity and the unlawful annexation of East Jerusalem. Settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are the principal beneficiaries of the Wall and it is estimated that approximately half of the 400,000 settler population will be incorporated on the Israeli side of the Wall. Needless to say, it is extraordinary that such action should be taken to incorporate illegal settlements that form the subject of negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

– The Wall has serious implications for human rights. It further restricts the freedom of movement of Palestinians, restricts access to health and education facilities and results in the unlawful taking of Palestinian property. However, the Wall has more serious implications as it violates two of the most fundamental principles of contemporary international law: the prohibition on the forcible acquisition of territory and the right to self-determination.

– Like the settlements it seeks to protect, the Wall is manifestly intended to create facts on the ground. It may lack an act of annexation, as occurred in the case of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. But its effect is the same: annexation. Annexation of this kind goes by another name in international law – conquest.

– The right to self-determination is closely linked to the notion of territorial sovereignty. A people can only exercise the right of self-determination within a territory. The amputation of Palestinian territory by the Wall seriously interferes with the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people as it substantially reduces the size of the self-determination unit (already small) within which that right is to be exercised.

As the Wall is clearly illegal under international law, violating the principles of the United Nations, Dugard as the Special Rapporteur, “submits that the time has come to condemn the Wall as an act of unlawful annexation in the language of Security Council resolutions 478 (1980) and 497 (1981) which declare that Israel’s actions aimed at the annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are ‘null and void’ and should not be recognized by States,” and concludes that “Israel’s claim that the Wall is designed entirely as a security measure with no intention to alter political boundaries is simply not supported by the facts”.