***image1***February, 23, 2004, Palestine/The Hague (Netherlands) – The first day of Hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has seen international mobilization and great media attention.
In the Palestinian occupied territories, demonstrations took place in all major cities following a call by the anti-apartheid wall campaign. All political parties, diverse institutions and local groups participated in the demonstrations. In Ramallah, a 4000 strong demonstration filled the Manara square. Speakers from the National and Islamic forces addressed the protestors calling for a united resistance against the Apartheid wall which should culminate in the demolition of the wall and an end to Israeli occupation.
In Tulkarem, occupation forces blocked all roads to Tulkarem preventing people to reach the demonstration. However, 3000 people were able to participate. Hundreds of soldiers began shooting bullets and tear gas as the demonstrators approached the wall.
In Salfit, Abu Dis/Ezaryeh (Jerusalem) and A-Ram/Dahiat Al Barid (Jerusalem), a 1000 demonstrators gathered in each location. In Abu Dis, Palestinian youth clashed with heavily armed Israeli forces. Among the slogans shouted by the protestors was: the wall + checkpoints = expulsion but Jerusalem is Arab, Muslim and Christian.
In Jenin, many of the communities were bloackaded by the military from joining the demonstration. The demonstration ended in the village of Mutilla, where the Wall is currently being built. Occupation soldiers surrounded the gathering and shot bullets and tear gas at the people.
In both Jenin and Tulkarem, no media was allowed, despite media attempts to reach the areas.
In Bethlehem, a large demonstration lead by university students and political parties marched to Rachel’s Tomb which is currently occupied by Israeli military. In Qalqiliya, thousands of people participated. Confrontations took place between the demonstrators and the occupation forces who shot tear gas to prevent demonstrators from reaching the Wall. In Baqa Sharqiya, the large military presence stopped any demonstrations.
There were also protests in a number of Palestinian villages on the other side of the green line and in Gaza.
***image4***In The Hague the anti-wall demonstrators were only allowed to protest in the late afternoon by the police. However, with a participation of some two thousand, it was one of the biggest pro-Palestine demonstrations that the Netherlands has seen lately. Dutch demonstrators were accompanied by delgations from Belgium, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, UK, Ireland, Italy and Germany. The demonstration started with testimonies by Palestinian representatives and human rights activists at “Het Plein” in The Hague. Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, declared: “We at the Palestine Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign call on the international community to protect human rights laws and the freedom of all people. We should not let colonial mentality or the superpowers govern our future and bring us back to the colonial times of the previous centuries. We need to act now to prevent a situation in the future where human lives are governed by conflict and conflict alone.”
Inside the Court, several lawyers presented their arguments among whom Mr. Vaughan Lowi, a South African professor at Oxford University outlined the long history of international conflicts and disputes deliberated at the International Court of Justice. Mr. Naser al-Khidwa, permanent observer to the UN for Palestine, reminded the judges of the imbalance of 1948 UN partition scheme that gave 54% of Mandate Palestine to only 7% of the population and thereby created a Jewish state which has continued to implement its expansionist policies at the expense of Palestinian livelihoods. The construction of the Apartheid Wall will leave the Palestinians with only 10% of their original land. He further underlined the dire consquences that the Wall has on the Palestinian people who are deprived of water resources and access to education and health care facilities.
The position of the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign has found strong support inside the court. The illegality of the Wall on grounds of the IV Geneva Convention and the Human Rights agreements was repeatedly underlined by legal experts. They confirmed that the Wall is a war crime. The representative of Algeria declared that any other position taken by the Court would state that Palestine is a land without human rights.