You, Your Honors
by Gila Svirsky
In a carefully reasoned but unequivocal decision, the International
Court of Justice in the Hague did the expected: It found that
construction of its security wall inside Palestinian territory is
illegal according to international law.
As an Israeli deeply concerned about the security of my country, and a
Jew deeply concerned about the moral implications of building this
barrier, I applaud this decision.
Israel's security claims in favor of the wall are seriously
it is now being constructed, the wall does not follow the 1967 border,
but rather reaches deep into Palestinian land, a route that will
ultimately leave hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the Israeli
side. How will this prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from
On humanitarian grounds, the wall is unconscionable. It prevents
Palestinian access to farmland, schools, hospitals and jobs.
your children having to wait at the wall twice a day for soldiers to
show up and unlock the gate, allowing them to get to and from
Picture the farmer who made a living from his olive trees, which are
now inaccessible or have been felled to make way for
Imagine that you suddenly need to see a doctor, but have no permit to
get through. Imagine that you simply want to visit your elderly
mother, but the wall now comes between you. According to
Israeli human rights organization, when the wall is complete, some 38%
of Palestinians will find their lives disrupted and their livelihoods
The presence of the wall is not only cruel to Palestinians; it will
ultimately harm Israeli security as well, as it intensifies the
bitterness and hatred directed toward us. Is this the security
the wall will provide?
Unlike Palestinians who can hardly avoid it, most Israelis have never
even seen the wall; it is built inside Palestinian territory, where
only Israeli settlers (and the soldiers sent to protect them) now
venture. If other Israelis saw it, I hope they would be
several places, the wall does not simply wend through Palestinian
towns, it actually surrounds them entirely, penning the residents
inside - their right to enter or leave left to the whim of young
soldiers guarding the gate.
In these localities, civilian populations are now entirely encircled by
a 30-foot-high, gray concrete battlement interrupted only by
watchtowers from where soldiers train binoculars and automatic rifles
on the residents below. Lights mounted on the wall shine down
streets, making constant surveillance that much easier. As a Jew
ancestors were confined to ghettoes during anti-Semitic periods of
history, I find this horrifying. Will keeping 100,000
penned in ghettoes and enclaves serve the security needs of
Did forcing Jews into the ghettoes of Europe serve the security needs
of those countries?
Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court acknowledged the grave violations
of Palestinian human rights resulting from the wall, and ordered the
army to reroute it in specific locations. While our government is
hoping that this Israeli court ruling will make it possible for Israel
to ignore the Hague tribunal - on the grounds that "the wall is an
internal security matter that we are dealing with" - most Israeli peace
activists do not agree. Construction of the wall within Occupied
Territory - meaning on somebody else's property - is a violation of
basic rights, no matter how you look at it. And claims that the
provides security are undercut by the large numbers of Palestinians who
will remain on the "Israeli" side.
Ultimately, the best way for my country to achieve security is to
negotiate peace with the Palestinians, and sufficiently improve the
lives on both sides so that there is a vested interest in maintaining
the peace. The wall, however, does just the opposite. As a
is not only bad for Palestine, but bad for Israel too.
A few days ago, I watched an old Palestinian woman surveying with
dismay her family's olive trees that the army had cut down, shaving a
swath on which the wall will rise. "Those stupid people," she
careful not to name them, "If not for their stupidity, we could have
lived in peace with each other."
Gila Svirsky is a peace and human rights activist in Jerusalem.
Coalition of Women for Peace: