Thursday, August 25, 2005

NYT: "Israel Taking West Bank Land to Extend Settlement Barrier" (Greg Myre)

"We wanted the day after the Gaza withdrawal to be a day of hope and of reviving the peace process," the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said. "But this is a signal that Israel intends to pre-empt and pre-judge issues that are supposed to be negotiated."
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet agreed in principle last February that Maale Adumim, which has nearly 30,000 residents and is about three miles east of Jerusalem, would be included inside the West Bank separation barrier. Israel also has plans to build an additional 3,500 homes and apartments in the settlement.

[. . .]
Israel says the West Bank barrier is needed to prevent Palestinian suicide bombings, and the number of attacks has dropped sharply since Israel began constructing it in the most vulnerable areas three years ago.
But Palestinians say the barrier must not be built inside the West Bank on land they are seeking for a future state. The International Court of Justice at The Hague, in an advisory ruling last year, sided with the Palestinians.
Even the United States, Israel's staunchest ally, has raised concerns about constructing the barrier inside the West Bank, and the Bush administration has criticized the Maale Adumim portion of the barrier in particular.

The above is from Greg Myre's "Israel Taking West Bank Land to Extend Settlement Barrier" in this morning's New York Times and Kara and Rob each e-mailed to note the story.

To round out the above, we'll note a few resources. First, Nonna Gorilovskaya's "Talking to a Wall" (Mother Jones, July 1, 2004):

Earlier this year, when the International Court of Justice concluded three days of hearings on the legality of Israel's West Bank separation wall, the Israeli government declared that it would ignore whatever decision the 15-judge panel handed down. But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cannot just brush off the ruling delivered by the Israeli Supreme Court this week. While the high court declined to declare the wall illegal, as some had hoped, they did conclude that the planned route was unjust.
The decision -- in which the court has ordered the military to reroute
20 miles of the controversial wall separating Jerusalem from the West Bank -- is a defeat for Sharon and a victory for Palestinian farmers who would have been cut off from their land by the wall. Just as importantly, it is an indication that the blanket justifications offered by Sharon are not as universally embraced as Israeli hawks might have thought.
The Supreme Court
sided with Palestinian villagers and residents of a Jerusalem suburb who joined them, ruling that: "The route that the military commander established for the security fence ... injures the local inhabitants in a severe and acute way while violating their rights under humanitarian and international law." The justices went on to say that the military's "current balance between security considerations and humanitarian considerations is disproportionate" and that "reduction in security must be endured for the sake of humanitarian considerations."
While the ruling focused on a small section of the wall, it has set a precedent for more than 20 similar court cases currently pending. Just about a quarter of the wall -- which is expected to stretch for some 480 miles -- has been completed. By, in effect, shredding the argument that Israel's security needs give the military a blank check to build the wall anywhere it sees fit, the Court's decision will force the military to alter some of its planned construction.

Also from Mother Jones, we'll note Chris Hedges' "Life Against the Wall" (July/August 2004 issue):

There is a 25-foot-high concrete wall in Nahayla Auynaf's front yard. The gray mass, punctuated by cylindrical guard towers with narrow window slits for Israeli soldiers, looks from her steps like the side of an ocean liner. It is massive, cold, and alien. The shrubs, bushes, and stunted fruit trees seem to bow before it in supplication. On this August day, I struggle to make sense of it, the way I struggle to make sense of the pit that was the World Trade Center.
We do not speak. Auynaf lives with the wall. She is as drawn to it as she is repelled by it. It absorbs something deep within her. In the morning she goes out on her second-floor balcony and looks at it. Her eyes seem to implore it for answers, as if it were a Sphinx that could answer the riddle of her existence. "My old life ended with the wall," she says in Arabic.
The wall, built by Israel in 2002, blocks her from the neighboring Israeli town of Kfar Saba, where she used to shop. It cuts her off from Israel. It makes it too hard to reach the rest of the West Bank. The lone Israeli checkpoint's guard towers, floodlights, concrete barriers, dust, stench, crowds, special pass cards, intrusive searches, and rude remarks by border police are more than she can bear. She tried to pass through once. "I could not stand the humiliation," she says. "I turned back. I went home. Now I never leave."
The wall reduced her world to its ugly perimeter. Her five boys beg to go to the seaside. The wall makes this impossible. No one goes to the sea anymore. There are days when the checkpoint is sealed, days after suicide bombings or days when the Israeli soldiers shut it down abruptly without explanation. On those days, she sometimes gathers her children and walks the empty streets. Other families do the same. It gives a sense of movement. Families pass each other two, three, four times in an afternoon. All are thinking the same thoughts. "The town would rent buses to go to the sea," she says, sadness in her eyes. "We would go for the day. We would stand in the water. We would look at the rocks and the waves. This was before."

We'll note the conclusion of Neve Gordon's "Will Withdrawal Make Gaza a Frontier Ghetto?" (In These Times, August 18, 2005):

Insofar as this analysis is accurate, it is likely that at least in the near future the violence Israel employs in the Gaza Strip and West Bank will become more ferocious. Surely, the Palestinians will not sit still and their reactions will no doubt also be extremely bloody. The cycle of violence will, accordingly, intensify. Such developments are, in many respects, a direct consequence of Prime Minister Sharon's unilateral approach, since without negotiations and an attempt to reach a just and comprehensive peace it is naïve to expect that the conflict will end any time soon.

Lastly, we'll note Shamai K. Leibowitz and Katrina Heller's "The Gaza Evacuations: Disengagement or Tactical Military Redeployment?" (CounterPunch, August 24, 2005):

In a December 2004 report, the World Bank predicted that by continuing to control the flow of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip, rather than offering Gaza inhabitants economic progress, the Disengagement will worsen the already dire economic situation of the Gaza Strip.
Effectively, the Disengagement Plan will turn Gaza into the world's largest open-air prison with 1.3 million Palestinian inmates. The result will be a continuation, if not an increase, of the bloodshed and violence. Similarly, the removal of 4 out of 130 Jewish-only settlements in the Occupied West Bank while building and expanding others, at the expense of 2 million Palestinians who continue to live without human or civil rights, does not signal an end to the Israeli Occupation but, rather, its perpetuation.
Despite its severe flaws, can the Disengagement be beneficial toward peace? Yes, if the international community would demand from Israel a complete withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and in the mean time, deploy an international peacekeeping force to serve as a buffer between Israel and the Palestinians.

Via Rod, the scheduled topics for today's Democracy Now! include:

Military families and veterans respond to President Bush's speech in Idaho.
We look at the case of Texas death row inmate Frances Newton. She is scheduled to be executed on September 14 despite the fact that there is new evidence of her innocence.

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