Introductory Palestinian Statement to the International Court of Justice

February 28, 2004

Below we excerpt from the introductory statement made by Nasser al-Kidwa, Palestinian observer at the United Nations, on February 23 at the International Court of Justice hearings on the legality of the Apartheid Wall Israel is building inside the West Bank.

1. Mr. President, Members of the Court, it is my honour to address you on behalf of Palestine. I wish to thank the International Court of Justice for granting Palestine the opportunity to participate in these advisory proceedings on the "Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

2. I stand before you as a representative of the Palestinian people, the indigenous people of the land, who for too long have been denied the right to self-determination and sovereignty over their land and half of whom remain refugees. The Palestinian people have been subject to a military occupation for almost 37 years. They have been dehumanized and demonized, humiliated and demeaned, dispossessed and dispersed, and brutally punished by their occupier. The occupation has systematically denied them their basic rights and freedoms and has controlled almost every single aspect of their lives.

3. This case, however, is not about the whole of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – it is about the Wall. This Wall is being constructed almost entirely in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This Wall is not about security: it is about entrenching the occupation and the de facto annexation of large areas of Palestinian land. This Wall, if completed, will leave the Palestinian people with only half of the West Bank within isolated, non-contiguous, walled enclaves. It will render the two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict practically impossible.

4. The Wall is not just a physical structure; it is a whole régime. It encircles entire communities in walled enclaves and, if completed, will wall-in most of the Palestinian population. It is already causing the displacement of Palestinian civilians and has imprisoned thousands of Palestinians between it and the Armistice Line of 1949, the Green Line. There is, moreover, without a doubt, a correlation between the route of the Wall and the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the water resources in the area.

5. There is also, of course, a correlation between the route of the Wall and Israel's long-standing illegal policies and practices with regard to Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is occupied territory. The international community has never recognized Israel's illegal annexation of East Jerusalem. The route of the Wall will clearly entrench this annexation. It will compound the humanitarian hardships being faced by the Palestinian inhabitants of the city. Moreover, it will isolate the city from the rest of the Palestinian population, obstructing their access to the city and its Holy Places.

6. We are here because the United Nations has a permanent responsibility – legally, politically and morally – for the question of Palestine until the question is resolved in all its aspects. The General Assembly has reaffirmed this in at least 25 resolutions. It is, after all, the General Assembly that, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, dealt with mandated Palestine, deciding on 29 November 1947, in resolution 181 (II), to partition Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab. The Arab State has, of course, not yet been realized; and thus the Palestinian people have been unable to exercise their right to self-determination. Indeed, Palestine is still not a Member State of the United Nations, but remains an observer. Since 1947, however, the General Assembly has never ceased dealing with the question of Palestine or its aspects.

7. The Security Council has also continuously dealt with the question of Palestine. It first placed the "Situation in Palestine" on its agenda in 1948. The Council's attention to the matter increased after the Israeli occupation in 1967. Since then, the Council has adopted 38 resolutions addressing the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 26 of which recall the Fourth Geneva Convention, including its applicability to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem.

8. These resolutions, of course, remain valid. Israel has complied with almost none of them. The Council has, historically, failed in its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in the case of Palestine. It has failed to follow up the implementation of its own resolutions and take the necessary measures to ensure compliance, and has failed to prevent the continuous and, at times, massive violations of international law and of the Charter itself. The basic reason has been the use, or the threat of use, of veto by one of the Council's Permanent Members. In the 30 years between 1973 and 2003, 27 vetoes have been cast on the Palestinian issue. The most recent was cast on 14 October 2003, when the issue of the construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was brought before the Council and it failed to act. . . .

14. Mr. President, Members of the Court, there has been no shortage of peace initiatives on the Middle East and the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Yet, since the adoption of Security Council resolution 242 (1967), and throughout every one of the subsequent initiatives, Israel has simultaneously been engaged in the intensive colonization of our land. It has transferred 400,000 illegal settlers to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. It is continuously attempting to change the status, physical character, nature and demographic composition of that territory, most recently through its construction of the Wall. Actually, since the signing in 1993 of the Declaration of Principles between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Israel not only continued its illegal settlement activities and expansion but actually doubled the number of its settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Doubled. How can it be expected that the Palestinian people would continue to believe that peace was imminent under such circumstances? . . .

20. The suicide bombings have led to the death of 438 Israelis in Israel. Four hundred and ninety Israelis, mostly soldiers and settlers, have also been killed by other kinds of violence. In contrast, since September 2000 and as of 18 February 2004, the Israeli occupying forces have directly killed, including many by extrajudicial execution, a total of 2,770 Palestinian civilians, including children, women and men. Of those killed, more than 1,200 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli occupying forces in the Gaza Strip, even though Israel has already built another kind of wall surrounding the Gaza Strip. The question that must be asked is: how then will this Wall being built by Israel solve the security problem? If anything, its route and the illegal measures entailed in its construction ensure that it will actually exacerbate the security situation. It is more than obvious that when you deprive an entire people of their rights, expropriate their land and property and wall them into enclaves and ghettos, you are not solving the security problem but creating an untenable situation that will combust.

21. At this time, I wish to make our position vis-à-vis the suicide bombings very clear. We have consistently, repeatedly and unequivocally condemned these bombings. We condemn any violence directed at civilians in this conflict, whether Israeli or Palestinian. We consider the suicide bombings to be unlawful. They are also harmful to the just and honourable cause of the Palestinian people.

22. That said, I draw attention to the fact that the first suicide bombing occurred nearly 27 years after the onset of this oppressive military occupation of the Palestinian people. This phenomenon is the result of Israeli policies and measures, including the relentless colonization of our land. It is not the cause of those policies and measures. It is also imperative that a distinction be made between such unlawful acts of violence against Israeli civilians in Israel and acts of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation and to military attacks by the occupying forces, consistent with international law. Nevertheless, Palestine reaffirms its commitment to a peaceful, negotiated solution to end this occupation and end this conflict.

23. There is a humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Serious violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law are being committed. The Wall, part and parcel of these violations and breaches, is severely exacerbating this situation. How can the Road Map truly succeed under such circumstances? It cannot. How can Israel expect the Palestinian side to be able to act effectively when it has destroyed Palestinian security capabilities and has confined the leader of the Palestinian people and elected President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, for more than two years, undermining the leadership's ability to properly function? It cannot. How can Israel's construction of this Wall and its continued confiscation and colonization of the Palestinian land lead to peace and security for both peoples? It cannot.

24. The colonization by Israel of the Palestinian land under its occupation and the attempts to change its legal status are not new phenomena. What is new, however, is the magnitude of Israel's attempt to change the legal status and to effect the de facto annexation of large parts of the Occupied Territory by means of the Wall. The Wall will be the culmination of all previous illegal measures and practices carried out by Israel since 1967 towards that end. It will destroy the hopes of the Palestinian people for the realization of their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination, and destroy their faith in the rule of international law and the international community's ability to uphold it in the face of such grievous violations. It will destroy the hopes of the international community for implementation of the Road Map and the "two-State" solution of Israel and Palestine, both living side by side within secure and recognized boundaries. Such a lamentable outcome must be avoided at all costs. . . .