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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

The Australian's politics « Previous | |Next »
July 12, 2004

The Australian has an editorial on the International Court of Justice ruling on the security wall built by Israel. The ruling is dismissed as "as just another anti-Israel publicity stunt." The Australian's headline says it all: "World court indulges in Israel bashing."

The Australian's argument is pretty thin. It acknowledges the effectiveness of the security wall in stopping the suicide bombers:


"Overall, after more than 60 terror bombings in the first half of 2002, there have been fewer than 10 this year, with none in the last four months – until yesterday. This is why the barrier has gradually won over liberal Israelis. Israel should, and will, ignore a ruling that condemns its citizens to death by terror."


The problem is that this kind of politics ignores the legal concerns raised by the ICJ. It stated that Israel has a right to build the wall. The IJC said that:

"While Israel has the right, and indeed the duty to respond to the numerous and deadly acts of violence directed against its civilian population, in order to protect the life of its citizens, the measures taken are bound to remain in conformity with applicable international law."


The IJC judgement is that whilst Israel can build the wall, it should not do so by taking Palestinian territory.

The IJC notes that the construction of the wall is “an attempt to annex the territory contrary to international law” and “a violation of the legal principle prohibiting the acquisition of territory by the use of force” and that “the de facto annexation of land interferes with the territorial sovereignty and consequently with the right of the Palestinians to self-determination”.

That is the point at issue. It is not the issue of "limiting a sovereign state's inherent right to self-defence against attacks by another state," since Palestine is not a state. That is a furphy.

Now, there is an issue here about a nation's right to self-defence from attacks by non-state actors (eg.,al-Qa'ida), and whether the ICJ has addressed that concern adequately. But that issue is not being addressed by The Australian. It's concern is with the ICJ judgement about the legality of Israel's security wall.

So how does The Australian address the issue of the annexation of Palestinian land by building the wall? It evades the issue. It says:


"So the question with the barrier now is not whether, but where. As if to underline Israel's status as the only fully democratic state in the Middle East... the Israeli Supreme Court ruled last week that the barrier must be re-routed to avoid cutting off Palestinians from their farms, jobs and public services. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said he will abide by the ruling, but unfortunately he is hamstrung by a fundamentalist settler movement that, while it cannot be morally equated with Islamist terrorism, is almost as bitterly opposed to the idea of a democratic Israeli state. The fact the barrier must loop around so many Jewish settlements, instead of following the pre-1967 border, is the weak spot in Mr Sharon's audacious unilateral security solution, which also involves Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. But the path of the barrier can be adjusted long after it has been put in place and is saving more Israeli and Palestinian lives."


The phrase "the barrier must loop around so many Jewish settlements" is a euphemism for saying that Israel is taking Palestinian territory whilst constructing the wall. But that political reality is not---and cannot be?--- acknowledged All that is offered is Ariel Sharon being opposed by a fundamentalist settler movement bitterly opposed to the idea of a democratic Israeli state.

The Australian ignores a central conconern of the IJC judgement: the effect of taking the land on Palestinian self-determination and the capacity to build a nation state. Does that mean The Australian is opposed to a two state solution?

Note the contradiction in The Australian's argument. In the above paragraph it acknowledges that the wall needs to be re-routed. When the ICJ highlights this and addresses the legal consequences The Australian calls it Israeli bashing and an anti-Israel publicity stunt. It evades the key issue.

The editorial is really an attack on liberal internationlism, international law and international institutions. It implies that these cannot have primacy over the rights and power of nation states to further their own interests.

Yet, isn't The Australian a feverent advocate of the global market and the need to reduce the power of the nation state to control the global market? Doesn't The Australian support the global institution called the WTO?

A pretty thin argument isn't it.

14th July
There is an op-ed piece in today's The Sydney Morning Herald by Chemi Shalev, an Israeli journalist living in Sydney. Shalev talks in terms of the "one-sided decision by the International Court of Justice against the fence"; the "court has ruled, in effect, that the Palestinian right to live in peace and tranquillity is greater than the right of Jews to live at all"; "the prejudiced legal forum sponsored by the United Nations"; "the arbitrary verdict of the International Court"; and "the Palestinians are once again placing their trust in imposed solutions from the outside."

Now Shalev does acknowledge that:


"There is an intense debate raging inside Israel about the proper delineation of the fence and the degree of hardships that can properly be imposed on the Palestinians."


He acknowledges that this was addressed by the Israeli High Court of Justice.

However, Chemi Shalev nowhere mentions that it is the taking of Palestinian land which is is a primary cause of their hardship. Nor does he acknowledge the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. Nor does he address the illegality of Israel settlers taking Palestinian land.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:37 AM | | Comments (0)
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