The fence that terror built
by Jonathan Rosenblum
March 5, 2004
Purim came early to the Holy Land this year. A headline in last week’s Maariv read, "Sharon agrees to move security fence in return for U.S. permission to withdraw from Gaza." That was only topped by last week’s proceedings in the Hague in which the International Court of Justice convened to render an "advisory opinion" to the U.N. General Assembly on the Israeli separation fence. Binyamin Netanyahu neatly summed up the matter: "It is not the killer and their dispatchers who are put on trial – it is the victims."
The General Assembly resolution referring the issue to the ICJ demonstrates the quality of justice that Israel can expect from the ICJ. That resolution assumes that "Israel, as the occupying power, continues to refuse to comply with international law vis-à-vis construction of the above mentioned wall." The ICJ is merely asked to determine the legal consequences of Israel’s illegal actions. Given that the ICJ is an organ of the U.N., and dependent on its parent organization for budget and staff, it is inconceivable that it will reach a conclusion at odds with the referring resolution.
That resolution incidentally makes no reference to the Palestinian terror that brought about the security fence (which the resolution mischaracterizes, in the language of Palestinian propaganda, as a wall.) Yet that terrorism, as York University Law Professor Anne Bayefsky points out, is the ultimate violation of human rights embedded in various international treaties, including: the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, security of person, the right of freedom from persecution, the right to the protection of the family, the right to the protection of the child, the right to education, and many more.
Nor did the resolution mention that the September 28, 1995 Interim Agreement between the Israel and the Palestinian Authority explicitly acknowledges, "Israel shall continue to carry the responsibility for overall security of Israelis and Settlements, for the purpose of safeguarding their internal security and public order, and will have all the powers to take the steps necessary to meet this responsibility." No distinction is made between Israeli communities within the 1949 Armistice Line and the settlements.
As Ruth Lapidoth, Professor of International Law at Hebrew University, notes acidly: "What an irony: the very same bodies and individuals who press Israel the hardest to trade its security for yet more pieces of paper are the first to turn their backs on the pieces of paper that Israel already paid so dearly for."
More than fifty nations represented by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and a dozen more individually, including tiny Belize (pop. 53,800), lambasted Israel before the Court. Some could not even bring themselves to acknowledge that the fence is a defensive measure designed to preserve Israeli lives. James Crawford, considered by many the "leading silk" of the international human rights bar, intoned on behalf of the Palestinian Authority: This is not a security fence at all. It is a fence to separate farmers from their lands, children from their schools, sick people from hospitals.
True, the security fence will impose hardships on the 11,000 Palestinians whom, according to David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy, will be located on the Israeli side of the fence. But Crawford confuses effect and purpose (even leaving aside that the fence will reduce hardships on many Palestinians by obviating the need for burdensome checkpoints).
It is delusional to claim that Israel is spending billions of dollars to build the security fence in order to make life more difficult for 11,000 Palestinians. The security fence is truly the fence that terror built. Jews did not return to their ancient homeland in order to surround themselves in a barbed wire ghetto of their own construction. As Yossi Klein Halevi points out in The New Republic, the security fence "mocks Zionism’s promise to free the Jews from the ghettos. And fencing out the Arab world violates the hope that Israel will one day find a cultural . . . place in the Middle East."
There have been 110 suicide bombings since September 29, 2000, and for each such attack another five or six are interdicted by Israeli security forces. The enormity of the threat to life and limb of the average Israeli posed by Palestinian terrorists is simply beyond the comprehension of Americans. (Imagine the hysteria that would ensue if more than 60,000 Americans had been killed in terrorist attacks in the same period of time.)
Nor are these attacks the acts of a few bad apples, for which the Palestinians must endure collective punishment. The suicide bombings enjoy the overwhelming support of both the Palestinian population and the official organs of the Palestinian Authority. Last week’s suicide bomber, who killed eight and maimed 60 others, was celebrated as a martyr by the official Palestinian media. A clip on the Voice of Palestine showing the "barbaric" destruction of the suicide bombers home was preceded by another of a Palestinian child singing over and over again, "By stone or by knife, I will attack the enemy."
Since the inception of Oslo, the Palestinian Authority have created an apparently inexhaustible stream of suicide bombers by educating an entire generation whose highest aspiration is to kill as many Jews as possible by blowing themselves up. The only way to deal with that stream of murderers is to deny them access to Israeli citizens. A fence around Gaza, similar to that now being built on the West Bank, has not allowed a single suicide bomber to penetrate into Israel.
When Israel’s critics were not busy arguing that the security fence is designed as a tool of oppression, they claimed that it was a disproportionate response to the terrorist threat. Those who accuse Israel of reacting disproportionately to the wanton slaughter of its citizens, however, have yet to define a response they consider proportionate. The language of proportionality, like the ritual deploring of the so called "cycle of violence" after the murder of Israelis by terrorists, has only one purpose: to foreclose Israel from doing anything to defend itself.
Targeted killings of known terrorists, for instance, are disproportionate when carried out by Israel though not when America does the same thing in Yemen. Even the emptying of accounts used to fund terrorism from Ramallah banks last week was condemned by the State Department, though the Israeli actions were surgically designed to prevent the loss of Palestinian life while protecting Israelis.
The truly proportional response to a suicide bombing, as columnist Mark Steyn pointed out sardonically after the bombing of the Sbarro pizza parlor in Jerusalem, would be to pull an eighteen-year-old girl out of her Tel Aviv classroom, load her up with Semitex, and send her to a Ramallah pizzeria to blow herself up. But somehow it is doubtful that is what those who use the language of proportionality have in mind.
The real disproportion that underlies the security fence is between defensive measures that affect the quality of Palestinians’ lives and dead Israelis. Onerous burdens are amenable to change – all the Palestinians have to do is renounce terror; dead Jews cannot be brought back to life.
The first duty of every nation is to protect the lives of its own citizens. And in doing so, every nation places a higher value on the lives of its citizens than on the lives of others, especially those bent on killing them. Neither the U.N. nor the International Court of Justice has any right to ask Israel to be the first nation to eschew the defense of its citizens.
Related Topics: Peace Process
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