The 9th of July 2014 marked a decade since the International Court of Justice issued an Advisory Opinion regarding the construction of the Apartheid Wall by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As if the onslaught currently being wreaked upon the people of Gaza weren’t evidence enough of the degree of exceptionalism afforded to Israel by the international community, the anniversary of the ICJ verdict further underscores Israel’s effective exemption from the most basic norms of international law and human rights. The conclusions reached by the ICJ were unambiguous: the wall constitutes a violation of international law, Israel should cease its construction, tear down those sections already built and pay reparations for the damages caused by its construction thus far.
In addition to affirming the illegality of the wall itself, the ICJ stated that the manner in which it is traced serves to effectively annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel, thereby converting the illegal West Bank settlements into irreversible “facts on the ground.” This constitutes a grave breach of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is a “flagrant violation” of international law according to the ICJ, echoing the wording of previous United Nations Security Council resolutions concerning the settlements.
One would be forgiven for assuming that in the wake of such an unequivocal condemnation by the highest judicial authority in the world, the international community would have taken some concrete measures to compel Israel to meet its international law obligations, seeing as it has consistently failed to do so. Indeed, according to the opinion of the ICJ, such action is legally required of the international community:
“Given the character and the importance of the rights and obligations involved, the Court is of the view that all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. They are also under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction.”(p. 13)
In spite of this however, the ten years since the ICJ ruling have instead seen an unabated expansion of the Apartheid Wall and its “associated regime” of illegal settlements, all with the tacit consent of the international community and at the expense of the Palestinians whose daily lives have been rendered unliveable by the wall’s physical presence.
The devastating impact that the Apartheid Wall has had on such families and communities has been well documented by human rights groups such as Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, B’tselem and al Haq. There would appear to be a general consensus among such organisations that the real function it serves is to aid Israel in realising its territorial ambitions, while brazenly violating the Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement, as well as numerous other inalienable human rights in the process.