We’ll Expel ‘Illegal Arabs’ from Israel … says Ariel Sharon

We’ll Expel ‘Illegal Arabs’ from Israel … says Ariel Sharon

 Old Refugees, New Refugees and the Separation/Apartheid Wall

More than 220,000 Palestinians, one-third of whom are registered refugees, have been affected by the first 123 km stretch of Israel’s separation/apartheid wall in the occupied West Bank. Limited access to goods, services, natural resources, market and job opportunities is causing further impoverishment. According to UNRWA, the construction of the wall around Jerusalem, now underway, will affect thousands more.

The wall is not just about security. It is also part and parcel of Israel’s so-called demographic war against the Palestinians. Palestinian Jerusalemites whose place of residence is outside the barrier will be forced to relocate in order to maintain their residency status in the city. Options, however, are increasingly limited due to decades of planning and building restrictions imposed on Palestinian residents and the high cost of increasingly scare accommodation.

Some Palestinians with West Bank residency will be inside sections of the wall around Jerusalem. According to Israeli law they will be considered illegal residents and required to move out. The village of Nu’man is one example. Under the cover of dark, Israeli forces rounded up all young men in the village and asked them to give up their title deeds to their land. The men rejected the request, but the village is now living under the fear of forced displacement.

Ariel Sharon has also warned that once the wall is complete, Israel will begin to expel ‘illegal Arabs’ from Israel, including thousands of Palestinians awaiting determination of family reunification requests. (‘We’ll expel illegal Arabs from Israel,’ Ha’aretz, 2 April 2004). The statement is consistent with the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), adopted by the Israeli Knesset in July 2003. The law prohibits family reunification for Palestinian citizens married to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (See, ‘Family Reunification, Citizenship and the Jewish State,’ al-Majdal, September 2003). Israel’s Supreme Court continues to deliberate on the legality of the measure.

Legal consequences of the wall

Reporting to the UN Commission on Human Rights in February 2004, Special Rapporteur John Dugard concluded that the wall constitutes a clear violation of international law.

“The Wall violates the prohibition on the acquisition of territory by forcible means, and seriously undermines the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people by reducing the size of a future Palestinian State. Moreover, it violates important norms of international humanitarian law prohibiting the annexation of occupied territory, the establishment of settlements, the confiscation of private land and the forcible transfer of people. Human rights norms are likewise violated, particularly those affirming freedom of movement, the right to family life and the right to education and health care.”(1)

Recent deliberations by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest legal forum of the United Nations, on the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territories, represent an important effort to reconstitute a peacemaking process consistent with the fundamental aims and principles upon which the United Nations was founded – i.e., the pursuit of peace and security based on dignity, justice and international law. The Court is expected to deliver its ruling before the summer.

The lack of respect for rule of law has led to a situation whereby the Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking process continues to be governed by the arbitrary use of power. It has promoted a belief within Israeli society and among successive Israeli governments that Israel’s policies are ‘above the law’, thus triggering public outrage whenever this notion is challenged or contested.

At the same time, this approach has alienated large sectors of Palestinian civil society from the quest for peace based on the universal principles of international law, contributed to the growth of racist-nationalistic and fundamentalist-religious streams in both Israeli and Palestinian society, and is the major cause for indiscriminate violence widely perceived, among both communities, as an alternative and more effective means for ending the protracted conflict in the region.

Social and economic consequences (2)

In the Jerusalem area the wall will impede freedom of movement for some 86 UNRWA teachers and 260 students in Agency schools. Some students have already transferred to more accessible schools run by the Palestinian Authority (PA). A considerable number of Palestinian refugees already attending PA schools and Palestinian universities and colleges in Jerusalem will also be affected by the wall. In addition to logistical problems of access, observes UNRWA, the wall is likely to have a psychologically disruptive effect on all students and teachers alike.

Impact of the Wall on UNRWA Schools, Jerusalem Area

UNRWA Schools Outside the Wall
UNRWA Schools Inside the Wall
Refugee Students Coming from Outside the Wall
Affected Refugees Students Outside the Wall
Teachers Coming from Outside the Wall
Affected Teachers Outside the Wall

Source: UNRWA
Access to UNRWA health centers, sanitation stores, and secondary and tertiary care in Jerusalem hospitals will be severely hampered by the wall. Patients at the UNRWA Jerusalem Health Center in the Old City already report travel times from outlying villages to the center of three hours. Almost the entire patient load of refugees being referred to secondary and tertiary care in Jerusalem hospitals will encounter the wall on their route to the hospital. Agency staff also report increased number of cases of ‘barrier-related accidents’, such as falling or slipping while trying to cross the wall.

Vulnerable refugee families in the Jerusalem area enrolled under UNRWA’s Emergency and Special Hardship programs, while becoming more dependant on humanitarian assistance, will also be impacted by any access problem that the Agency staff will experience in the delivery of aid. Relief and social activities will also be impacted by the location of some relevant Agency installations in areas isolated by the wall. This will be the case for a distribution center, two supplementary feeding centers and two community centers located in Kalandia and Shufat refugee camps. Both camps will be located 'outside' of the wall.

For more information and regular updates of the impact of the wall on Palestinian refugees visit the UNRWA website: www.un.org/unrwa/emergency/barrier/index. Cases of refugees residing and working, owning land, businesses etc. on different sides of the wall will be investigated; migration flows and aspirations will be recorded; and changing perceptions/conditions will be looked at for specific sub-groups of the affected refugee population (e.g. women, youth, agricultural workers, etc.).

(1) Report of the Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, Including Palestine, Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, John Dugard, on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, E/CN.4/2004/6/Add.1, 27 February 2004.
(2) UNRWA, Special Report on the Impact of the Jerusalem Barrier on Refugees, January 2004.