The ICJ Ruling on the Wall (Issue No.23, Autumn 2004)

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Three articles on the ICJ ruling look at the wall and the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, the hidden reality of Palestinians living in the path of the wall and how the ruling provides a framework for a comprehensive, just and durable peace.

The new issue of al-Majdal reports on: legal rights of refugee children and how these rights are abused in reality; the extension of the Israeli law banning family reunifications, the UN Special Rapporteur’s call for legal action against destruction of Palestinian property and how Palestinians are fighting back against Canada’s deportation of refugee claimants.

Al Majdal provides a wrap up report on the fourth BADIL Expert Seminar on ways forward for resolving the refugee issue; NGOs calling for governments and the UN to tackle the lack of protection for Palestinian refugees and the need for a European lobby on the Palestinian issue. A photo story shows the destroyed village of Lifta near Jerusalem and how an Israeli organization is fighting to stop the development of houses and stores on the site of a Palestinian village captured and destroyed in the 1948 war.

Al-Majdal also looks at lack of donor funding for UNRWA, hears from the survivors of Sabra and Shatila and lists upcoming events and activities relating to Palestinian refugees.

The ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Wall – An Alternative Road Map

Israel’s construction of the separation wall in the occupied Palestinian territories and its associated regime are contrary to international law. In a non-binding advisory opinion delivered on 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, said Israel must cease construction of the wall and dismantle sections located in the occupied territories forthwith;

  repeal or render ineffective all related legislative and regulatory acts; compensate for damage caused; and, return Palestinian property or provide compensation if restitution is not possible.

Turning to the obligations of other states, the ICJ recommended that they should neither recognize the wall nor provide aid or assistance to maintain the circumstances created by its construction; prevent any impediment, created by the wall’s construction, to the exercise of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination; and, ensure Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law. It called on the UN to consider what further action was needed to end the illegal situation caused by the wall’s construction.

 Palestinian refugees in Europe must build new relationships with their European neighbors in order to strengthen claims for return and restitution. Refugees in Europe should examine how to use European courts and the media to advance refugee rights. This was one of the major conclusions of the Palestinian Right of Return Confederation in Europe, which held its annual meeting in Rotterdam, Holland, 24-26 September 2004. 

 By the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, some three quarters of a million Palestinians had been uprooted and become refugees in what was left of Arab-held Palestine or neighbouring countries. Most of them were from small villages, some 500 villages, which today are parts of Israeli Jewish communities, empty and abandoned, planted with trees and crops or paved over as parks. Plans were even made to turn a mosque on the seafront of Tel Aviv into a shopping centre. Today there is little trace of a vibrant Palestinian life which once filled these communities.

 Governments usually guarantee protection for their citizens: basic human rights and physical security but Palestinians have no state or international body to provide for their protection. A group of non-governmental organizations, in a statement to the UNHCR Executive Committee meeting in Geneva 4-8 October, drew attention to the “continuing plight of millions of forcibly displaced Palestinians”.                      

Fourth BADIL Expert Seminar Examines Local Initiatives for Resolving the Palestinian Refugee Issue

 Palestinian, Israeli and international civil society must play an important role in resolving the Palestinian refugee issue in particular, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in general, according to participants in the fourth seminar of the 2003-2004 BADIL Expert Forum for the Promotion of a Rights-based Approach to the Palestinian refugee question.

 On Friday 9 July, the International Court of Justice rendered an Advisory Opinion on the following question:

“What are the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, as described in the report of the Secretary-General, considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions?”1

 In September 2003, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories warned that the construction of the separation (‘apartheid’) wall in the West Bank is creating a new generation of refugees and displaced persons.1 The UN and local non-governmental organizations estimate that nearly a quarter of a million Palestinians will be affected by phase one of the wall in the northern West Bank.2 This number is likely to more than double as the wall snakes around Jerusalem and winds its way down through the southern West Bank. 

Under international law, children, especially refugee children, are guaranteed rights, protection and humanitarian assistance. How does the ideal match reality?

Some 370 children are in Israeli prisons, thousands have had their homes demolished in the past year by Israeli military action, education and health care are being degraded. Children have suffered long-term disabilities as a result of violent actions by the authorities, Palestinian children have even been used as human shields to allow Israeli jeeps to enter a Palestinian area.

 All Palestinians support the resistance against Israel’s illegal military occupation. All Palestinians are therefore potential terrorists says the state of Israel. Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who marry Palestinians inside Israel are therefore banned from living together in Israel. 

We demand that the Right of Return be fulfilled. Until then, Palestinian refugees in the diaspora and internally displaced Palestinians need to be granted full economic, political and social rights.

From the Beirut Declaration 19 September 2004

Since declaring its bloody ‘war on terror’, the United States has not only changed its own immigration policies and procedures, but Canada’s as well. Canada’s new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (2002) initiated an all out war on immigrants and refugees in this country. The main victims of this war have been poor people, specifically those from Arab and Muslim countries.

“To remain relevant, and to stay on the cutting edge, humanitarian and development organizations … need three things: high quality staff, the right supporting environment and adequate funding. Speaking for my Agency, I can tell you that … for many years now – we have rarely had the third.”


Between 29 September 2000 and 30 September 2004, 3,298 Palestinians, including 23 inside Israel, have been killed by Israeli security forces. (PRCS)
Between 29 September 2000 and 30 September 2004, 635 Israeli civilians and 290 members of the Israeli security forces were killed. (B’tselem)
The names of those Palestinians killed between 15 May and 30 September 2004 were not available at press time.

Anniversary of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila Massacre, Voices of the Survivors

Excerpts from the Complaint Against Ariel Sharon, lodged in Belgium, 18 June 2001

On 15-16 September 1982, right-wing Lebanese allies of Israel's occupation forces headed by then Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon, entered the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila under the eyes of Israeli military forces and slaughtered several thousand Palestinian refugees.

 Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Palestinians 2003

The Survey provides basic historic and current information on Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons.

1. Closing the Gaps: Between Protection and Durable Solutions, Inter-Agency and NGO Efforts to Make the International Refugee Regime Relevant for Palestinian Refugees

A Memorandum Prepared by BADIL Resource Center for the UNHCR Pre-Excom NGO Consultations, Geneva, Switzerland, 28-30 September 2004 

2. Statement by NGOs Presented to the 55th Session of the UNHCR Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Program, Geneva, 4-8 October 2004.

Agenda Item 6 (i)
International Protection
NGO Submission
Mr. Chairman,