Wednesday, 21 July 2004

Australia's Pro-Barrier Vote

I confess I was moderately surprised when Australia voted not to censure Israel in the UN for putting up the protective barrier. I expected - or rather hoped - that we would abstain, but feared that we'd go along with the majority out of a misplaced respect for the International Court of Justice. I'm glad I was wrong.

The inimitable and inestimable Tim Blair has a rogue's gallery of who voted Yes, and who voted No. In the comments section, you'll also find the roll call of the absent and the abstentions.
So why did we do it? Here's the Official Line :
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Australia does not approve of the barrier's path but says the court was not the right place to raise the issue.

"We believe that taking this matter of the security barrier to the International Court of Justice was the wrong decision," he said.

"The second thing is that Israel must find ways of defending itself against terrorists and it isn't reasonable to tell the Israelis that they can't erect a security barrier to protect the people of Israel from suicide homicide bombers."

Mr Downer added: "I have always been opposed to this case being taken to the court of justice because the court of justice does not have the jurisdiction to make a determination on this matter.

"It can only give an advisory opinion and it's created a political controversy surrounding the court of justice and I regret that."
I happen to agree with him on every single point (and there are lots of points). Anyone with Internet access can see that while the number of attempted suicide bombings has risen exponentially, the number of successful ones has dropped to almost none. But there's a bit more to it than that.

First, the Israeli Supreme Court found that parts of the Barrier caused undue hardship to local Palestinians : so the Israelis are already spending over$15 Million Aussie Dollars making the neccessary mods. There is already a functioning system for review and modification for the future (the barrier is less than 1/3 complete) to avoid un-neccessary injustice.

Secondly, and most contentiously, there's the matter of the placement as a de-facto border between two states, Israel and Palestine, mainly on disputed territory. Here's the Israeli view :
The former "Green Line" was the armistice line between Israel and Jordan during the years 1949-1967. It was not the final border between the countries which was to be determined in peace negotiations. The "Green Line" ceased to exist following the Arab threat to Israel's existence in the spring of 1967 which led to the Six Day War in June of that year. The drafters of UN Security Council Resolution 242 in November 1967 recognized that the pre-June 1967 lines were not secure.

While the final border between Israel and the Palestinians has to be determined in negotiations, the route of the anti-terrorism fence is determined solely by the immediate and pressing need to save Israeli lives by preventing Palestinian terrorists from reaching the Israeli populations. Thus, the fence is being built wherever this can be achieved most effectively. To put it arbitrarily anywhere else, such as along the pre-June 1967 lines, would have nothing to do with security and, therefore, nothing to do with the purpose of the fence.
Planned Barrier PositionAlthough the Barrier ('Fence' as the Israelis call it, 'Wall' as the ICJ calls it - it's 3% concrete, 97% wire) is inside the 'Green Line' for a few hundred metres, that's less than 1%. The question is, have the Palestinians forfeited any rights to the 'benefit of the doubt'? And have the Israelis earned it, regardless of their de-facto military superiority? I'd have to say, yes, and yes. Although the Barrier is outside the 'Green Line', it's not far from it, it cuts through non-urban land, and is no huge Land Grab. Anyone else would have put it along the border with the bit of Palestine that was given to the Arabs, namely, Jordan. And should the Palestinians ever really make a sincere effort for Peace, then such a barrier would be redundant, and could be dispensed with. It's likely it will become the de-facto border, but it's not certain. That's up to the Palestinians.

Thirdly, there's a small matter of blatant hypocracy.

From the Monday Morning of Lebanon :
But in Kashmir itself, India is taking measures which, if they do not lead to war, are raising angry feelings in a sensitive spot. It is building a “wall of separation” to divide the Indian-controlled from the Pakistani-controlled parts of the territory.
An Indian army captain says that, when completed, the wall will protect his people from attacks by Muslim extremists.
Once the thousand-kilometer high-tech fence is finished, militants will no longer be able to infiltrate his side of the disputed territory and kill his soldiers and civilians, he says.
On the other side of the barrier, anguished Muslim villagers protest that it is taking their land and cutting them off from their loved ones.
As the World Court was about to rule on Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank, the arguments, so regularly rehearsed, certainly sounded familiar.
India voted "Yes" to condemn.

Then there's the little matter of the Saudi-Yemen er, fence? From the Grauniad :
The head of Saudi Arabia's border guard, Talal Anqawi, told an Arab newspaper last week that the barrier was being constructed inside Saudi territory but did not specify the exact location. He also dismissed comparisons with Israel's West Bank barrier, which has sparked international condemnation.

"What is being constructed inside our borders with Yemen is a sort of screen ... which aims to prevent infiltration and smuggling," he said. "It does not resemble a wall in any way."
The Grauniad doesn't say whether he was able to say it with a straight face, as the border between Yemen and Saudi has been the subject of contention (and several wars) since the two countries were founded. Saudi voted "Yes" to condemn, of course.

Finally there's this little graphic, which I think on its own provides a full and complete justification. Although I would have preferred a less racist labelling (there's a lot of Bedouin in the IDF, and it's insulting to them), it's the way that Hamas and Co think, so after some consideration, I've left it as the original artist intended.
Arab vs Jew Prams
I'd like to give credit to the artist, but I downloaded it ages ago, and can't find the original site

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