U.S. should pressure Israel to tear down its wall


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Last week, we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the demolition of the Berlin Wall. The Wall was built in 1961 to prevent the mass exodus from the communist German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany. President Ronald Reagan had called for the dismantling of the Wall two years earlier in his memorable speech, saying “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Today, the world and our government complain in silence about Israel’s West Bank barrier, or — as it is known in the Middle East — the Wall of Territorial Theft. This wall, as approved by the Israeli government stretches more than 400 miles, nearly four times the length of the Berlin Wall. This barrier does not follow the United Nations partition lines outlined in Resolution 181, or Green Line of 1967 between Israel and Palestine. Instead, it includes illegally built settlements and intrudes into Palestinian territory, carving off another 10 percent of the West Bank.

In 2003, an emergency session of the General Assembly overwhelmingly approved Resolution 10179 on the situation in the Middle East, demanding that Israel stop and reverse construction of the wall being built in the West Bank. The assembly adopted the measure by a vote of 144 to 4. The Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, and the United States opposed the resolution.

On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled 14 votes to 1 that the barrier is “contrary to international law” and implored Israel to dismantle the wall. The lone objector was the American judge, Thomas Buergenthal.

Today, Palestinians living along the route suffer the consequences of the barrier. Families are separated from each other, and farmers are isolated from their land. Palestinians require special permission to reside or cross into this so-called seam zone. Of course, Israelis are excluded from these restrictions.

Like the illegal settlements built before it, the barrier was built under the pretext of “security.” Israel now expands the settlements, claiming expansion is “natural growth.” I suppose the wall will also annex Palestinian territories to compensate for “natural growth.” I wonder if the Noble Sanctuary, the Dome of the Rock, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque will be annexed in the name of “security” and later for “natural growth.”

Our administration, just as the International Court of Justice did should condemn the West Bank barrier. We should support U.N. Security Council Resolution 446 which, affirmed the illegality of Israeli settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, and stated that Israel should not “transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab Territories.” In accordance with U.N. Resolution 194, we should demand repatriation and compensation for the Palestinian refugees expelled by Israel and living in UN-supported camps throughout the Middle East.

Until U.N. resolutions are enforced, there will be no peace in the Middle East. The world is tired of roadmaps, agreements, and accords that lead nowhere. Negotiating with the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman is a nonstarter.

If the United Nations was good enough to create Israel with Resolution 181, then we should enforce all U.N. resolutions.

Patrick Hitchon, M.D., was born in Amman, Jordan, and grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. He is a professor of neurosurgery and bioengineering chief of neurosurgical service at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

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