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Sunday, January 18, 2004

The Fence and the Hague




I've been avoiding the Hague like the plague, trying to hold off approaching the issue until it really happens. Well, we're getting close now.

Last month, the UN General Assembly -where the vote is usually all countries but four (USA, Israel, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands) against Israel- asked the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the legality of Israel's anti-terrorist security fence wall barrier.

According to a piece in the International Herald Tribune tomorrow, by David Rivkin and Darin Bartram, that court "clearly understands the stakes" and, "given the stakes involved, neutrality is not an option" for the United States, Britain and other key powers. What is at stake is apparently the whole of international law - its norms, its utility and its future. These writers hold that it is important for the US and its allies to strongly support the legality of the fence, even if they disagree with the policy of employing it.

The two sides have until the end of this month to submit arguments. The League of Arab Nations will take part alongside the Palestinians, and Alan Dershowitz, high profile Harvard law professor, has offered to help Israel - according to The Straits Times. This account holds that it is the "occupation" which is on trial, and quotes the Hebrew-only paper, Yediot Ahronot, as saying Israel will spend about US$1 million in legal fees and is hiring three of the world's top public relations firms. It's high time.

Joel Katzman, writing in the Israel Insider points out what is uppermost in my mind, that
" . . . decaying 'pillars' of the world community and justice have blatantly ignorned or rejected the righteousness of bringing to trial Arab/Islamic terrorists who have committed irrefutable human rights violations, of the most serious and hideous kind against Israeli citizens and the citizens of many other nations.

Moreover, the Hague court and UN's commitment to demoting Israeli security, while promoting and pandering to the needs and complaints of those that perpetrate terror and destruction throughout the world, implicates these world institution as being a major participants in fueling rising anti-Israel sentiment, and anti-Semitism in general."
The views of Professor Jeremy Rabkin - a NY Jewish Republican with Harvard PhD, lecturer on governance at Cornell University, and respected researcher of national sovereignty and international law - are outlined in an article called Hague, Schmague, What Does it Matter? at something called Ocnus.Net:
"If Israel accepts the [court's] decision, it will actually be allowing its security matters to be decided by a bunch of bureaucrats at The Hague, which is illogical. I think Israel is facing an uncomfortable situation. If you present your claims, it will look as if you recognize the authority of the tribunal before which you are presenting the claim, and if you say that you totally reject the very holding of the hearing and do not even want to participate in it, this will increase the risk that the ruling handed down will be to your detriment."

In Rabkin's opinion, the idea that it is possible to rule whether a certain act, such as the construction of a separation fence in the middle of the West Bank, contravenes international law or constitutes a war crime, is a ridiculous idea.

"To say such a thing means to think that there are clear laws and that all one has to do is check the answer," says Rabkin. "We do not live in such a world. After all, no serious man would believe that if people would only obey international law then there would be peace and security for all.

"The most important goal is to achieve peace and security, and these are not achieved by pretending that there is a reliable law in the world that applies to everyone. It is stupid to think that we will achieve this via The Hague. What does it matter what they think at The Hague? They will not ensure peace and security for Israel. People want to believe that there is someone there who will tell us what to do and then we will be protected. I'm sorry, but there is no such person.

One must understand that neither the ICJ nor the UN is a world government, and the simple fact that there is a majority of nations that think a certain way does not make it the law. What does it matter what Guatemala or Latvia or Sweden think about the construction of the fence? Is there some sort of common interest here? Of course not. There is no country in the world that is subject to continuous terror attacks as Israel is. There is no fair trial at the ICJ - only a vote."
Whew, I thought maybe we were in trouble.