Foiling the fence.

Foiling the fence.

Foiling the fence.

What the foreign papers are saying.
July 12 2004 11:55 AM

Foiling the Fence

The international press reacts to the world court's ruling against Israel's security barrier.

Reaction in the international media to Friday's nonbinding ruling by the International Court of Justice that called on Israel to tear down its security barrier has been varied. Jordan's Al-Ray called it "a victory for justice, international law and human rights," and the Palestinian daily Al-Quds editorialized, "[A]fter it has become clear to all the world who is breaching international law, what is important is to implement the ruling and make Israel abide by it." (Translations from the Arabic courtesy of BBC Monitoring.)

A signed commentary in the Khaleej Times of the United Arab Emirates chided the Arab League for claiming victory. "[Arab League] Secretary general Amr Mousa should know the ruling has no legal binding, and nothing happens if it is defied. So, what is the point in our being too happy over such a ruling? … The point to note is that Israel knows there is no one to stop them from doing this."

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Weighing in with a very different view, a commentator in Israel's Ma'ariv wrote, "With barely a mention of terrorism, showing up late in paragraph 116, the sea of tears that brought about the barrier's construction was completely ignored." Yediot Ahronot editorialized, "The Hague opinion puts the state of Israel outside the fence of the community of legal nations. That is its perversion. That is its danger."

A Ha'aretz columnist noted that some Israelis who oppose the fence would oppose it even if it were built entirely on undisputed territory and asked, "Do the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of lives saved thanks to the sections of fence already in place count as nothing? It seems that the horrific spectacles of 2002-03 have been forgotten, thus making it possible to dismiss the fence with contemptuous impunity." Even if the threat of terror diminished, the writer continued, Israel would need a barrier to separate what is likely to be an underdeveloped, overpopulated Palestine from an industrialized, modern Israel.

Beyond the Middle East, comments also are divided. In an editorial, the Independent of London said that the Palestinians enjoy the "moral high ground," but acknowledged that the ICJ's ruling is essentially unenforceable. "The Israelis have already dismissed it as irrelevant and are determined to ignore it. Even if the Palestinians do get the emergency meeting of the UN Security Council they are now demanding, the US would almost certainly veto any action while the British would at best simply abstain. As for the people on the ground, this will appear as one more piece of fruitless waffle in the West divorced from their lives and their concerns."

Terming it "a ruling to mourn," the Globe and Mail of Canada editorialized that "the court failed the test of justice in spectacular fashion." Noting that the ICJ convened to weigh the barrier after the United Nations General Assembly asked it to do so last December, the editorial stated: "The General Assembly has become corrupted by an anti-Zionist lobby that happily undermines the UN's ideals to pursue a political agenda. The General Assembly is supposed to be a peace-seeking organization; when it comes to Israel, however, it is a war-mongering organization, passing one politicized anti-Israel resolution after another."

In the aftermath of Sunday's Tel Aviv bombing that killed one Israeli, Oslo's Aftenposten noted that the security barrier cannot prevent all attacks. "This is not the first time in history that a land has tried to protect itself from enemies with a physical barrier. These attempts have not lived up to their expectations." (Translation from the Norwegian courtesy of Deutsche Welle.)

Carl Schrag, formerly the editor of the Jerusalem Post, is a writer and lecturer.