Palestinian foreign minister asks UN to act over separation barrier

By Reuters

Haaretz

Tamuz 6, 5765

The Palestinian Authority said yesterday that it would ask the United Nations to take punitive measures against international companies whose products are used by Israel in the separation barrier project.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa named only one firm, Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc., whose earth-moving machinery and bulldozers are among the equipment used to clear ground and sometimes Palestinian homes.

"We want to see some concrete measures," Kidwa said. "We are proposing completely punitive measures against entities, companies and individuals that contribute to the construction of the wall and other illegal activities in the occupied Palestinian territory."

Kidwa said such measures could include undertakings by UN member states not to issue visas or work contracts to companies linked to the barrier project.

There is little chance the United States and others in the UN Security Council would approve such sanctions.

But some Arab envoys hope that recommendations by the world body's 191-member General Assembly might spark boycotts by attrition, similar to those used effectively against South Africa over apartheid.

The World Court has judged the network of razor wire-tipped fences and concrete walls to be illegal. Israel has ignored the court's call to stop the project, saying the barrier is justified because it stops Palestinian suicide bombers.

Caterpillar, responding to criticism by human rights groups, has said sales to Israel comply with U.S. law. At an April 14 meeting, 96 percent of Caterpillar's shareholders backed the company's position that it cannot enforce how its equipment is used.

Kidwa made the comments a day after Israel's cabinet decided to build another segment of the barrier around Jerusalem.

Palestinian officials said about 100,000 Palestinians would be cut off from jobs, schools and hospitals in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Kidwa said Sunday's decision, which is to be implemented by September, shocked the Palestinian leadership and necessitated quick action.

"You cannot talk peace and at the same time colonize Palestinian land, to construct the wall and continue to build settlements. This will destroy the present and future of the Palestinians," Kidwa added.